The first of mafia elements, or syndicates, perhaps had their origins in the gambling and bootleg liquor dens set up by a pathan Ayub Khan Pathan alias Ayub Lala. He was the founder president of Pakhtun Jirga e Hind, an association of around 13,000 Afghani nationals settled in Bombay. Although Ayub Lala was labelled a mafia don, he had not even slapped a single person during his life time, to show off his muscle power. He controlled the gambling clubs mostly owned by marwaris, Muslim and gujrati operators and drug cartel including spurious liquor dens in Mumbai. Ayub Lala also owned a few KawaKhanas (a drink made from opium served with black tea) and Chandolkhanas (somewhat like hokkah parlours). He left Bombay after the murder of his own step son Kashmiri Lala handing over the reigns of all his activities to Karim lala who was earlier a vendor selling liquor at a den at Dongri in south mumbai in the 1940s.
Varadarajan Mudaliar, who rose to be a mafia don in Bombay was most active in the 1970s with Karim Lala and Haji Mastan. He enjoyed celebrity status and there are accounts that he even helped the needy and organized religious festivals. He is also considered to be India's first celebrity criminal. The Tamil film Nayagan which is a biopic of him directed by Mani Ratnam even made it to the Time Magazine's "All-Time 100 Best Films". The film was remade in Hindi called Dayavan which was directed by Feroze Khan with Vinod Khanna in leading role as the don Varadarajan Mudaliar. Meanwhile Haji Mastan is understood to be the inspiration behind the movie Deewar which was directed by Yash Chopra with Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role as the don.
There was also a don named Rama Naik who hailed from Byculla a close associate of Bada Rajan and mentor of Arun Gavli. He reigned from 1970 to 1987 when he was encountered on the behest of Dawood. Currently the biggest such underworld leader is Dawood Ibrahim. During his rise, Dawood Ibrahim was initially challenged by Karim Lala who eventually surrendered due to Dawood's swift and shrewd moves that resulted in also eliminating members of Karim Lala's family and his mob. Dawood was also challenged by the powerful Dholakia brothers (Mahesh and Arvind Dholakia) who masterminded the murder of Dawood's key ally Babu Reshim in a daring raid inside a Mumbai police station where Babu Reshim was detained. Following this, Dawood had both Dholakia brothers assassinated (in separate incidents) and consequently became the supreme and unchallenged underworld king of Mumbai. Varadarajan Mudaliar and Haji Mastan quit all illegal activities by that time and maintained a low key presence.
In the illegal opium trade, the earliest dated mafia family was the Thane-based (Mumbai) Thanevale gang that was responsible for over 80% of the opium and heroin trafficking in the 1860s according to an article by Harkisondas Thanawala (1965).
India is a major transit point for heroin coming in from the Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent to Europe. India is also the world's largest legal grower of opium, and experts estimate that 5–10% of the legal opium is converted into illegal heroin and 8–10% is consumed in high quantities as concentrated liquid. The pharmaceutical industry is also responsible for a lot of illegal production of mandrax, much of which is smuggled into South Africa. Diamond smuggling via South Africa is also a major criminal activity, and diamonds are also sometimes used to disguise shipments of heroin. Finally, a lot of money laundering takes place in the country, mostly through the use of the traditional hawala system, although India has criminalized money laundering as of 2003.
Bangalore’s underworld dates back to the late 1960s, when Kodigehalli Mune Gowda became the first underworld don. In the beginning he controlled all of Bangalore, and his basic revenue source was hafta (protection money) from brothels and arrack shops. In the ‘70s, Kotwal Ramachandra and Jayaraj entered the field. Wine shops, massage parlours, game parlours were added to the list. They had political affiliations. The scene changed in the 1980s and ‘90s, when young Turks entered the field like Muthappa Rai, Agni Shridhar in 1990 to 1995 Boot House Kumar or Oil Kumar, Bekkina Kannu Rajendra, Srirampura Kitty, Jedarahalli Krishnappa, Pushpa, Kala Pathar and Ele Naga emerged.
At the same time, the underworld became active, with R V Devraj (rowdy turned politician) Abu Shair, Koli Fayaz, Tanvir, Ishtiyak, Sajjad, Nazir, hibbath, Tarakari Khaleel and Chappal Hamid. Bangalore was virtually a battleground, as these operators stretched their businesses to all possible revenue earning sectors.
Bangalore's underworld scenario is very well depicted in blockbuster Kannada movie Om which has been remade in Telugu as Omkaaram'. Bollywood's 1998 blockbuster Satya shares many similarities with Om, including the fact that both deal with criminal underworlds and each protagonist's name is the same: Satya. The movie is considered controversial because of its violence and the portrayal of a lot of Bangalore underworld's incidents. Many real underworld people acted in the movie, of which some convicts had to be bailed out just to act in this movie. Some of the infamous rowdies who acted in the film are Jedarahalli Krishnappa, Bekkina Kannu (Cat Eye) Raajendra, Korangu, and Tanveer.
The Indian mafia is notoriously heavily involved in Mumbai's Bollywood film industry, providing films with funding and using them as fronts for other activities. It is rumoured that Dawood Ibrahim controls the film industry, and actors of other religious faiths are threatened to give way for his supporters. Although in recent times police investigations have forced mobsters to make their activities more subtle, for most of Bollywood's existence stars openly displayed their mafia connections, attending parties with mafia dons and using their help to gain new roles.
Varadarajan Muniswami Mudaliar, also known as Vardhabhai (1926–1988) was a Tamil from Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, who rose to be a mafia don in Mumbai, India. Most active in the 1970s, he was the link in the underworld history between old time mafia men such as Haji Mastan.
Varadarajan started as a porter in Mumbai's Victoria Terminus Station in the 1960s. His emergence in the underworld was largely through bootlegging and matka operations. Later, he diversified into contract killings, smuggling and dock thefts. He ruled the underworld well in to the 1980s. In the 1980s, he almost ran a parallel judiciary system, dispensing justice within his community. Varadarajan Mudaliar came into light after the reign of Karim Lala. At that time, Karim Lala, Varadarajan and Haji Mastan were the trio that ruled the Mumbai underworld.
Varadarajan was very active in the Matunga and Dharavi areas of Mumbai. He organized the annual Ganesha festival in Matunga. However, after the collapse of the cotton mills in Mumbai in the mid 1980s, their relevance ended.
In the mid 1980s, police officer Y C Pawar targeted Varadarajan. By the end of the 1980s, most of Varadarajan's gang members had been imprisoned or eliminated by Pawar, and Varadarajan himself had to flee to Chennai. Varadarajan died in Chennai in 1988, aged 62. In 1987, the Tamil film maker Mani Ratnam made his film Nayagan, loosely based on Varadarajan's life. Actor Kamal Hassan played the lead role. The Hindi movie Dayavan, produced and directed by Feroz Khan (released : 21 October 1988) was based loosely on the life of Vardarajan.
Karim Lala (1911 - February 19, 2002), born as Abdul Karim Sher Khan in Kunar province of Afghanistan, was popularly known as the 'don of Mumbai' in India. He is widely recognized as the founder and pioneer of the Indian mafia in the Mumbai area. He went to work in Mumbai’s docks in the early 1940s via Peshawar, but his rise to prominence, along with Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudaliar, is now part of Bollywood film lore.
Karim Lala and his fellow mafia leaders were based in Bombay (now called Mumbai). They were involved in smuggling jewelry, running gambling and liquor dens, extortion rackets and selling Hashish. Karim Lala was an ethnic Pashtun, he died on February 19, 2002, at the age of 90.
Haji Mastan Mirza, popularly known as Haji Mastan or Baw (March 1, 1926 - 1994), was a Bombay (Mumbai) gangster and smuggler in the 1960s and 1970s. Mastan became the first celebrity gangster of the city, expanding his clout in the film industry. As Mastan's influence in Bollywood grew, he began to produce films. He was also known for his links with the legendary actor Dilip Kumar. During the Indian Emergency (1975 - 77) he was imprisoned. In prison he learned Hindi. Haji Mastan became a Muslim leader in 1984. He formed Dalit Muslim Surakhsha Maha Sangh in 1985, Which had Doulatram Kawle as a corporator. Aslam Kiratpuri, a well known journalist, gave him ideas on how to speak in public meetings after which he became a good speaker. He died in Mumbai in 1994.
EARLY LIFE: Haji Mastan was born Mastan Haider Mirza on March 1, 1926 in Panaikulam village near Ramanadhapuram, Tamil Nadu. His father, Haider Mirza, was a hard-working but impoverished farmer, who came to Mumbai after failing to make ends meet in his village. Father and son reached the city in 1934. After trying their hand at odd jobs, they managed to set up a small shop where they repaired cycles and two-wheelers in Bengali Pura, near Crawford Market. Mastan soon realized that even after all the toil he could only make a meager
As he would walk home to his basti (ghetto) from Crawford Market, he would see the grand theatres, Alfred and Novelty, on south Mumbai’s Grant Road. He would stare at the cars of Mumbai’s rich and famous, their Malabar Hill bungalows, and resolved to be rich and famous.
RISE AS THE DAWN OF MUMBAI: The windfall came in 1956 when Mastan came in contact with Sukur Narayan Bakhia a resident of Daman and the biggest smuggler in Gujarat. Bakhia and Mastan became partners and divided certain territories among themselves. Mastan handled the Bombay port and Bakhia the Daman port. The smuggled items would come to Daman port from the Persian Gulf and to Bombay from Aden. Mastan took care of Bakhia’s consignments.
His rise was phenomenal. But Emergency took the wind out of his sails. The smuggler was incarcerated. The man who came out after 18 months in jail was reformed and surprisingly emerged a hero. During his jail term, he studied Hindi, the prominent language in Mumbai. Mastan Mirza began to introduce himself as Haji Mastan. Using the prefix of "Haji" refers to those devout Muslims who have been to Hajj in Mecca.
Haji Mastan planned his own foray into films with a project titled Mere Garib Nawaz and followed by other movies. He was a successful distributor and excelled in cinema business.
He was a smuggler and a shrewd man who rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty of his era. Be it Karim Lala or Varadarajan Mudaliar, Dilip Kumar or Shashi Kapoor. He had excellent relationship with Dharmendra, Feroz Khan, Raj Kapoor and Sanjeev Kumar. Salim Khan and Amitabh Bachchan often visited him while Deewar was in the pipeline. He also had friends from the world of politics. Though a notorious smuggler he was apprehended and jailed by agencies many time around. Though he possessed a huge mansion in a posh locality off Peddar Road, opposite Sophia College, he virtually lived his life in a small room built on the terrace of his bungalow. He worshipped the sea and had a clear view of the ocean from his terrace abode.
But once out of his home, Haji Mastan was a man of style. Always clad in pure white designer wear, a pack of imported cigarettes in hand, Mastan used to travel in a chauffeur driven white Mercedes-Benz a status symbol in those days.
His room used to be full of Tamil newspapers, specially flown in from Chennai as that was the only language that Mastan knew to read.
He made millions through smuggling gold, silver and electronic goods and was once arrested and detained under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities (COFEPOSA) Act during Emergency.
After all the cases against him were disposed off, Haji Mastan never indulged in smuggling again. He floated a political party and devoted time in holding periodic meetings with the poor and the needy in the minority community-dominated localities of south Mumbai and held public rallies at Mastan Talao near Nagpada police station. He also joined hands with anti-drug abuse activists like Dr Yusuf Merchant and implored the youth to stay away from killer drugs.
In the meantime, he courted a few Bollywood starlets and even tied the knot with a starlet called Sona. He financed a few films for her. He gifted her a bungalow situated near actor Dev Anand's house at Juhu. He was a lonely man and had few but staunch friends. No wonder that when don Vardabhai (Varadarajan Mudaliar) died in Madras, Mastan chartered an Indian Airlines plane and brought his friend's body to Mumbai for last rites as was wished by Vardabhai.
In 1994, he died due to cardiac arrest.
Dawood Ibrahim (born Sheikh Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar), also known as Dawood Ebrahim, and Sheikh Dawood Hassan, is the head of the Indian organized crime syndicate D-Company in Mumbai. He is currently on the wanted list of Interpol for organised crime and counterfeiting. He was No. 4 on the Forbes' World's Top 10 most dreaded criminals list of 2008.
Dawood Ibrahim is accused of heading a vast and sprawling illegal empire in and against India and Indians. After the 1993 Bombay bombings, which Ibrahim allegedly organized and financed, he became India's most wanted man. According to the United States, Ibrahim maintained close links with al-Qaeda's Osama Bin Laden. As a consequence, the United States declared Dawood Ibrahim a "global terrorist" in 2003 and pursued the matter before the United Nations in an attempt to freeze his assets around the world and crack down on his operations. The Bush administration has since imposed several sanctions on Ibrahim and his associates. Indian and Russian intelligence agencies have pointed out Ibrahim's possible involvement in several other terror attacks, including the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, as per Interpol. Along with the Pakistan Administered Kashmir, the issue of extradition of Dawood Ibrahim is one of the major hurdles in normalizing Indo-Pakistani relations.
Ibrahim Kaskar, the son of a police constable Ali Khan, was born in Mumkaa village in Ratnagiri in the Indian state of Maharashtra on December 27, 1955. He is of Konkani descent. He is said to have begun his career in Mumbai working for the Karim Lala gang exploiting the rapid expansion in the Bombay (now Mumbai) textiles industry to his advantage. He soon moved his residence to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where he has business interests alongside India.
Dawood Ibrahim is believed to control much of the 'hawala' system, which is the very commonly used unofficial system for transferring money and remittances outside the view of official agencies. Much of the organization’s operations are in India.
Ibrahim is widely believed to have masterminded the March 1993 Bombay Bombings. In 2003, the Indian and United States governments declared Ibrahim a "Global Terrorist". The then Deputy Prime Minister, L.K.Advani described it as a major development and that India stands "vindicated". Ibrahim is currently on India's "Most wanted List".
The United States Department of Treasury has also designated Ibrahim as a terrorist as part of its international sanctions program — effectively forbidding U.S. financial entities from working with him and seizing assets believed to be under his control. The Department of Treasury keeps a fact sheet on Ibrahim which contains reports of his syndicate having smuggling routes from South Asia, the Middle-East and Africa shared with and used by terrorist organisation al-Qaeda. The fact sheet also said that Ibrahim's syndicate is involved in large scale shipment of narcotics in the United Kingdom and Western Europe. He is also believed to have had contacts with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden, now dead. In the late 1990s, Ibrahim traveled in Afghanistan under theTaliban's protection. The syndicate has consistently aimed to destabilize the Indian government through riots, terrorism and civil disobedience.
Washington added that they will request the United Nations to list Ibrahim "in pursuance of relevant Security Council resolutions". The UN listing will require that all UN member states freeze Ibrahim's assets and impose a travel ban. Juan Zarate, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, said that they are committed to identifying and attacking financial ties between terrorism and the underworld. Ibrahim is also suspected to have connections with terrorist organizations, and in 2002 was linked to the financing of increasing attacks in Gujarat by Lashkar-e-Toiba. New Delhi handed over to Islamabad a list of 38 most wanted criminals, including Ibrahim.
In a major blow to Ibrahim, ten members of his gang were arrested by Mumbai Crime Branch on November 21, 2006. They were extradited from the United Arab Emirates, from where they had been deported.
Sources reported in India Today indicate that Dawood Ibrahim provided the logistics for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Pakistani deportation resistance
In January 2002, a month after the Parliament attack, Indian officials visited the US, where they had meetings with Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. A list of the Top 20 most-wanted terrorists in Pakistan was handed to the US. Ibrahim was wanted in connection with the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. Following the meetings, "He (Powell) told his Indian interlocutors that Pakistan would hand over Dawood Ibrahim to India 'with some strings attached' and also that Musharraf needed 15 to 20 days more for doing so," However, Advani says he "started facing hurdles" soon and recollecting it now "is not a very happy experience.”
Ajmal Amir Kasab, a gunman arrested for participation in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 173 (164 civilians and security personnel and 9 terrorists), has confessed to authorities according to reports that Ibrahim's organization provided arms and explosives to the Lashkar-e-Taiba group that were used to carry out the attacks.
Dawood Ibrahim's daughter, Mahrukh Ibrahim, married Junaid Miandad the son of a former Pakistan National Cricket Team captain, Javed Miandad. Miandad told the press that his son and Ibrahim's daughter met while studying together in the UK.
On 30 March, 2009, his brother Noora died in his sleep of natural causes, aged 50.