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Once a criminal always a criminal – Part 1

Underworld Don Ashwin Naik who spent ten years of his life in prison facing charges in 16 cases across the country, was freed in 2009. His lawyer Bharat Mane then gave a statement that his client will now lead a normal life with his children whom he missed all these years. From now on, life will be different for Ashwin, who has decided to give up the world of crime and return to mainstream. An electronic engineer by qualification, Naik took over the gang run by his brother Amar Naik, who was gunned down by police in an encounter in the 1990s. While in jail, Naik was accused of plotting to kill his wife Neeta, who was then a corporator, whom he suspected of having an extra marital affair with her police bodyguard Laxman Ziman.

Naik, however, suffered a paralytic attack during his prison stint and is now on wheelchair since then. He had 16 cases of murder, extortion and criminal assault registered against him. During his early days as a criminal, Naik remained underground till he was first arrested by the West Bengal police on the Indo-Bangladesh border on August 1, 1999. Over a period of ten years, the former gangster was acquitted in all the cases, including the murder of his wife. Although police suspected he had plotted to kill his wife, he was acquitted due to lack of evidence but three persons known to be his loyalists were convicted for Neeta’s murder in 2003.The gangster’s trial was separated from the rest of the accused persons as a Delhi court trying him in a narcotics case did not grant the Mumbai police his custody. Finally, he was brought in Mumbai from Tihar jail in 2005 to stand trial for wife’s murder but the MCOCA court acquitted him after some years.

There is saying, once a criminal always a criminal. His gang members were arrested by the Dadar police on December 21, on the charges of kidnapping and extorting money from a city builder. The Mumbai police arrested Ashwin Naik also in an extortion case after he was caught red-handed accepting extortion money. According to the police, on December 9, Naik’s aides approached a Dadar-based builder, who is constructing a building in a central suburb. They kidnapped him at gunpoint and took him to Naik’s office in Subhash Nagar on NM Joshi Marg.

They threatened him and demanded Rs. 50 lakh as well as a 6,000 sq ft flat in the building. The developer sought some time and then registered an FIR at the Dadar Police Station. The police laid a trap to nab Naik, who arrived on Shankar Road with his aides in two cars to collect the money. Naik, who is paralysed waist down, was sitting in one of the cars. When he accepted the bag containing Rs. 50 lakh, the police team swooped down on the gang. Along with Naik, the police arrested his accomplices Pramod Keluskar, Janardan Sakpal, Prathamesh Parab and Rajesh Tambe on the spot.

The five have been booked under section 364 (a) (abduction), 384 (punishment for extortion), 387 (putting person in fear of death or of grievous injury, in order to commit extortion), 34 (common intention) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. In addition, sections 3 (licence for acquisition and possession of firearms and ammunition) and 25 (pertaining to punishment for possession of ammunition) of the Arms Act were also invoked. The police said that a few days ago, Naik had demanded Rs. 25 lakh from the builder’s partner.

Rajan Mahadev Nair popularly known in the Mumbai underworld by his moniker Bada Rajan (literally Elder Rajan) was also an underworld don from Mumbai, who operated from his base in the Tilak Nagar neighbourhood of Chembur like Chhota Rajan. From black marketing movie tickets, the duo branched out into petty crime and acquired a feared reputation. Like the other gangs headed by Arun Gawli, Amar Naik and his brother Ashwin Naik, the Rajan gang operated protection money rackets and also settled financial and land disputes.

When the powerful Tamilian don of Matunga, Varadarajan Mudaliar shifted his base to Madras, Bada Rajan and his chief lieutenant, Chhota Rajan, expanded into and took control of his rackets over most of Chembur. The remaining part was taken over by Sadhu Shetty, a protégé of Mudaliar. Mudaliar controlled the smuggling operations in Mumbai, along with two of the most powerful dons of the Mumbai underworld, Haji Mastan and Karim Lala. He sought assistance from Bada Rajan to protect his territories and neutralise threats from rivals like Karim Lala and Haji Mastan. Gradually, they extended their area of influence from Chembur to Ghatkopar east in northeastern Mumbai.

The Rajan gang also developed close ties with D-Company don, Dawood Ibrahim. When he was deserted by his former Pathan allies of the Karim Lala gang, Dawood Ibrahim forged a strong alliance with Bada Rajan. In fact, Dawood Ibrahim hired Bada Rajan to kill members of the gang, led by Amirzada Nawab Khan and Lala’s nephew, Samad Khan, who had also murdered Dawood Ibrahim’s elder brother, Shabir Ibrahim Kaskar. The task to assassinate Amirzada was assigned to David Pardesi, an unemployed resident of Tilak Nagar by Bada Rajan. Pardesi successfully killed Amirzada in a daring operation. The operation became an instant legend, immediately changing the underworld equation in Mumbai and became an integral event to Dawood’s ascend as a Don.

By early 1982, Bada Rajan and Chhota Rajan had firmly entrenched themselves in the racket of selling black market movie tickets near Sahakar Theatre in Tilaknagar. The racket of black market tickets near Odeon Theatre was firmly under the control of Chandu, who managed the racket with the help of his aides, Ratna and Antu from Kirol Village in Vidya Vihar. He maintained his control through the use of enforcers Babya Khopde and Lal Singh Chauhan. Since most of the shows were full for at least the first three days, the entire racket was a gold mine for the operators. There are more interesting stories of underworld that I will put in second and concluding part tomorrow.

Inputs from Various sources

Dr. Vaidehi Taman
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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