Dongri to dubai six de.., p.36
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       Dongri to Dubai - Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia, p.36

           S. Hussain Zaidi

  DCP Kamlakar thought that the duo was on its way to Delhi to eliminate some top businessman or politician. After seeking consent from his superiors, Kamlakar and his crack team of Crime Branch officers left for Delhi.

  Grand Hyatt is one of the most luxurious addresses of Dubai located in Bur Dubai area. Sprawled across thiry-seven acres, the hotel seemed to be the perfect venue for the post nuptial feast for Dawood’s daughter; just seven kilometres away from Dubai’s international airport. It was widely believed that the hotel’s proximity to the airport was a clue that Dawood would definitely attend the feast, as it would be convenient for Dawood to flit in and out without any complication; if any untoward incident at all were to take place.

  The D-day was approaching. And veteran field agents from various agencies had begun trickling in to Dubai. Some had managed to station themselves outside the periphery of the hotel. Enterprising journalists from India and Pakistan had booked rooms in the hotel days in advance so that they could move around the hotel without raising any suspicions.

  At the walimah, mediapersons from various news agencies swarmed around the Grand Hyatt, but most of the Indian media was forced to stay outside the hotel. To the untrained eye, the hotel did not seem to have a huge security set-up, but it was actually an invisible fortress. A phalanx of security units remained incognito, but there were no visible signs of surveillance like CCTV cameras or metal detectors.

  Time was fast running out for New Delhi. This was one of the most daring operations ever planned by the Indian intelligence agencies and it just had to go right. Dawood, who had given them sleepless nights for over two decades now, might be put to rest, conveniently, at his own daughter’s wedding.

  The IB officers had now given final shape to their grand strategy. Travel arrangements were made and fake documents for Tanasha and Malhotra were prepared. They just need to be briefed and sent to Dubai. A meeting was arranged between the shooters and the former IB director. All details had been chalked out and planned to the minutest detail. All three of them were poring over a set of schematics—blueprints of a sort—of the Grand Hyatt, to evaluate the best positions at which to install shooters. They needed to have every angle covered and the importance of getting those details right was not lost on any of the trio.

  The meeting was about to conclude, when Kamlakar and his officers showed up at the door. The IB officer lost his cool and began screaming at Kamlakar. But Kamlakar himself was not new to political bluster; he was a seasoned police officer who had seen such histrionics earlier. He refused to back off.

  Finally, when some calls were made and Kamlakar heard from his superiors in Mumbai, he backed off. But still, he was left with Tanasha and Malhotra, both wanted men. With no other alternative, Kamlakar hauled the two to Mumbai. The bespectacled officer had to beat a retreat. A major operation had to be abandoned because of turf war; because two agencies remained in the dark about each other’s move. If only the IB had warned the Mumbai police, this embarrassing and wasteful scenario could have been averted.

  The incident earned a front page mention in the Times of India the next day, followed by reports several language dailies the next day. The officer who was handling Tanasha and Malhotra was identified as Ajit Doval.Doval had recently retired as IB chief. Known to be the hero of Operation Blue Star in Punjab, Doval was also known to be an astute negotiator, as he had handled the hijackers of IC 814. Perhaps he was the only IPS to have received the Kirti Chakra, an award reserved for military honours.

  The police and media circles were shocked at the disclosure made by the Times of India report. It was the first such instance of intelligence officers’ open involvement with gangsters that has come out in public.However, when Mumbai Mirror did a detailed follow-up of the story and got in touch with Doval for his version, he flatly denied the whole incident. ‘I was watching a football match at home,’ was all he said.

  But the cat was out of the bag. That the Indian government tried to outsource the killing of Dawood and their plans had been exposed.

  Finally, the most anticipated day at the Grand Hyatt had arrived. Five hundred guests had been invited to the hotel’s regal Baniyas Grand Ballroom, where they were served a sumptuous 12-course dinner. According to an IB operative, who was disguised as a chauffeur, the whole ballroom was decorated with red roses and white tulips.

  The centre stage for the bride and groom was draped in white and embellished with white orchids. A luxurious green sofa sat in the middle. The most intriguing element of the feast was that guests were served piping hot jalebis, a uniquely Indian delicacy that is not available outside India and Pakistan, and certainly not in a hotel in Dubai.

  Most of Dawood’s Mumbai-based relatives who were desirous of attending the wedding could not make it. Even his sister Haseena Parkar was denied a visa.

  But there was simply no way Dawood could miss what would be one of the happiest days of his life. For the days leading up to the walimah, all Dawood could do was to weigh the pros and cons of attending the function. His men advised him to stay away, but he was not convinced. How could the father of the bride miss D-day?

  It is unclear how and when Dawood got a whiff of IB’s plans, but he realised that attending the walimah could prove to be extremely risky.

  Dawood, who had been present at the nikah and all the other rituals, finally decided that he would not be at the walimah in person and was conspicuous by his physical absence. However, in reality, he enjoyed a somewhat omniscient presence as he watched the whole function and monitored the goings-on around the Grand Hyatt via an array of video cameras. These had been installed all over the hotel and with the help of those, he was able to identify people whose agenda clearly looked like they entailed something other than conveying their best wishes to the newlywed couple.

  Miandad welcomed each and every one of the 500 guests and when people pointedly asked him if Dawood was present at the walimah, he only said two words, ‘Sab aaye [everyone’s come]’.


  Detained in Lisbon

  Abu Salem had almost been chased out of Dubai and realised in no uncertain terms that Pakistan was no longer hospitable to him. Dawood had after all made it his own backyard. For the best part of three years, since that fateful night in Dubai when Salem decided to flee, he had been on the run. These three years had seen him running from country to country, across six continents. He had been to the US and then found himself travelling through Europe, eventually ending up in Southeast Asia.

  Over these three years, he saw the world with his paramour Monica Bedi, spending a massive chunk of his time with her. Back then, Monica was a Bollywood starlet, a struggling actress from Hoshiarpur in Punjab. The rest of Salem’s time was spent with his first wife Samira Jumani in the US. Monica and Salem looked at a number of cities as potential safe havens for them to settle down in. Sadly for them, it seemed like there was no place on earth that they could go to and escape from Dawood and his associates or the police.

  Salem and Monica gave due consideration to the idea of Laos as a base of operations, but quickly changed their mind when they remembered that Chhota Rajan’s base was in Cambodia, which was not all that far away. Being located that close to Rajan would not have been a smart move. Discussions about a new place to call home continued and while Europe was a heavily favoured location, Switzerland was discarded as an option. The duo would not be able to stay incognito there for too long, they decided, as it was the favourite foreign location for Bollywood shootings.

  Monica was no stranger to Europe, considering the fact that she had been born and brought up in Europe and considered it her second home, if not indeed, her home. She decided that they would have to stay in a country where English was not very commonly spoken. It would also need to be a place where Salem and she could slip into the local fabric seamlessly and inconspicuously. But the question was, where?

  The duo f
inally zeroed in on Portugal and decided to live in the picturesque capital city of Lisbon. The Mediterranean nation’s largest city would be a perfect location, they reasoned, partly due to the fact that they would not attract attention and partly because the climate was so pleasant.

  Monica and Salem moved into their new home in Lisbon and for the first time in three years, had the luxury of being able to relax. After a quest that had seemed never-ending, they had finally found their ideal new home. A few blissful weeks later, Salem got a call from Karachi that turned his blood icy cold. ‘Anees bhai ne abhi tak tera peechha nahi chhoda hai [Anees has not stopped chasing you],’ said an emotionless, anonymous voice on the other end. Salem was very shaken by the call. Just as things had started to look up for him, his whole world had been turned upside down once again by his relentless arch enemies.

  There were only two choices left before him, at this point. He could either pack his bags and continue running, thereby leaving Portugal, or he could call Anees, talk things out with him man-to-man and try to negotiate a truce. With the first option, the idea of returning to the US seemed like a good idea, but after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, the US was no longer safe for Indians with dubious passports.

  The next idea that occurred to him was that of talking to Dawood to request Anees to let bygones be bygones and bury the hatchet. But that plan, he realised would probably lead to both Dawood and Anees trying to hunt him down, which needless to say, was not a desirable option. Just how had things got so bad with Anees, Salem wondered. There was a time when he and Salem had been almost like brothers. But now Anees was after Salem with great vengeance.

  On one seemingly uneventful day, there was a knock on the door of Salem and Monica’s Lisbon apartment. The events that unfolded after this completely changed the course of their lives. The Portugal police was found standing at their doorstep and the couple was informed that they were under arrest.

  It was September 2002. Salem was thrown into a jail near Lisbon. Fortunately for Monica and Salem, they were in the same jail facility for a few weeks and got to meet each other once in a while. When he was not with Monica, he was wondering how the police had gotten wind of his location. Had Anees tipped the Portuguese police off? There was a very strong possibility that this was the case, thought Salem. Soon, the rumour mill began working overtime and word got out to Salem that both he and Monica would be getting transferred. After several weeks of depression, this was the first thing to bring a smile to his face.

  He was hopeful of getting transferred to Pakistan or Dubai because he had citizenship for both those places and would be able to survive in the jails there. But as luck would have it, he did not get shifted to any of those places: the CBI had set the wheels into motion to have him extradited to India, the scene of most of his illegal activities.

  Salem realised that his extradition to India would certainly be the road to perdition. Desperately, he began to make efforts to scuttle his return to India.


  The White Kaskar

  Dawood Ibrahim and, to a slightly lesser extent Anees, are the best known of the Kaskar siblings and indisputably the most active in the underworld. Their sister Saeeda was killed in an accident in their village in 1980, elder brother Sabir had fallen to gangland bullets in 1981, and another brother Noorul Haq alias Noora had succumbed to cancer in 2010.Noora was a bit-member of the D Company who harboured aspirations of writing for Bollywood. He is believed to have written a number of songs for Hindi films under a pseudonym.

  Dawood now had seven surviving siblings—four brothers and three sisters; all the sisters were living in Mumbai, while the brothers continued to live in Dubai and Pakistan with Dawood.Anees was the only notorious sibling, while Humayun, Mustakeem, and Iqbal Kaskar, Dawood’s other brothers, who did not have any profession per se and sat at home living off Dawood’s money, boasted of a clean slate, with no police record whatsoever. Iqbal had always been someone who was unequivocal in his decision to keep away from all underworld dealings, and wanted to maintain his clean record. However, years of being antagonised by the Mumbai police, harassed by the Crime Branch, and frequently summoned to courts became a bit too much to handle for the three brothers.

  It was at that point, sometime in 1988-89, years after Dawood had set up his empire, that the three brothers relocated to Dubai and joined brother Dawood. They would never have considered this but for the fact that authorities in Mumbai had turned their lives into a living hell. Moving to Dubai seemed like a much better idea at the time. And when Dawood shifted base to Pakistan, Humayun and Mustakeem were more than happy to follow suit. Iqbal though was a different kettle of fish altogether.

  Constantly being on the run and hopping from one place to another seemed to have taken its toll on Iqbal. He introspected at length and decided that this time, he would not accompany his brothers. He knew that he had a spotless record and that the police had absolutely no dirt on him. These facts would work in his favour, he believed, and he felt he would get justice if he decided to return to India.

  The only thing that held Iqbal back and cast a doubt on his decision was that he knew of the Mumbai police’s reputation for carrying out encounters and making people ‘disappear’. He knew they would not hesitate to shoot a man dead right outside the airport as soon as he arrived. With these worries in mind, Iqbal began making calls to some influential people he knew in Mumbai. He had been an informant for the police at one point in time and knew some of the top IPS officers in Mumbai. Apart from them, he also called some Muslim politician friends in India.

  Finally, he got in touch with one of his old contacts in the Crime Branch, a junior-level officer, a police inspector by the name of Aslam Momin. Aslam and Iqbal were similar in a lot of ways and yet had found themselves (inadvertently, as it was, in Iqbal’s case) on opposite sides of the law. Iqbal was from Ratnagiri and Aslam from Kolhapur, and as Marathi-speaking Muslims, they shared a very good rapport. This was what had actually been instrumental in Aslam roping Iqbal in to be an informant for the Crime Branch.

  Ever since Iqbal decided to leave behind the problems in Mumbai and move on to Dubai, he had been in regular touch with Aslam. And naturally, when he wanted to make his return to the country where he was born, Iqbal called Aslam from a landline. Aslam was not overly surprised to receive the call and traded the customary salaams with Iqbal. The exchange of polite pleasantries quickly came to a close as Iqbal got to his point. ‘Sahab, I want to come back. Are there any cases against me in Mumbai?’

  Aslam, with his voice exuding a calming sense of reassurance, said, ‘Don’t worry, Iqbal.’ Encouraging Iqbal to return to Mumbai, he added, ‘There are no cases against you. There will be no fake cases filed against you and you will definitely not be “encountered”. You have nothing to worry about.’ After mulling over the pros and cons for a few months, Iqbal Kaskar finally returned to his homeland in May 2003. Expectedly, there was no red carpet welcome for him and he was taken straight into custody because officially, he had been deported from Dubai. As per procedure, being taken into custody was inevitable.

  Now normally, it would be quite natural for someone to be a little anxious about being taken into custody, but Iqbal was not perturbed in the least. He was confident that he would be out of prison and free as a bird in a couple of weeks, at the very most. After all, he had just voluntarily returned. It was not as if he was a fugitive who had been captured and brought back. The Mumbai police, unfortunately, did not see things this way, and was on hand to throw a spanner into the works. To the police officers, it was a matter of reputation and pride that they had Dawood’s sibling in their custody. The fact that he had no cases against him was dismissed summarily, as when it came to Dawood’s brother, the bottom line was that there was no way on earth that he could possibly be clean.

  The cops began working overtime and scoured high and low for cases against Iqbal. Afte
r burning the midnight oil going over old records, they finally found an age-old murder case that had been filed against him. Victorious, the police threatened to book him for those charges. And yet, Iqbal was still cool and collected. He knew that the case had been filed on very weak grounds because a co-accused had testified that the victim and Iqbal were on bad terms. This, Iqbal thought, would never stand scrutiny in a court of law, and so, he felt he would be discharged in no time.

  Iqbal was guilty beyond doubt of counting his chickens much too prematurely. He underestimated the Mumbai police’s fervour to see him locked up and put away for good. Even as the enthusiastic cops were looking for a case to supplement the weak murder case, by a blinding stroke of luck, they struck gold. A large plot of land that measured around 20, 000 square metres and was located right next to Crawford Market was owned by the Public Works Department, had been usurped by Dawood’s men. Two shopping complexes had appeared there, the Sara Shopping Complex and the Sahara Shopping Complex (referred to collectively as the Sara-Sahara Shopping Complex).

  Each of these complexes housed around fifty retail shops, and every single one was doing brisk business. In fact, the twin shopping complexes became so infamous after a while that they were called ‘Dawood Mall’. The Mumbai police uncovered a veritable treasure trove of incriminating evidence comprising fifty-six tapes of telephonic conversation between Dawood or his men and people from the BMC and other government departments. The cops realised that they could probably book Iqbal and did exactly that. Iqbal was swiftly booked under the extremely stringent MCOCA for conspiracy and aiding and abetment of organised crime’s effort to usurp government property.

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