Haji Mastan the first gangster of influence in the history of Mumbai crime.


They say that “Crime is juicier than spirituality” and it becomes even more juicier when there are more opportunities to commit a crime. These opportunities increase by two folds especially in the environment of a large cosmopolitan city like Mumbai. Thus Mumbai like other great cities like New York, Chicago etc has over the years developed a crime culture with an identity of its own. The uniqueness of Mumbai is that as a city it has a large heart and provides many opportunities for people to start their own business especially the ones that exist on the other side of law. It is from these opportunities provided by the city that the history of Mumbai’s mafia syndicate rose from small time smuggling to terrorism.

So the history of crime in this great city Mumbai began just pre-independence with the arrival of Mastan Haider Mirza or popularly known  as Haji Mastan as a child along with his father Haider Mirza from a small village of Panankulum in Tamil Nadu. It was in the year 1934 that Haji Mastan along with his father who was a hardworking farmer in Tamil Nadu arrived on the shores of Mumbai with dreams of making a decent living which was not possible back home. Initially Mastan and his father tried their hand at all kinds of menial jobs but finally managed to set up a small mechanic shop which would repair cycles and two wheelers in Bengalipura near Crawford Market. It was during this time Mastan soon realized that the money earned from the mechanic shop was still not sufficient and his ambitions for making it big in this city of dreams grew. It was this growing ambitions in him that lead to him trying to find out schemes that would enable him to make the amount of money that would satisfy his needs. Finally in 1944 Mastan joined the Bomaby docks as a coolie  whose job was to unloading boxes from ships arriving from countries like Eden, Hong Kong etc. In 1947 when India got its independence Mastan observed that the British used to charge import duty which was not changed even after the British left India. As a result Mastan saw this as an opportunity to make a good profit if somehow this import duty could be evaded. In those days in Mumbai Phillip transistors and imported watches were in demand. So thus started the career of Mumbai’s first ever influential gangster Haji Mastan.

It was during this period when Mastan met a man called Sheikh Mohammed Al Ghalib who was by origin an Arab who was also looking for someone young and full of energy to support him in smuggling. So thus began a fruitful partnership between Ghalib and Mastan. Slowly but surely Mastan started to create an aura around him with coolie’s in the dock slowly beginning to look at Mastan with respect. He even slowly gained the respect of Ghalib who now offered Mastan a ten per cent cut in their smuggling operations. In  1950 Morarji Desai the chief minister of the then Bombay presidency had applied several prohibitory laws pertaining to liquor and other contraband in the state. These prohibitory laws as is always the case only encouraged more smuggling resulting in  Mastan and Ghalib in raking in the moolah. Slowly as smuggling increased so did the rise of Mastan along with his partner in crime Ghalib. Soon after Ghalib who was arrested for three years returned he finally decided to make Mastan his fifty per cent partner in gold smuggling which was in great demand those days. Thus this partnership not only lead Mastan to make a lot of money but also helped Mastan create an aura of one of the most influential smugglers in the city.


It was around this period that Mastan also realized that money alone will not suffice to sustain his numero uno position in the world of smuggling and that he will definitely require muscle power and for that he would need men known for their muscle power at that time and, those men included people like Vardarajan Mudaliar and Karim Lala. Vardarajan Mudaliar from Tamil Nadu. Varda bhai was another renowned gangster of that era. His business interest basically was in the illicit liquor trade and also in prostitution though he himself directly was not involved. Apart from his business he was also know for the power of his personality and for the muscle power he possessed. It was for this reason that Mastan wanted to form an alliance with Varda Bhai. An opportunity finally arose for Mastan when Varda Bhai was arrested for stealing an consignment containing antennae from the docks which was meant for a top politician in the Union ministry. This resulted in Mastan personally coming to meet Vardharajan in lock up. It was during a conversation between the two heavyweights of the Mumbai mafia that a deal was struck between the two. The deal involved that Vardarajan would work for Mastan in return for his freedom from jail. Varda Bhai being practical and seeing an opportunity to make it big in smuggling agreed with Mastan and one of the most powerful alliances in the history of Mumbai’s mafia was formed.

It was around this time that another gangster by the name of Abdul Karim Khan also known as Karim Lala caught the eye of Mastan. Karim Lala a Pathan and an Afghan by origin was basically into gambling and lending money to compulsive gamblers and it was for this reason that he was given the title “Lala”. Latter on Lala realized that there was more money in evicting tenants on behalf of the landlords for a variety of reasons ranging from occupant refusing to pay to landlord expecting more money. It is the formidable reputation of being a muscle man that brought Karim Lala fame which caught the eye of Mastan now the king of the smuggling world. As result Mastan met with Lala after the Friday prayer in Lala’s  Taher Manzil. It was during this meeting that a pact was made between the two and was decided that Mastan will use Lala’s muscle power in return for a cut depending on the consignment being smuggled. Thus a major alliance was formed between Mastan-Lala and Varda bhai which fast gained a reputation of being a force to reckon with in the world of smuggling. Little did one realize that a far fearsome, shrewd and a ruthless gangster was about to rise from the streets of Dongri who answered by the name of Dawood Ibraham.

Dawood Ibrahim was born on 26th December 1955 to a head constable havaldar Ibrahim Kaskar of the Mumbai Police. He was the second son in a large Kaskar family that consisted of ten children all together. Dawood’s father being just an head constable often found it hard to feed such a large a family. As a result of which the family many a time would have to remain on a empty stomach. One day Dawood’s father got suspended due to his inability to crack a high profile case. This caused Dawood who was enrolled in the Ahmed Sailor High School to leave his formal education which also proved to be the turning point in Dawood’s  life as a criminal in the world of crime.

The first crime that Dawood ever committed was at the tender age of fourteen when he attempted a robbery in his locality. Soon enough the clout of Dawood in his locality in Pakamodia Street Musafirkhana began to grow. He began openly extorting money from the peace loving Bohra community who also were basically business people. Slowly but surely Dawood got into the business of smuggling as during those days there was a lot of money to be made in smuggling. As his clout over the smuggling business in India increased he also turned his attention to Dubai and started interacting with number of sheikhs. It was clear that the luxury and the grandeur Dubai had caught the fancy of Dawood. He also started using what was known as “carriers” to smuggle gold biscuits to Dubai and this operation was called “Kachra Peti”. This operation was named so because the carriers just before it confronted customs would dump the gold biscuits into a garbage bin while signaling an accomplice via a signal to pick the consignment from that particular bin. In this way day by day Dawood’s reputation in the business of smuggling became legendary and overtook everyone else including the Pathan brothers i.e. Amirzada and Alamzeb.

As is most commonly seen in humans jealousy tends to develop within a human faster than lightening travels. This is exactly what happened with Pathan brothers with the rapid growth of Dawood as a smuggler and their inability to break into the business of smuggling the Pathan brothers decided that it was time to break the Dawood’s syndicate monopoly in smuggling. So eventually on 12th of February 1981 Dawood’s elder brother Sabir and a key component of the Dawood syndicate was killed by the Pathan brothers near the Servo Care petrol pump at Prabhadevi.

The death of his brother broke Dawood completely and from that day on he swore revenge. It is for this purpose of revenge that Dawood used David Pardesi to kill Amirzada one of the Pathan brothers in true dramatic style inside the courtroom of the City Civil and Sessions court. With Dawood now wanted for numerous crimes in the city(in 1982 was also arrested under COFEPOSA of the Customs Act) it meant India was no more a safe place for him and he had to find an alternative which he did in Dubai.

Escape from Dongri to Dubai he finally did in 1986 of course with the help of a tip off  from an influential and powerful politician within the system just as the police were about to arrest him. With Dubai being the perfect place especially for tax evasion Dawood began to control his city of birth Mumbai from the safe haven called Dubai. Once settled in Dubai Dawood called upon many of his close associates like Sharad Shetty, Chhota Shakeel and the once close associate and now bête noir Chhota Rajan. Chhota Rajan had caught Dawood’s eye with his dare devilry and his eye of minute details in planning. With Dawood controlling many of businesses in various parts of the subcontinent such as real state, various chains of restaurants, financing the Hindi movie industry etc from Dubai everything seemed well in paradise. This paradise soon was to be rocked by internal jealousy which led to the split of Dawood and his protégé Chhota Rajan.

The split between the two resulted as a result of growing jealousy in gang members like Chhota Shakeel, Sharad Shetty due to the lavish praise thrown by Dawood on Chhota Rajan on account of his efficient planning and management skills. As result of this growing insecurity among some of his men and their concerns about Rajan’s growing clout in the gang Dawood himself got insecure. This resulted in Dawood completely isolating his once close associate. Although the breaking point of this relationship came when Chhota Rajan got to know from his close associates that Dawood was planning to kill him. This was the last straw for Chhota Rajan who with the help of RAW(Research Analysis Wing) managed to escape from Dubai.

Soon after Rajan’s escape with Indian government putting pressure on UAE to hand over Dawood, ISI a secret agency in Pakistan who is Dawood’s best friend shifted him out to Karachi where he resides like a king in Clifton beach. He also managed to secure properties in posh areas like Khayabaane Shamsheer. It was eventually on the 15th September 2000 that Chhota Rajan was finally located by Dawood’s gang in Thailand living in a posh neighbourhood of Sukhumvit  Soi, 26th street and an unsuccessful attempt on his life was made. With Rajan escaping certain death this rivalry continues although no other attempts have been made on Rajan’s life ever since this attempt. While Dawood has gone way beyond from being a small time thug from Dongri  to smuggler eventually now as a certified terrorist with directs link to Al-Qaeda it certainly has been a long journey from Dongri right up till Karachi.

With Dawood in the safe hands of ISI and the Pakistani government he is certainly living king size in his palatial house in Pakistan. Although he is living far away from his home in Dongri India he still controls many businesses in India mostly indirectly. The biggest revenue earner for Dawood in India is the movie piracy industry which is worth around Rs 15,000 crore which ultimately funds terrorism. Thus although the history of crime in Mumbai consisted of many gangsters like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala etc the fact remains is that history of crime of Mumbai is all of about one man and his ruthless ambition to rule the world. The man who has continued to live life a king size in the safe haven of Karachi in Pakistan.  The man whom the world knows as “DAWOOD IBRAHIM”.



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  They say that “Crime is juicier than spirituality” and it becomes even more juicier when there are more opportunities to commit a crime. These opportunities increase by two folds especially in the environment of a large cosmopolitan city like Mumbai. Thus Mumbai like other great cities like New York,...