Few stories in present-day India are more compelling than the legend of the Mumbai underworld, a shameful institution whose fortunes peaked in the second half of the last century.
Gangster culture was very popular in India, particularly in Mumbai, in the eighties and nineties. Interestingly, some of these gangsters had started their dark careers by getting involved in petty crimes in their childhood.
The Bombay underworld is full of stories fit to be made into movies and there have been lots of them. So, here’s a list of the most ruthless and brash gangsters who used to rule the City Of Gold.
Abdul Karim Sher Khan alias Karim Lala – The Founder Of India Mafia
Crime lord and one of the leaders of the Pathan Gang in the 1940s.
The pioneer of an organized crime in India.
Involved in smuggling jewelry, running liquor, gambling dens, extortion rackets and selling hashish.
Haji Mastan Mirza alias Haji Mastan – India’s ‘Celebrity Gangster’
Mobster and a big time smuggler who reigned for 20 years.
Loved Bollywood. Produced films and developed close relationships with Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Sanjeev Kumar and many others.
Varadarajan Muniswami Mudaliar alias ‘Vardha bhai’- A muscle man to Haji Mastan
For two decades, he was one of the most powerful mob bosses in Bombay along with Karim Lala and Haji Mastan.
A notorious smuggler and had great contacts within the customs office.
This marked an end of an era of the “sophisticated dons” and the beginning of a new generation of deadly and terrifying brand of gangsters who took over the reins from the likes of Karim Lala, Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudaliar.
The fabric of the underworld changed during the late 80s and 90s. It was also the beginning of a different kind of underworld, where people kept guns in their drawer and earned money through investments.
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Dawood Ibrahim – Godfather of the Indian mafia
Founder of D-Company.
Currently ranked at no. 3 on the Forbes’ World’s Top 11 most dreaded criminals list.
Involved in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai and mastermind of 1993 Mumbai Bombing.
Abu Salem – Dawood’s delivery man for arms and ammunitions
Starting his career as a taxi driver, he became a delivery boy, then a garment salesman and finally a real estate agent.
Supplied weapons to Sanjay Dutt, killed Manisha Koirala’s personal assistance and also murdered Gulshan Kumar (founder of T-series).
Actively involved in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts.
Badda Rajan – Famous for black marketing of tickets
Played a significant role in establishing Dawood as Mumbai’s underworld don.
Served as a great mentor to Chhota Rajan.
Chhota Rajan – Dawood’s arch-rival
Took over the reins of Bada Rajan’s gang after Bada Rajan’s murder.
Wanted for many criminal cases that include extortion, murder, smuggling, drug trafficking and film finance.
Parted ways with Dawood Ibrahim in 1996 after the bombings and formed his own team.
Tiger Memon – Prime suspect behind 1993 Bombay Blasts
Nicknamed ‘Tiger’ after leading the police into a car chase at a speed of over 100 km/hr across one-way roads.
Wanted by Interpol and the CBI.
Chhota Shakeel – Financing Hindi films for quite some time
A close aide of Dawood Ibrahim, who is also his boss.
He came into the spotlight with his encounter with a Customs officer.
The name Dawood Ibrahim is synonymous with Mumbai underworld. D-Company was formed by him and it was one of most powerful organizations during that time. His group eventually split and Chhota Rajan formed a separate crew sometime during the mid-nineties due to their regular use of communal violence for personal gain.
With the adoption of new police policies, crime went down in Mumbai and they were forced to flee the city. Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel, and Chhota Rajan all now live in Pakistan or Dubai and control their operations from there.
Thankfully, the Mumbai police woke up. Gangsterism only survives if the police force allows it. This is what happened with the Mumbai mafia. I think we’re in a much safer India today.