Mumbai underworld

The underworld of Mumbai, the most populous city in India and capital of Maharashtra state, thrives on extortion, drugs and prostitution. The underworld is ruled by three or four major gangs, but most of them have been on the run from law recently. Major figures include Dawood Ibrahim, the mastermind behind the infamous 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts (said to be hiding in Karachi, Pakistan) Abu Salem who was arrested in Portugal and was brought back to the Indian soil by the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) in November 2005; Chhota Shakeel (little Shakeel) who is rumoured to be somewhere in S.E. Asia, perhaps in Malaysia; Chotta Rajan (little Rajan) who at one stage worked with Dawood Ibrahim but after the Mumbai bombings started his own gang; and Arun Gawli who now runs his own political party and is a member of Maharashtra state assembly.

The long-awaited extradition of Abu Salem from Portugal finally materialized on November 12, 2005. He was flown in a chartered plane from Portugal to Mumbai and presented before the TADA court in Mumbai. Monica Bedi, an aspiring starlet also extradited along with him, was tried before a special CBI court in Hyderabad in a passport forgery case.

Although the Indian government managed to have Abu Salem extradicted on the promise that he would not be handed the death penalty if found guilty, the issue is more complicated. The courts are not bound by the government’s decision and one can only wait to see how the courts will react.

Abu Salem was not charged in masterminding the 1993 Mumbai blasts, but instead on supplying explosives and ammunition. Media have reported that he has turned informer against the “Don”, although there are no direct confirmations from the CBI.

The underworld’s activities are not just limited to organized crime. Many ‘dons’ are supposedly linked to the heart of India’s entertainment industry, otherwise known as Bollywood. The main role played by the underworld is that of financing the productions, although some outfits aim to control the script content and other thematic elements of the plot.

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