Dongri to dubai six de.., p.22
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       Dongri to Dubai - Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia, p.22
 

           S. Hussain Zaidi

  As a matter of habit, Dawood remained secretive about his moves. But once in a while he is known to drop deliberate hints just to impress his aides and lieutenants. On the evening of their initial celebrations, Dawood was standing in front of a full-length mirror and trying to fix his black bow tie, cigar pressed between his lips. Next to him, Rajan was holding out his coat. As Dawood prepared to slip it on, he saw Sharad enter the room. Dawood smiled at him, and his grateful aide came up behind him and hugged him. They both then embraced, patting each other’s backs.

  Sharad Anna asked Dawood how he had managed to punish Naik for his temerity, knowing fully well that Dawood would not give him an elaborate reply. To which Dawood only smiled and said, ‘Trade secrets.’ Rajan and Dawood looked at each other, appreciating the significance of this trade secret more than Anna could.

  It was widely speculated in police and mafia circles that Dawood had managed to arrange a tip-off for the Nagpada police about the whereabouts of absconding gangster Rama Naik. Normally, in the case of such anonymous tip-offs, the cops do not inquire about the identity of the informant but nevertheless try to follow up on their illicit intelligence. At times, they manage to hit pay dirt thanks to such tip-offs, but often they are taken for a ride as mafia members also try to settle their scores and use the police for this purpose. In Rama’s case, the Nagpada police heard of Naik’s whereabouts from a khabri (informant) and passed on the intelligence to Sub-inspector Katdhare.

  But it was not the first time a police encounter had created such controversy. Even earlier, such encounters had been attributed to Dawood, alleged to be the handiwork of his clever plots. One evening in July 1986 when Mehmood Khan alias Kaliya, so called because of his dark complexion, landed at the Sahar International Airport after his trip back from Dubai, he was ambushed by the police and killed in the ensuing encounter. His wife Ashraf later challenged this as a ‘fake encounter’. Sub-inspector Emmanuel Amolik later claimed they had received intelligence that Kaliya was arriving from Dubai. As Kaliya was wanted in several cases of murder and assault, they had gone to arrest him; when warned to surrender, he tried to fire at them. However, even the most cynical of police officers found it hard to stomach that Kaliya, who had just landed from an international flight from Dubai, would be carrying a weapon in his pocket and had managed to pass through UAE security and Mumbai immigration unchecked.

  Amolik’s plea, that he had fired four bullets in self-defence, resulting in Mehmood’s killing, did not hold much water before the judicial magistrate who presided over the inquiry following the petitions of Kaliya’s wife.

  Incidentally, the background of Kaliya’s killings was more or less the same as that of Naik. A meeting between Dawood and his erstwhile foot soldier Kaliya did not go well, Kaliya told an unimpressed Dawood that he was quitting, the don had remained calm and allowed Kaliya to leave Dubai. But it was believed that the information of his arrival had been signalled to the police in this case as well.

  It was decided that Kaliya would not set foot on Bhai’s territory— Bombay—ever again. There was a message in Kaliya’s killing; whoever dared to rebel against Dawood was dead. Dawood had just shifted his base to Dubai, and quelling small mutinies against his empire back in Bombay was par for the course.

  Amolik was a veteran of fourteen encounters and most of his victims included enemies of Dawood Ibrahim. Apart from Kaliya, other prominent enemies of Dawood who were killed in alleged skirmishes with Amolik were Mannat Khan and Babban Koende. Koende had dared to oppose Ulhasnagar politician Pappu Kalani, who was allegedly close to Dawood. But Koende’s killing proved too costly for Amolik, who was arrested and prosecuted.

  Katdhare and Amolik bore the brunt for taking on the wanted men of the underworld, and Dawood’s syndicate benefited immensely. Dawood’s rivals and renegade men were being conveniently eliminated, and that too by the police.

  3

  Mafia’s Most Daring Operation

  Bombay is often spoken of as containing several cities within itself. Decade after decade, people created more and more satellites to the mainland of the city and yet another section of them created ghetto upon ghetto in the mainland. Such was the story of the Kanjarwada on Musa Killedar Street. Kanjarwada was located in a lane approximately half a kilometre away from Byculla railway station in central Bombay. It took its name from a large settlement of Kanjaris, a nomadic tribe said, by romantics and historians alike, to have originated from the brave Rajputs as well as the beautiful gypsies of India. Little wonder that the women of such a tribe should bewitch even a hardened criminal.

  It was a bright, sunny morning when Babu Gopal Reshim, the B in the BRA gang, was traipsing up Musa Killedar Street. Full of himself and permanently high on his power, Reshim was surveying his area like a king surveying his subjects. Suddenly, his eyes fell upon a thing of ethereal beauty. Bathing in the open was a local Kanjari girl. The sunlight dappled on her skin as if taunting him to touch it. Her body swayed, trembling from time to time at the coldness of the water. It was not the first time Reshim had laid his sight on a beautiful woman, and he usually got what he wanted. Believing no woman could want to turn down his advances, he moved up to her and laid his hand upon her breast. The thing of beauty suddenly screamed like a banshee and Reshim recoiled, more in shock than from any waning in desire.

  He watched, dumbstruck, as a group of men rushed towards him. One of them caught his collar and began to slap him relentlessly. Reshim snapped out of his stupor, and retaliated at last. He remembered who he was; Babu Reshim, master of all of the squalid splendour that was Byculla, not some small-time ruffian who could be roughed up by some local chhokra (lad). He caught hold of the young man and beat him up, as the others fell away. The boy turned away humiliated and Babu Reshim swaggered away, albeit slightly shaken up. Unknown to him, he had brewed a new storm in his wake.

  The boy was Vijay Utekar Kanjari, a 26-year-old boy from the settlement. The idea of someone walking right into his neighbourhood and molesting a young girl sent waves of anger through him. To top it all, Reshim had raised his hand against him and beaten him in full public view and he had let it happen. It outraged him to think that a bully like Reshim had violated not only a woman from his community but also his own honour and pride.

  Obsessed with the prospect of vengeance, Vijay was convinced he had to take action soon. As is the case with the youth of most minorities in this culturally confused city, Vijay was disgruntled about several things. He was the proverbial rebel without a cause, and now he had found a cause. He was already watching how Arun Gawli’s men would extort, bully, and terrorise his tribe, and nursed a deep-rooted grouse against Gawli. On top of this, now, all his hatred amalgamated into that one face, that one name: Babu Gopal Reshim. He could only think of one thing, day in and day out: how do I eliminate Reshim? Vijay took up with Jayant Shetty and Appu Shetty, brothers of Shridhar Shetty, Gawli’s rival in this area. The brothers supplied him with the resources he needed to tackle Reshim. Now all he needed was an opportunity.

  Reshim, like most local goondas, had not graduated from the habit of frequenting local bars serving country liquor. He often went to several of these which dot the area around the Saat Rasta junction and B.J. Road. On one such occasion, Vijay, accompanied by Ravi Grover, stood in one of these cross-lanes and watched as Reshim sat inside accompanied by his goons. Each time he caught sight of Reshim laughing and making merry through the flimsy curtain at the entrance, he could hardly think amidst the noise of anger in his head. Finally, the blood rushed to his face and he could control himself no longer. He whipped out his country-made pistol and fired two shots at Reshim, screaming, ‘Saaley! Tere maa ki... Aurat log pe nazar daalta hai... Idhar hi gaadh dega main tereko... [You a******! Setting your dirty eyes on women, eh? I’ll bury you on this spot...]’

  Reshim took a while to realise what was happening and ducked for cover. Never in his wildest dreams had he imagined a boy
like Vijay would pull a stunt like this. His company began to fire back, but under cover of their fire, Vijay had fled the spot. Seeing this, Reshim left too.

  This debacle was yet another slap in Vijay’s face. Reshim had escaped unharmed once more. But Vijay had learnt that he had to think ahead; he had to have a plan. He began racking his brain for ideas. Now Vijay was not just avenging with emotion but also with intent; the intent created by pure, unadulterated evil.

  In the meanwhile, word of Vijay’s exploits had reached the ears of Chhota Rajan. The harbinger of the news saw only the calm exterior of Rajan’s face; no part of the plan formulating in his mind was betrayed. Reshim had been an annoyance and intrusion in this area for a while, to Rajan’s mind. It was about time he was put in his place. And what better way than to use an unthinking chit of a boy whom no one would link to any other don? He decided to seek out Vijay Utekar for an audience.

  Meanwhile, of his own initiative, Vijay was formulating a plan that was the mother of all plans. Babu Reshim had gotten into a brawl with Raja Karmerkar, another small-time goon from Byculla, in one of the country bars. The police were out for an arrest and they decided to take Reshim in for assault and grievous injury. Subsequently, Reshim was summoned to the Agripada Police Station. He had made a pact with the police that he should never be arrested in full public view nor dragged nor pushed into the van and in exchange, he would respond to any of their summons immediately; so he went quietly. Reshim was now booked under Section 307 of the IPC, attempt to murder, and imprisoned at the Jacob Circle police lock-up which is the common lock-up for the six police stations in the vicinity.

  It is often quoted by the wise that when a man has nothing left to lose, his aim becomes an obsession which can only lead to achievement. There’s nowhere to go but up when you hit rock bottom. Vijay Utekar was in a similar position. He was already on the wrong side of Gawli, and had even openly defied the don by taking up with his rivals. He had also failed in every attempt to kill Reshim, and was feeling helpless and humiliated.

  Vijay Utekar heard that Reshim was at the Jacob Circle lock-up, and came up with the most inconceivable act of audacity. He finally met with Chhota Rajan, who pledged to support Vijay in entirety in any attempt on Reshim’s life. But even he could not have imagined what Vijay had in his mind. On 5 March 1987, Vijay arrived at the Jacob Circle lock-up at 1:30 am with Jagdish Khandwal, Kishore Maheshkar, Ravi Grover, and Raju Shankar in tow. As he had no car of his own, he hired two taxis to take them there. One person was stationed outside to hold the two taxi drivers at gunpoint to ensure their escape. Initially, Vijay tried to convince the guard, policeman Uttam Garte, that he wanted to deliver liquor to Reshim but he refused. Vijay then retreated and hurled grenades at the gate, thus blowing it to bits.

  All of them then stormed the jail and rushed towards cell number 1 on the ground floor of the lock-up, where Reshim had been detained. Vijay used the hammer he was carrying to break the lock of the cell. At first thinking someone was making a bid to break him out of prison, Reshim was horrified when he saw Vijay rush towards the door of the cell and savagely attack the lock. He backed up against the wall of the cell when Vijay fired. Three shots hit Reshim hard, at once, and he was dead before he hit the ground. Fury seized Vijay. It could not be! He could not allow Reshim to die such a quick, painless death. He took his hammer and began to attack Reshim’s head till his skull turned to pulp, continuing long after it was possible for Reshim could feel the pain. All that remained of Reshim’s head was a mash of brain mixed with bits of bone, splattered across the cold, stone floor of the cell.

  The police officials at the scene were shell-shocked, rendered motionlessness. They later recalled Vijay shouting each time he raised the hammer, ‘Mazha naav Vijay Utekar aahe [my name is Vijay Utekar]!’ It seemed as though each blow was to ensure Reshim learnt a lesson he would never forget though the man was long gone beyond the purview of mortal pain or comprehension.

  Riding on the satisfaction of having been avenged, Vijay escaped from the prison with his accomplices. The two taxis outside served their purpose and the four vanished into the darkness of the night, but not into oblivion.

  It was over within a few minutes. Senior Inspector Madhukar Zende, who was in charge of the Agripada Police Station, arrived at the lock-up and began to take down all details and make up a panchnama (report). Zende found five live bombs and some bullets in the lock-up. Police constable Ahire and others were sent to the JJ Hospital, as was the badly shattered corpse of Babu Reshim for a postmortem. Ahire succumbed to his injuries after a few hours. Witnesses, who included police constables and other détenus, identified two of the miscreants as Vijay and his accomplice Keshava.

  The next morning, there was a huge uproar. Who would ever have imagined that a convict would be murdered so brutally inside a prison? The newspapers were full of outrage at Utekar’s actions. The government immediately responded by setting up a commission to investigate the events of that night. As it always happens in the wake of such events, even the public was shaken out of its reverie and driven to censure. But even after this, there was no real action. As always, it seemed that the persons who took action were completely different from those who were elected to act. Moreover, Utekar had not killed someone known to be a saint; rather, he had helped rid the city of some scum.

  But the police had not forgotten the insult; someone had challenged their absoluteness. After that day, Vijay Utekar was hunted like an animal and for him, no place was safe enough. Everywhere he went, the police were only two steps behind him. Now that the act had been committed, his former protectors and supporters were no longer ready to be associated with him for fear of being implicated. Every door closed in his face and Vijay Utekar was on his own, running for his life.

  As Wu Ch’I, an official of the Ch’ing period, is known to have said: ‘Now the field of battle is a land of standing corpses; those determined to die will live; those who hope to escape with their lives will die.’After having survived the storming of the prison, Vijay believed he was invincible and was actually under the illusion that he would come out standing. But his optimism was foolhardy. He was finally cornered at a hotel in Dadar in October that same year, by cops Vasant Dhoble and Kishore Phadnis, who disguised themselves as milkmen. They entered the hotel and as Vijay tried to flee, he was shot dead. A bag full of bombs was said to have been found in his possession.

  The case that had shaken up the entire police administration had finally culminated with the encounter of Vijay Utekar. The police had gotten their way and eliminated him. It is uncommon for the police to rely on the judiciary for justice in these matters. Moreover, with Utekar it was personal. Not only had he broken into a prison, the last bastion of the police, but he had also killed an officer on duty.

  There was only one punishment for this crime: execution. Some rules never change.

  Jagdish Khandwal, Kishore Maheshkar, Ravi Grover, and Raju Shankar were also eventually arrested. The case seemed to be an open and shut one. However, strangely, the case registered against Vijay Utekar and others was filed under sections 123 and 87; for murder and rioting. No action was taken to book them for storming a prison and attacking an undertrial or police officials for that matter. Of the four accomplices who were taken to court, Jagdish Khandwal was discharged from the case for lack of evidence and the remaining three were sentenced to life by the sessions court. However, on filing a subsequent appeal in the high court, all three were acquitted. Vijay Utekar was the only one who was martyred at the altar of Reshim’s rival gangs. This story was to set a precedent in the history of gang war in the city.

  Much later when the dust was beginning to settle, the khabri (information) network went into overdrive over the person who had played the most pivotal role in the entire incident, who had remained camouflaged: Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar. It was said that Dawood had arranged for the entire spectacle while coolly taking a backseat himself, enjo
ying the proceedings from afar. It is always in the squabble of the monkeys that the cat gets away.

  A police dossier states, ‘When the fact that Dawood had masterminded the killing of Babu Reshim came to light, the enmity between Dawood and Rama Naik/Arun Gawli groups increased.’

  While the police could not substantiate this with evidence, the story soon broke. Everyone now knew of the treacherous nature of Dawood’s machinations. He had used Vijay Utekar as a mere pawn in his bid to oust Babu Reshim, and he had succeeded.

  4

  End of Dawood-Gawli Alliance

  Unlike Babu Reshim’s killing while in lock-up, Rama Naik’s elimination could not be camouflaged as a police encounter. Arun Gawli had managed to see the strategic and systematic weakening of his gang by Dawood Ibrahim. Dawood, who claimed innocence in both killings, had obliterated the B and R of the infamous troika of BRA gang in two cruel strokes. Now, Gawli remained the only surviving member of the trio.

  He began to regroup and strengthen his fledgling gang. Gawli’s Maharashtrian boys had a presence in three pockets of the city: Kanjurmarg in the northeastern suburbs as Gawli had worked in a company there and had developed local contacts, Tulsiwadi in Tardeo and Dagdi Chawl, and Peon chawls in Byculla (in central Bombay), where he and his men— Ashok Joshi, Sada Pawle known as Sada Mama, Ganesh Tandel alias Vakil, Raju Mirashi, and Sunil Ghate—lived. At the time, Gawli’s gang was the only one which boasted of two Christian sharpshooters, both of them known for their ruthlessness and slavish loyalty to Gawli: Raju Phillips and Paul Newman. Not the Hollywood actor, though, just your plain old Mumbaikar from Goa.

  Gawli decided to zero in on Dawood’s top confidantes in the city, those who still generated income for him. Soon, he pinpointed Satish Raje as one such trusted aide, a man who handled several major operations of the gang. It was certain that Raje’s killing would cause a severe setback to Dawood’s operations in the city. So, it was unanimously decided that Raje must die as a payback for Naik and an elaborate plan was hatched.

 
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