To win the loyalty of a person is the most difficult task in the world, Dawood Ibrahim, 55, would tell his brother gangsters. This former street urchin and son of a Mumbai police constable seems to have managed to earn it manifold. Hated by many, Dawood's employees and associates adore him, and would go to any length for him, including murder.
People who have worked for this Mumbai underworld don, known as the 'Gold Man,' maintain he never abandons his men. He is also unfailingly courteous and unstintingly generous. "If you are having dinner with him, he will make sure he starts after everyone else. If you ask him for money, he will never question how much you want. He hands out a substantial sum and if you ask how much of it you can keep, he says, 'It's all yours, take whatever you want.'" But Dawood does not brook fools either, or those who disobey him. And those who betray him usually do so at the cost of their lives.
Ibrahim lives like a king. Home is a palatial house spread over 6,000 square yards, boasting a pool, tennis courts, snooker room and a private, hi-tech gym. He wears designer clothes, drives top of the line Mercedes' and luxurious four-wheel drives, sports a half-a-million rupee Patek Phillipe wristwatch, and showers money on starlets and prostitutes. He bought Lahore model, Saba, with whom he reportedly had a passionate involvement, a house and a car. Nor does he shirk his obligations: Mandakini, of Ram Teri Ganga Maili fame, former Bollywood actress with whom he had a child is reportedly still being supported by him.
His daily regimen is also rather kingly. He wakes in the afternoon. After a swim and shower, he has breakfast. In the late afternoon, he gives his employees an audience where he briefs them on their assignments and they give him daily reports of his myriad businesses.
If in the mood, he engages in a game of cricket or snooker with friends. And as the sun sets, Dawood and his party set off for any one of his 'safe houses' in Karachi for an evening of revelry - usually comprising drinks (Black Label is his preference), mujras and gambling. The long-married Dawood's passion for women has made him a favoured client for local pimps. His current liaison notwithstanding, he whets his allegedly large sexual appetite with a variety of women.
"He prefers virgins, preferably young girls. And he is a good paymaster. If the market rate for a woman is 10,000 rupees, Dawood pays 100,000 rupees. He is thus always surrounded by Pakistan's top call girls," discloses one of his family friends.
Carousing through the night, Dawood and his companions quit only at dawn and collectively offer fajr prayers. This has been Dawood Ibrahim's routine for several years.
From petty street urchin to don of the Mumbai underworld, Dawood's life makes for a fascinating story.
Dawood seems to have realised early in life that crime paid. His petty exploits sometimes landed him in trouble, but his father's position as a policeman saved him from being apprehended on several occasions. Soon the Mumbai underworld started taking note of him.
Initially operating independently, Dawood formed his own gang, which grew into a mega crime network over the years. Both Hindus and Muslims worked for him, pursuing his by now multiple business interests, which included drugs, mediating in business disputes, evicting tenants from old buildings and clearing land for purposes of construction.
Ibrahim's interests soon led him to Bollywood where he became a major film financier. At his lavish parties, there was never a shortage of the mega stars of the day. "They wouldn't dare refuse an invitation," says a friend, who maintains that those who opted out on account of shooting schedules would suddenly find their dates had been cancelled or postponed.
Growing Hindu-Muslim tension, fuelled by other underworld dons, which climaxed after the Babri mosque demolition, changed everything. The ensuing blasts in Mumbai, and the communal riots triggered by the underworld itself, caused the Dawood Ibrahim gang to splinter. One of his top lieutenants, Chhota Rajan, often described by Ibrahim as one of his 'nauratans,' (nine jewels) defected and formed his own group consisting mainly of Hindu boys. Thereafter, Ibrahim was accused of masterminding the blasts, even though he was out of town at the time. He could never return to India. Dubai, which might have been a natural alternative residence, was ruled out because of an Interpol alert for Dawood's arrest - the UAE and India have an extradition treaty.
Thus Dawood fled to Pakistan, managing also to subsequently smuggle his family, comprising his wife, four daughters and a son, and certain close associates and their families out of Mumbai. (One daughter, 12, subsequently died of malaria and is buried in Pakistan). Today they all have Pakistani passport.
For the Muslims of Mumbai, Dawood's role in the blasts makes him a hero. "You cannot imagine the behaviour of the Hindus towards us before the blasts. They would hurl insults at our veiled women, ridicule us and mock our beards. The blasts changed everything. Now they cannot underestimate our strength; they are afraid of us," said a shopkeeper from Dawood Ibrahim's old mohalla on Mohammad Ali Road, a largely Muslim neighbourhood, whose residents shun the press and fiercely guard their privacy.
In Pakistan meanwhile, Dawood managed to establish another huge empire, comprising both legitimate and illegitimate businesses. In fact, the last few years have witnessed Dawood emerge as the don of Karachi.
Dawood and his men have made heavy investments in prime properties in Karachi and Islamabad, and are major players in the Karachi bourse and in the parallel credit system business - hundi. Dawood is also said to have rescued Pakistan's Central Bank which was in crisis at one point, by providing a huge dollar loan. His businesses include gold and drug smuggling. The gang is also allegedly heavily involved in match-fixing. Dawood's influence among the Pakistani cricket players is so well known that a senior Pakistan cricket official met Dawood to get the names of those Pakistani cricketers involved in betting.
Some of the Pakistani cricket players admit that at one time or another, they have sought Dawood's help, financial or otherwise. Javed Miandad is allegedly very close to Dawood Ibrahim, and his recent stint in cricket, despite the opposition from other players, was reportedly at Dawood's behest.
Dawood's sphere of influence has also encompassed the business community, with businessmen increasingly approaching Dawood to settle their financial disputes with other businessmen or for financial bailouts. Some former MQM militants are apparently also working for Dawood as trouble-shooters. However, Dawood's growing influence has irked Karachi's powerful ethnic group, the mohajirs, who feel Dawood is trespassing on their domain as more and more people are now looking to Dawood to sort out their problems. "Earlier, whether it was a case of financial dispute or the construction or regularisation of an illegal building, people came to us for help. Now all of them are going to Dawood," remarked a former leader of Altaf Hussain's MQM.
Dawood's business activities are not confined to the subcontinent. His network extends to several countries of the African continent, and to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Dubai, Germany, France and UK. His net worth has been estimated at close to 30 billion rupees.
Meanwhile, not only have the Pakistani authorities turned a blind eye to the gang's activities within Pakistan, but many in the corridors of power have partaken of Dawood's hospitality. Dawood often throws lavish mujras for Pakistani politicians and bureaucrats. A recent guest was a former caretaker Prime Minister.
These are not the only members of the establishment who have close ties with Dawood. He is said to have the protection of assorted intelligence agencies. In fact, Dawood and his men move around the city guarded by heavy escorts of armed men in civvies believed to be personnel of a top Pakistani security agency.
A number of government undercover agents, who came into contact with Dawood because of their official duties, are now, in fact, working for him. "A major serves him a glass of water. Nearly all the men who surround him for security reasons are either retired or serving officers," claims an MQM activist. "And he keeps them happy - buying them expensive apartments and showering them with favours. So they are more loyal to Dawood than the government of Pakistan."
Why is he allowed to operate with such impunity?
According to informed sources, Dawood is Pakistan's number one espionage operative. His men in Mumbai help him get whatever information he needs for Pakistan. Rumour has it that sometimes his men in Karachi accompany Pakistani intelligence agents to the airports to scan arriving passengers and identify RAW agents. Both Dawood and his lieutenant Chhota Shakeel, who have international satellite telephones and mobile roaming facilities, are in constant touch with their people in India and are allegedly able to garner valuable information for local agencies.
But Dawood has not severed all ties with India.
Dawood and his men might claim to be the champions of the Indian Muslims, but he continues to have close business ties with the Hindu mafia. One of his close associates claims that Dawood even has joint business interests with the son of the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena leader, Bal Thackeray, public pronouncements of fierce enmity between the two notwithstanding.
There is evidence to indicate that Dawood is also still financing Bollywood films. Early this year, the Mumbai police arrested Bharat Shah, the producer of the Indian film Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, after proving that the film was financed by Dawood Ibrahim. And there is nostalgia for the home left behind. Dawood is said to often cry for Mumbai.
"Mumbai was Mumbai. There we had everything, here one cannot have the life or the fun we did in India," said one of Dawood's associates.
But here question arises, who will succeed Dawood Ibrahim or who will be "Mumbai ka King" after Dawood?
Mumbai ka naya King kaun?
They are still learning the ropes, but within a year, these gangsters are slated to become the new faces of the underworld...
Crime Branch investigations indicate that Dawood Ibrahim (55) is grooming younger brother Mustaqeen (36) as the successor of D Company.
This process began after the death of his brother Noora in March. Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rakesh Maria confirmed, "Dawood does not want the mantle of the empire to go to a non family member. Mustaqeen supersedes elder brothers Anis, Iqbal and key lieutenant Chhota Shakeel. He has been chosen because he does not have any serious offences registered against him. Most of the dirty work like threatening, extorting money and executing killings are done by loyal top aide Chhota Shakeel and Faheem Machmach."
He has become the new face of the D Company, after his mentor Faheem Machmach has been asked to lie low. Arif spent his early days in the streets of Dongri, not far from where Machmach lived.
According to sources, Mirza has been using most of the contacts he developed during his stint in prison around 2000.
He now claims he is operating from China and South Africa. However, insiders say that D Company will not send him to such destinations until he has proved himself and earned enough money for the gang.
Sources say Chhota Shakeel's (49) younger brother Anwar (38) has been in the shadow of elder brother Shakeel since the early 90s, when he escaped to Dubai and later Pakistan.
He has become active in recent months and is waiting for the right moment to start an independent faction.
This new face, operating in Mira Road, has no Godfather in the underworld. His association with another novice, Anis, could turn into a deadly duo. The two are in their late 20s.
Bomb blast accused Abu Salem's brother has become active ever since Salem's arrest.
Though Salem is not issuing fresh threats, his brother is conducting business on his behalf. However, most of the dealings have been with old partners so far.
Ashwin Naik's (47) right-hand-man Kumar Pillai (42) has started becoming active on behalf of Naik in recent months.
He is mostly involved in large-scale construction work around Vikhroli, his stronghold. Pillai, an engineer like his mentor Naik, has been named in several extortion cases in north Mumbai.
He is also suspected in the murder of an estate agent in Vikhroli. Police sources revealed that Pillai could be holed up in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka or Singapore, which has a sizable Tamil population.
Pillai was recruited by Naik's elder brother, Amar, in the early 80s. He has been a Naik loyalist since then.
Pandav Putra gang
This gang, formed by Deepak Valekar who was earlier part of the Gawli gang, is fast climbing up the underworld ladder.
The gang is into extortion and is fighting Gawli and Naik's gangs for supremacy in central Mumbai.
As a testimony to the changing face of the underworld and its political legitimisation, they are taking the political route to gain supremacy.
The gang wanted it's own candidate in the constituency in the upcoming elections. Valekar was arrested last year, but continues to lead the gang from jail.
The market share
Police sources say most new bhais are still learning the tricks of the trade.
They'll be taken seriously only after they have made an impact like the killing of music baron Gulshan Kumar launched Abu Salem in the upper echelons of the underworld.
An insider elaborated, "The new gangsters are yet to control the market. Their demands are in few lakhs to keep them going.
It is only after a sensational killing that targets take them seriously. Their current cumulative market control is less than three per cent."
The old school
Older dons like Dawood and Chhota Shakeel have grassroots experience.
Dawood's rags-to-riches story has made him an icon in the streets of Dongri and Nagpada. Shakeel is still the one who contacts frontline shooters in Mumbai. Killings are carried out through him.
Chhota Rajan too has seen action on the streets. He was a frontline shooter before escaping to Dubai.
Other dons like Amar Naik, Guru Satam and Suresh Manchekar have all seen action on the streets before becoming dons.
The new blood
The new blood, especially the ones inheriting set empires like Arif Mirza and Mustaqeen have never led from the front.
Both Arif and Mustaqeen have never come in contact with recruits. They are not even known by their real names.
A source said, "It'll be a long time before Mustaqeen fits into Dawood's shoes, or Arif becomes a force to reckon with."
The same goes for Raheem. He has not had to do much of the grunt work, as his brother led from the front.
Abid, Anis, Anwar and Pillai are the exceptions here. While the first two are staring from scratch, Anwar and Pillai both started from the top.
Added another source, "The new dons don't involve themselves in the action. They are tech savvy and operate from the background.
They mostly issue threats over the phone. Most of them are using the shortcut to the top."
Did you know?
Ejaz Lakdawala, Hemant Pujari and Ravi Pujari don't have any capable successor yet. The gang leaders are too busy hiding to expand their empire.
Sources also say that there is no one in Chhota Rajan's gang who can take over either Gang-way
Each gang has an established way of functioning and new leaders have to master the gang's working style
The D Company, especially Chhota Shakeel, is known for thorough research. Shakeel has watchers following the target to let the victim know how he is shadowed.
The target is told on the phone what he or a relative is wearing and where he is heading. This puts tremendous pressure on the target and he succumbs to the threat.
This legacy is passed on to junior members of the gang. Mustaqeen and Arif Mirza will also have to ensure that they make research their forte.
Ashwin Naik's gang is known for working with subtlety. His cadres have several qualified people. They avoid publicity as much as possible. Kumar Pillai fits the description to a tee.
The Chhota Rajan gang is known for getting killings done through small-time robbers and attributing the act to senior members of the gang.
This not only instils fear in the mind of the target, but also keeps a new recruit from becoming famous very soon.
Arun Gawli's gang's mode of operation is similar to Chhota Rajan's gang. They cultivate some gangsters as brands -- Dilip Kulkarni, Bandya and Sada Pawle and bank heavily on their names.
Ejaz Lakdawala specialises in research on Bollywood celebrities and some builders in and around Mira Road. This gang's Achilles heel is the lack of a good logistical team and shooters.
Ravi Pujari plays the patriotism card and has attacked people whom he considers anti-national. He is a poor paymaster and does not have any good shooter.
Hemant Pujari preys mainly on hoteliers. Notorious gangsters such as Late Sharad Shetty, Late Sadhu Shetty, Late Amar Alva, Dayya Shetty, Santosh Shetty, and Hemant Pujari etc. became common names in Bombay underworld. All are they from Karnatka. Since Shiavalli gangsters were already identified and since they used to gather at a local bar every evening, things became easier.