Recently, I saw Shah Rukh Khan’s movie Raees. The movie was very close to the real life character of underworld don Abdul Latif from Gujarat. The gangster was glorified to all limits in the movie. Anyway, the character was the hero of the movie and this is not the first time that underworld mafias are worshiped by Bollywood directors. Mumbai is the land of Mafias and Movies. So over the years, underworld has captivated Bollywood. It is seen that whatever happens in underworld makes news in Bollywood. From time to time, our film directors have come up with one or the other criminal’s love or badass stories and subsequently follow the trends. Interestingly, these movies made big business too. In fact, Bollywood’s romance with the criminals is a much glorified subject always. From an alliance with actors, to financing films underworld ‘dons’ have been accused for, and their love birds to be a lead actress, bollywood had seen it all. Time and again, filmmakers have taken up these subjects passionately and explored the mysterious lives of ‘Underworld Dons’ on the big screen. The formula works really well at the box office and with the critics too. The cliché that cinema reflects the brutal realities of life holds true.
Ruthless and a hot-headed, Abdul Latif was among the most wanted gangsters of the ’90s. The Gujarat-based gangster got news space again with the movie Raees. The man who started as a small-time gambler and bootlegger went on to become a brutal underworld don who would have run-ins with rival gangs both in India and abroad. This includes an attempt on the life of Dawood Ibrahim who later on became his associate. He also had a Robinhood image in the society and was known for helping the poor.
Abdul Latif was a criminal known for illegal business of lifting and stealing in Gujarat. He was born in Kalupur area of Ahmedabad in 1951 in a poor Muslim family. One of seven children of his father, he couldn’t get a decent upbringing and struggled to finish school. He was soon employed by his father at his shop, where he sold tobacco, but he started fighting with his father for more money. After getting into his 20s, he decided to go his own way. To make quick money, he entered the world of illicit businesses and joined Allah Rakha, a bootlegger who also ran a gambling den. Latif was first employed at the gambling den. He then left Allah Rakha and joined a rival gambler, but parted ways with him too after being accused of theft.
He then became a bootlegger himself, and that’s where his journey into the world of crime, politics, started. He established contacts and relationships with smugglers, criminals, policemen and politicians who helped and allowed this illegal business to flourish. In the process of growing his clout and illicit business, Latif became involved in other crimes like extortion, kidnapping and even murders. Latif was wanted for over 100 cases of murder, contract killing, extortion, rioting, kidnappings, and smuggling and was also wanted in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case. There were 243 cases against his gang including 64 murders and 14 kidnappings. He formed his own gang, and at one point of time in the early 80s, he indulged in a gang-war against Dawood Ibrahim.
It is reported that Latif’s gang was almost exclusively made up of Muslim members only, which was not the case of other criminal gangs in those times. Perhaps, he did it to cultivate a Robinhood type image among poor Muslims – a community he was born in. And it worked. Latif could win in five municipal wards in local body elections of Ahmedabad in 1986-87. He was in jail at that time.
Although his political career was cut short as he was disqualified from the post.
In August 1992, Ahmedabad saw AK-47s being used in a gang-war that left 9 people dead in Radhika Gymkhana. Latif’s gang members had gone there to kill one Hansraj Trivedi, but since they didn’t recognise him, they killed everyone. The orders to kill everyone came from Latif. The city was shocked at this naked display of terror. In the following years, Latif became identical with crime in Gujarat as he joined hands with Dawood, who by then had started planning the Mumbai blasts of 1993. Latif was the main culprit in supplying RDX used in 1993 Mumbai blasts.
In 1995, BJP formed its government in Gujarat and the same year Latif was arrested in Delhi following a two month long operation led by the Anti-Terrorism Squad of Gujarat Police. Latif was lodged in Sabarmati Jail of Ahmedabad subsequently, and two years later, he was killed in an encounter by Gujarat Police. In 2014, Latif’s son, Shaikh Arif Abdul Latif, contested in the election on Samajwadi Party’s ticket against Shanker Singh Vaghela, who was the Chief Minister when Latif was killed. Latif’s other son had contested against Vaghela in 2009 on SP’s ticket.
Shah Rukh Khan’s movie Raees tried to portray Abdul Latif as a good man. He was shown larger than life. Though, the producer of the movie declared that the film was not based on any living or dead person and was completely fictional. Surprisingly, in spite of having Pakistani actress in the movie and also the main character based of ‘Goon of Gujarat’, no one really made much chaos and film made average business. Some even speculate that this movie was an attempt to influence Muslim voters, ahead of elections in five states.