Home Editorial Gawli’s rise in prominence is due to his native roots

Gawli’s rise in prominence is due to his native roots

Once upon a time, the Mumbai underworld was decoyed in organised crime. Mumbai is the largest city of India and also its financial capital. Over the period of time, several counterparts have dominated Mumbai underworld. Arun Gulab Ahir, who is an Indian politician now, was an underworld don and gangster. Gawli and his brother Kishor (Pappa) entered the Mumbai underworld in the 1970s when they joined the “Byculla Company”, a criminal gang led by Rama Naik and Babu Reshim, operating in the central Mumbai areas of Byculla, Parel and Saat Rasta. In 1988, after Rama Naik was killed in a police encounter, Gawli took over the gang and began operating it from his residence, Dagdi Chawl. Under his leadership, the gang controlled most criminal activities in the central Mumbai areas. Throughout the late 80s and 90s, Gawli’s gang was involved in a power struggle with Dawood Ibrahim’s D-Company gang.

In the early 1980s, Arun Gawli was reportedly given the responsibility of protecting Dawood Ibrahim’s consignments of smuggled electronic goods. However, Dawood and Arun’s mentor, Rama Naik, fell out after having a disagreement over a plot of land. When Rama was eliminated by Dawood the same year, Arun declared a war on the D-Company. As the gang war escalated, Dawood had Arun’s brother Bappa killed. Not one to take things lying down, Arun retaliated by having Dawood’s brother-in-law Ismail Parkar gunned down by his shooter Dayanand Salian alias Pujari in 1991. Ismail was the husband of Haseena Parkar. After her husband’s death, Haseena rose from the ashes of her grief to become the undisputed underworld queen. She shifted to the Gordon Hall Apartments in Nagpada, which became the headquarters for her crime syndicate. Soon, Haseena reportedly took over her brother’s business in Mumbai and eventually became popular as the “Godmother of Nagpada” and its crime syndicate.

In February 1981, Shabir Ibrahim Kaskar was killed at a petrol pump opposite Siddhivinayak Temple. He was shot five times, point-blank, by four men. His bullet-riddled body marked the beginning of approximately two decades of violent gang warfare on the streets of Mumbai – because Shabir’s brother with Dawood fled the country in 1986, but through his associates, who were part of his “D-Company”, the gangster held the city in its grip.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the nexus between the rich, the powerful and the underworld was intricate and bloodthirsty. Law and order were broken by corruption and fear. Dawood’s response to his brother’s murder was to issue contracts to kill all members of the Pathan gang, originally started by Karim Lala. One of Saabir’s killers, Amirzada Nawab Khan, was killed outside Mumbai’s session’s court in September 1983. Another one, Samad Khan, was shot dead in a south Mumbai hotel, in 1984. Both had been killed by men loyal to Dawood and an era of violence unlike anything Mumbai had seen was about to begin with members and rivals of D-Company running wild. It took approximately two decades and more than 900 encounters to break the gangsters’ stranglehold over the city. These are the men who made Mumbai tremble back in the days when the underworld was on top. As Dawood Ibrahim wasn’t going to let his brother’s killers go gently into the night.

Meanwhile, Gawli got political patronage in the 1980s when the then Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray, criticised the Mumbai police for taking stringent action against Hindu gangsters like Arun Gawli and Sai Bansod, referring to them as amchi muley (our boys). Thackeray was challenged by a rival gangster in an open letter carried on the front page of a city tabloid. However, Gawli fell out with Shiv Sena in the mid-1990s, murdered Shiv Sena men and formed his own political party, the Akhil Bharatiya Sena.

In 2004, Gawli was elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the Mumbai Chinchpokli constituency as an Akhil Bharatiya Sena candidate. Gawli’s rise in prominence is believed to be due to his “native roots” as a local lad, which makes him distinct from most other non-Marathi-speaking politicians. On March 2, 2007, Shiv Sena municipal councillor Kamlakar Jamsandekar was watching television in his Andheri (East) home. Two men barged in and shot him, killing Jamsandekar on the spot. Five months later, the court said that Jamsandekar had been killed on gangster Arun Gawli’s orders and found Gawli guilty of murder. Mumbai’s Crime Branch found that Jamsandekar’s death was the result of him fighting with a builder named Sadashiv Surve over a plot of land. Surve teamed up with another builder, Sahebrao Bhintade, and approached Pratap Godse and Ajit Rane of Gawli’s gang to eliminate Jamsandekar. Gawli agreed to undertake the contract for Rs 30 lakh, and instructed his henchman Pratap Godse to find the shooters. 25 cases that had been filed against Gawli over the past 25 years, this was the first to stick. Known as “Daddy” to his followers, Gawli had the image of being a Robin Hood character. Proudly Marathi, Gawli was projected as the Hindu don to take on Dawood’s Muslim gang. Later on in 1993, another Don Chhota Rajan alias Rajan Nikalje spit from D-Company and got known as Hindu don. He is presently kept in Indian jail under high security. Arun Gawli too is serving his jail term and his political legacy is taken over by his daughter Geeta Gawli.


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