Story from Haji Mastan to Karim Lala: Discussion
There was a time when a goon named Sher Khan Pathan used to collect weeks from the porters in Mazgaon docks of Bombay. Whoever refused to give Hafta, his henchmen used to beat him badly.
Haji Mastan, who was working in the dock, used to see this sight every day. He did not understand how an outsider could come inside the dock and extort money from the porters by force only.
Haji Mastan made up his mind to confront Sher Khan. The next Friday, when Sher Khan came to collect the Haftar with his goons, he found 10 people missing from the long line of porters.
Before he could understand anything, Mastan and his 10 companions attacked Sher Khan and four of his henchmen.
Despite Sher Khan’s secrets and Rampuri knives, Mastan and his four companions overpowered him and the bloodied Sher Khan along with his companions had to flee to save his life.
This incident not only made Haji Mastan the leader of the porters, but from here the ‘Mastan Legend’ started.
This scene was shot exactly in 1975 by Yash Chopra on Amitabh Bachchan in his released film Deewar.
In his recently published autobiography ‘A Rude Life’, noted journalist VeerSanghvi writes, “Amitabh Bachchan’s character in the film Deewar was largely based on the life of Haji Mastan. He told me that only the 786 numbered badge had the right story. Not there.”
Sanghvi explains, “Mustan later acted in a film on his life by comedian Mukri. The film portrayed the glamorized side of his life. In the film, Mastan used to hide his falling hair. wore a wig of dark hair.”
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- Mastan joins hands with Karim Lala and Varadarajan Mudaliar
Mastan had realized long ago that it was not just money that was needed to be powerful in a city like Bombay.
In the famous book ‘Dongri to Mumbai Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia’ on Mumbai’s underworld, S. Hussain Zaidi writes, “Mustan needed muscle power to establish his empire in Mumbai. In search of this, he joined hands with Karim Lala and Vardarajan Mudaliar, two famous dons of the city.”
In the year 1956, Haji Mastan came in contact with Daman’s Don Sukur Narayan Bakhia. Soon both of them became partners and they divided some areas among themselves. The Bombay port was the area of Mastan and the Daman port became the area of Bakhia.
Hussain Zaidi writes, “Smuggled goods brought from Dubai used to land in Daman while goods brought from Aden were unloaded in Bombay. Mastan was responsible for monitoring Bakhia’s goods.”
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Mastan started living in a bungalow on Sofia College Lane between Warden Road and Pedder Road.
Veer Sanghvi writes, “I went to interview Haji Mastan in the year 1979. An old truck used to be parked in his garden. The story about him was famous that it was the same truck that Mastan used to deliver his first Contraband. I once asked Mastan about this story but he denied it. But anyone in his place would have denied it.”
Veer Sanghvi also mentions his meeting with Yusuf Patel, another person from the Bombay underworld.
He writes, “Joseph had a habit of moving his legs. When he did this, his shins were visible. That’s when I found out that he used to wear pajamas under his pants. I have seen someone under the pants till today.” Didn’t see him wearing pajamas. Once I convinced him to remember some old things.”
Sanghvi writes, “He himself told me that once Haji Mastan had given betel leaves to Karim Lala’s men to get him killed. He was walking on the road when two men shot him and he thought him dead. Kar had fled. But he was not dead. He was taken to the hospital and he survived.”
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Hussain Zaidi has also mentioned this incident in his book.
He writes, “The first supari in the history of Mumbai mafia was given by Haji Mastan to Yusuf Patel, who had once worked with him for 10,000 rupees in 1969. This work was entrusted to two operatives of Pashtun origin of Karim Lala. They chose a place near Minara Masjid to attack Patel.”
“The duo opened fire on Yusuf Patel in a crowded area near the mosque during the month of Ramzan. Patel fell to the ground and his bodyguard jumped on him to save him. The killers tried to escape but the crowd present there. caught him and handed him over to the police. Yusuf Patel was hit by two bullets in his arm but his bodyguard was killed. That day was November 22, 1969.”
“Later the police arrested Haji Mastan, Karim Lala and 11 others in this case.”
- Reconciliation between Haji Mastan and Yusuf Patel
When Veer Sanghvi asked Haji Mastan about this incident, he accepted that it was true.
Sanghvi writes, “Mastan told me that Yusuf had cheated him in one case. No one could have survived by betraying Haji Mastan.”
“When I was told that Patel was dead, I was very satisfied. But later when I came to know that Yusuf Patel had survived, I took it as a divine sign. If Allah did not want Yusuf to die now, then I have to respect his wish. Haji Mastan and Yusuf Patel became friends again after a few days.”
- Rukhsana Sultan and Haji Mastan meeting
Haji Mastan always wore white clothes. His companions believed that this enhances his personality.
Veer Sanghvi writes, “Once upon a time, Rukhsana Sultan, a Congress leader, Sanjay Gandhi’s friend and actress Amrita Singh’s mother, told me an anecdote about meeting Haji Mastan for the first time. She was in the habit of using cami soap. Didn’t get it in India. She used to buy it from smugglers.”
“Once she parked her car in a crowded market in Bombay and went to buy soap. She could not find that soap anywhere. Everyone said that the supply of this soap is not coming these days. When she returned to her car When she returned, there was a crowd of people.
“As she went closer, she saw a portion of the back seat of her car was littered with hundreds of Cami’s soaps. A man dressed in white was standing next to his car. He first smiled and then introduced himself and said, I am called Haji Mastan.
- Varadarajan Mudaliar’s penetration among common people
While Haji Mastan was trying to establish his foothold in the Bombay underworld, Varadarajan, another coolie, was trying to earn a living at the Mudaliar Victoria Terminus station.
Mudaliar was born in the city of Vellore, Tamil Nadu. He had not completed his education but he was the only person in his family who could read and write English and Tamil.
Pradeep Shinde, a well-known crime reporter from Mumbai, believed that “the men of Varda were faster than the local administration in making the common people citizens of Bombay, providing them with ration cards, illegal electricity and water, and this was also the secret of his power.” ”
“His power was so much that the common man used to work for him blindly. To help the people coming from Tamil Nadu, Varadarajan had engaged two of his most trusted people – Tomas Kurien aka Khaja Bhai and Mohinder Singh Vig whose other name was Bada Soma.”
- Haji Mastan and Vardarajan Mudaliar meeting
Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudaliar were both from Tamil Nadu.
Hussain Zaidi narrates an anecdote, “Once, Varda was arrested by the police for stealing an antenna from the Customs Dock area. The police asked him to tell them the place where he had kept the stolen goods, or else they would be theirs. Will use third degree against him.”
“Varda was thinking in the Azad Maidan lockup what to do when a man holding a 555 cigarette in his fingers came to the jail teachers and he slowly said to them in Tamil ‘Vanakkam Thalaivar’. Varda was stunned to hear this. The word ‘Thalaivar’ is used for ‘chief’ in Tamil.”
“No one had spoken to Varda with such respect before. This person was Haji Mastan.”
“Mustan said to Varadarajan, you give them back the antenna. I will make sure you make more money than this. Vardarajan at first refused. But Mastan told him – I am making an offer to you which no intelligent person can refuse.” Can’t. Return the antenna and be my partner in the gold business.”
“Varda asked him, what would be the benefit to you? Mastan replied – I want to use your muscle power. Some of the policemen who witnessed this scene never forgot how a man dressed in a suit and polished shoes had shook hands with a man wearing an ugly-looking white vest, vesti (lungi) and slippers.”
- Mastan, Karim Lala and Varda tie up
After leaving the jail, Mastan started using Varda in his work. Varadarajan knew the pulse of the people. He was always present at his house to listen to the problems of the people. Being a religious person, he started spending a lot of money on Ganesh pandal outside Matunga station.
Gradually, according to his status, the size of the pandals also started increasing. Many films were also made on Varda such as Nayakan, Dayavan and Agneepath. Amitabh Bachchan was shown imitating Varda’s voice in Agneepath.
On the other hand, the kingdom of Mastan was also spreading rapidly.
Hussain Zaidi writes that “the silver sent by Mastan to foreign countries was so famous for its purity that it got the brand name of ‘Mustan ki Chandi’. Mastan bought a luxurious bungalow and several large cars in Malabar Hill. Married to Sabiha Bi from whom he had three daughters Kamrunnisa, Mahrunnisa and Shamshad.”
“By the 1970s, a formidable nexus of the muscle power of Haji Mastan in south and west Bombay, Vardarajan Mudaliar in central Bombay and Karim Lala emerged.”
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Haji Mastan was first arrested in 1974 and again in 1975 during the Emergency. After his release from jail, Mastan left smuggling and engaged himself in the real estate business.
On the other hand, the officer of the Bombay Police, Yadavrao Pawar, took the initiative to drive Varadarajan away from Bombay. He succeeded in that too. Varadarajan eventually had to leave Mumbai and come to Madras, where he died a few years later.
Gang war started between Alamzeb and Amirzada and Ibrahim family in the 80s. Haji Mastan tried to get reconciliation between these two.
Dawood Ibrahim and Alamzeb swore by placing their hands on the Quran that now there would be no violence between them but the very next day both the gangs started firing at each other in broad daylight.
No one had any regard for the promise given to Haji Mastan. Clearly, Mastan’s prestige was on a low. Later Dawood Ibrahim left India and made his hideout in Dubai and you know the story ahead.
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In films based on the underworld, it is often shown that the don is extorting money from the house builders. But in real life, the don became the builder.
Veer Sanghvi writes, “Mustan and Yusuf Patel were not joking when they said that real estate business is more profitable than smuggling business. This was because of the Bombay Rent Act which made fun of private property. The owner and the tenant were put on the same platform.”
“Suppose you have a flat, you have rented it out. If you want the tenant to vacate your flat, you have to prove in court that you need more than your tenant needs. Tenants always argue will give that he does not have the means to go elsewhere.”
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As a result, the decline of central Mumbai started. Landlords stopped taking care of their homes.
The clever tenants started tearing their flats into pieces and renting them out again. Here the underworld started buying such houses from the landlords at low prices. He would then ask the tenants to leave the flat. Those who refused to do so would have to face the consequences.
Fearing these don, the tenants would vacate the flat and then don would build new houses there and sell them at high prices. The result was that in this type of real estate business, the gangsters of the underworld started earning more money than smuggling.
In the 80s, when the police pressure on these people started increasing, many of them started moving abroad. From there too, he did not leave the work of the underworld, but his story never again.