Parth Agrawal's Reviews > Dongri To Dubai : Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia

Dongri To Dubai  by S. Hussain Zaidi
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Annals of Mumbai crime history. A fascinating topic. A chronology of Gangsters( Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, Varardhrajan Mudliar, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar) who came, ruled and went away. It is similar to those history book lessons where we learn about Babur, Humayun, Akbar, how they came to India and went away with their indelible mark on the country. Same can be said for these gentlemen who scarred Mumbai with their characteristic marks upon the city.

All of my friends have been asking me that why did I even pick this book up. I am a guy who gets fascinated by books generally based on finance and economics. Then why this? Ironically the answer was hidden in economics only as it turned out that what intrigued me, why do these people do what they do? Where do they come from? How do they become larger than life figures?, was hidden in the economic condition of the city since independence.

India liberalized in 1991, until then it was a pretty closed economy as the regulaitons were draconian and government used to call the shots in deciding which facilities are required in the country and how much. Imports in the country was heavily regulated and where everyone else saw hopelessness for the economic future of the country, some men saw a window of opportunity for themselves. I noticed that all the young kids who later turned out to be the kingpins, were unemployed, it was impossible for them to make ends meet without stealing food and only quick ways of making money enticed them.

Call it their destiny or not, all of them started their careers in crime through docks(ports). The initial capital required to feed themselves off was earned through stealing of imported products and selling them in the grey market. As the quantum of larceny grew, so did the net worth of these individuals. Haji Mastan was the first among these gangsters to make a fortune out of it. Mumbai and the border cities of Gujarat area have always been rife with smuggling instances and the more organized one's business is there, the more rich he's going to be.

As Haji Mastan became a big time smuggler, he realized that he needed clout in the city to exercise his power without dirtying his hands. Here came in the symbiotic relation of Varardharajan Mudliar, Karim Lala and Haji Mastan. Haji Mastan was the financier whereas the other two were the kingpins who could just get any work done in the city be it money through extortion, assassinations and what not. For long time this trio had the strings of the city in their hands and no force could seem to stop them. Mumbai Police was nowhere in the picture until now and to be frank they were no match to the formidable alliance as they always fell prey to the bribes offered to them.

There was one policeman though who refused to bow down before these gangsters, head constable Ibrahim Kaskar. He was one of the most honest officer in the force at that time and such was his honesty that he earned himself three fans, Karim Lala, Haji Mastan and Vardha Bhai. Even though he lived in the same locatlity as them, he always used to denounce their activities and brought them to the station at every chance. No one could dare to touch Ibrahim Kaskar such was his clout and respect even among the goons. But as they say life is not fair to the person who sacrifices everything for honesty and integrity. He got implicated in a murder case and was charged with the abetment of crime and in the process lost his job. Feeding the family was getting difficult by the day and 4 boys and 3 girls didn't help the cause. His children were deprived of the education while the gangsters helped him enough to stay afloat. His eldest son and his little brother then realized that the world is cruel and one needs to snatch one's own share from the others. Thus, Dawood and Sabir Ibrahim Kaskar were born.

Dawood was second (in age) only to Sabir but such was his acumen and fervor to become big even at such a young age that even Sabir chose to play second fiddle to him. He committed his first crime around age of 15 when he stole a loaf of bread from a passerby. Eventually he was caught by his own father who thrashed him taught him the hard way that life of honesty and integrity only will help one achieve prosperity but Dawood saw no substance in his claim as he saw his father doing so and barely making ends meet. His ingenuity was very helpful to him in the crime world as he was always quick to realize business opportunities and would leave no stone unturned to become a monopoly in that.

Multiple gang wars, broken promises, wounded egos wreaked havoc in Mumbai as through this bloodbath, Dawood was anointed as the undisputed kingpin of Mumbai replacing the trio. He had his firm hand upon everything extortion rackets, bribing of police officers, organized smuggling, land grabbing etc. His never ending hunger to become the most powerful man in the world made him what the world knows of him today. He always used to compare himself with the US president and evidently he always used to his name as White House whether it was in Mumbai, Dubai or Karachi.

Mumbai police had a big role in creating their own Frankenstein as they saw a twisted logic in supporting Dawood in his initial days. Since the mayhem in the city was at all time high as the Pathan gangs had created a state of anarchy in the city, they came up with a novel idea of using Dawood and his gang to clean up the more established gangs of the city. Their logic was to support an outlaw(Dawood) and use to kill all the other outlaws and since at the end, only one outlaw(Dawood) that they had created will remain, police will easily overpower him. But as it turned out, they created their own arch nemesis who not only eliminated all his arch enemies with the official support, but now had access to the only organization which had the mettle to stop him. It was a well known fact that Dawood has always been one step ahead of the authorities as his connections in the police force always helped him to flee just in time.

Dawood was just a thug till his early thirties who got big by all the activities mentioned above. His daring assassinations were creating a lot of problems for the Mumbai Police but still he managed to keep himself out of the jails. But what happened in 1993 changed everything as the bomb blasts in Mumbai shook the world. Dawood provided ISI and Al qaeda with logistical support by providing RDX and other explosives. The author claims that he saw it only as a business deal and never thought that ISI had an event this big in mind. Indian media had a field day as they salvaged their TRPs by brandishing Dawood as a traitor. Dawood was really moved by the turn of events. He even offered to surrender to the Indian government. His only condition was that he is ready to face the music only if the Indian government drops all the previous charges against him. Government denied it in the name of democracy but there was another version of this story as well which highlighted the potential threats these politicians and top brass of the police faced if Dawood really surrendered and confessed his crimes.

Dawood generally shuttled between Dubai and Karachi. He has been treated like a king in Pakistan more out of necessity than free will. The author clearly outlined the vicious circle which was started by Dawood and how he eventually got himself trapped in it:

1) Dawood raises Illegal money through illicit activities like piracy, extortion etc.

2) He provided these funds to ISI which further distributed this money to terror outfits like Al qaeda, Jaish-e-Mohammad etc.

3) Primary objective of ISI behind this funding was to disrupt peace in India but eventually they got themselves overly dependent on Dawood's money.

4) This made him an indispensable financer in the system.

5) Due to this, he enjoyed a reluctant immunity from the ISI, government and military of Pakistan which was very essential after being declared as an SDGT (Specially Designated Global Terrorist) by UN.

There are plenty of stories to be read in the book as it highlights the famous personalities influenced by underworld which includes big names of Salman Khan, Rani Mukharjee, Abbas Mastan etc. It gave me a new perspective as I myself went and stayed the city for 2 months and even though I got all this information after I came back from the city, it still was an adventurous journey.

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Reading Progress

June 22, 2017 – Started Reading
June 22, 2017 – Shelved
June 22, 2017 –
page 10
June 22, 2017 –
page 34
June 23, 2017 –
page 90
June 23, 2017 –
page 110
June 24, 2017 –
page 140
June 24, 2017 –
page 182
June 25, 2017 –
page 230
June 25, 2017 –
page 240
June 26, 2017 –
page 280
June 27, 2017 –
page 310
June 28, 2017 – Finished Reading

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