Organised crime in India

Organised crime in India is a reference to organised crime elements originating in India and active in many parts of the world. The mafia is involved in many criminal activities based in India and international as well.[1][2] The Indian mafia also refers to those powerful families that have criminal aspects to them.[3]

Organized crime in India
Founding locationIndia
TerritoryActive in all parts of India,
Australia, Burma,Bhutan,Cambodia, Canada,China,France including its overseas departments, Germany, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, United Arab Emirates
Criminal activitiesRacketeering, drug trafficking, dacoity, smuggling, entryism, extortion, loan sharking, human trafficking, money laundering, robbery, bootlegging, arms trafficking, gambling, money laundering, bribery, skimming, murder and forgery
AlliesIndo-Canadian gangs, Russian mafia, Israeli mafia, Nigerian mafia

Mumbai underworld

The Mumbai underworld, formerly known as the Bombay underworld, refers to the organized crime network in the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), in the state of Maharashtra in India. Mumbai is the largest city of India and its financial capital. Over a period of time, the Mumbai underworld has been dominated by several different groups and mobsters.


The powerful trio of Haji Mastan, Varadarajan Mudaliar, and Karim Lala enjoyed backing from their communities.

Karim Lala and his family members' groups operated in the Bombay docks. They were often called "Afghan mafia" or "Pathan mafia", terms coined by Bombay law enforcement because the majority of this crime syndicate's members were ethnic Pashtuns from Afghanistan's Kunar province. They were especially involved in hashish trafficking, protection rackets, extortion, illegal gambling, gold smuggling, and contract killings, and held a firm stranglehold over parts of Mumbai's underworld.[4] Lala controlled bootlegging and gambling in the city in 1940, and was the undisputed king of the trade until 1985.

Haji Mastan, originally known as Mastan Haider Mirza, was a Bombay-based Tamil Muslim mobster who became the first celebrity gangster in the city of Bombay.[5] Born in 1926 in a Tamil family in Pannaikulam, near Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu,[5] At age 8, moved to Bombay with his father. The father-son duo ran a small cycle repair shop in Crawford market. 10 years later, in 1944, Mastan joined the Bombay docks as a porter and from there entered organized crime. He worked in association with Karim Lala and by the 1960s became a rich man. He amassed millions from smuggling gold, silver, and electronic goods, and expanded his clout in the film industry by investing his money with directors and studios, in film production in Bollywood.[6] As Mastan's influence in Bollywood grew, he began to produce films himself and is now a well-known producer.[5]

Varadarajan Mudaliar (born Varadarajan Muniswami Mudaliar), popularly known as Vardha Bhai, was a Bombay-based ethnic Tamil Hindu mafia mobster. He came to be known as Vardhabhai, operated from the early 1960s to 1980, and was accorded equal clout to Haji Mastan and Karim Lala. Starting off as a porter, he had his first brush with the crime world when he began selling illicit liquor. He commanded a lot of respect within the Tamil community and ran a parallel justice system where his verdict was the final law of the land and binding in areas such as Dharavi and Matunga, which are believed to have a large presence of Tamilians. The Tamil mob boss, in tandem with Haji Mastan, ventured into stealing dock cargo. He later diversified into contract killings and the narcotics trade. He enjoyed a successful stint in the 1970s controlling the criminal operations in the east and north-central Bombay. Karim Lala commanded south and central Bombay, and the majority of smuggling and illegal construction financing was Haji Mastan's domain.[6]


D-Company is the organised crime group controlled by Dawood Ibrahim, which originated in Mumbai. It has been argued that the D-Company is not a stereotypical organised crime cartel in the strict sense of the word, but rather a collusion of criminal terrorist groups based around Ibrahim's personal control and leadership.[7][8] Ibrahim is currently on Interpol's wanted list for cheating, criminal conspiracy, and running an organised crime syndicate;[9] and he was number two on The World's 10 Most Wanted list.[10] He is accused of heading an illegal empire against India and Indians. After the 1993 Bombay bombings, which Ibrahim allegedly organised and financed with Tiger Memon,[11] both became India's most wanted men.[12][13] According to the United States Department of the Treasury, Ibrahim may have had ties with Osama bin Laden.[14][15] Consequently, the United States declared Ibrahim a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" in 2003 and pursued the matter before the United Nations, in an attempt to freeze his assets around the world and crack down on his operations.[16] Indian and Russian intelligence agencies have pointed out Ibrahim's possible involvement in several other terror attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks,[17][18] as per Interpol.[9][19][20][21] Ever since he took to hiding, his location has been frequently traced to Karachi, Pakistan, a claim which Pakistani authorities have denied.[22]

Chotta Rajan is the boss of a major crime syndicate based in Mumbai. He was a former key aide and lieutenant of Dawood Ibrahim. Starting as a petty thief and bootlegger working for Rajan Nair, also known as Bada Rajan (Big Rajan), Chhota Rajan took over the reins of Bada Rajan's gang after Bada Rajan's murder. Later, he was affiliated with and operated at the behest of Dawood in Mumbai and eventually fled India to Dubai in 1988. He is wanted for many criminal cases that include extortion, murder, smuggling, drug trafficking and film finance. His brother is said to produce films financed by Rajan. He is also wanted in 17 murder cases and several more attempted murders. Chhota Rajan was arrested in Bali by Indonesian police on 25 October 2015.[23] He was extradited to India on 6 November after 27 years on the run and is currently awaiting trial in CBI custody.[24]

Arun Gawli's gang is based at Dagdi Chawl in Byculla, Mumbai. He started his criminal activities there and used the rooms there for keeping kidnapped persons, torturing them, extorting money from them and murdering them. The police raided the premises several times and finally broke his operations. He has been arrested several times for criminal activities and detained for long periods during a trial. However, he could not be convicted in most of the cases as witnesses would not depose against him for fear. He was finally convicted for the murder of Shiv Sena leader Kamalakar Jamsandekar by a court in August 2012. Gawli and eleven others were found guilty of Jamsandekar's murder.[25]

Organised crime can also be seen in several other Indian cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mangalore, Calcutta, and most notably in Vadodara with NRI (Non Resident of India) organized crime committed by people of Indian background. It has been noted on multiple occasions that foreign influence on organized crime in India plays a critical role in how mafias and dons take action. It is speculated an NRI of Indian descent plays a critical role in mob activities in Vadodara and Mumbai, specifically in areas of Mumbai such as Zaveri Bazaar, Dadar, Nariman Point and more affluent areas such as Andheri, and Bandra.



Delhi Police

Goa mafia

Several local Indian, Russian, Israeli and Nigerian mafia groups are heavily involved in the organized drug trade in Goa, India's smallest state. Sources reveal that there are also individual players who are British, French, Italian, Portuguese and from other European countries. Some have been visiting the state for over two decades and have their fixed international and local clientele.[26] Goa has, in recent days become a principal hub of the international drug trade, apart from being a key point of consumption. According to estimates, drugs flowing out of different foreign locations lands on the comparatively unguarded Goan coastline as Mumbai and its hinterland are no longer considered an easy route for trafficking, since the checks by the Coastguard, Navy, customs patrols and other government bodies.[27]

Punjab mafia

Punjabi mafia refers to the organized criminal gangs in the state of Punjab in India. There has been a spurt in the formation and activities of such criminal gangs in Punjab over the last decade even though some gangs, associated with those based in Uttar Pradesh, have been operational in the state since the end of militancy in Punjab.[28] Post militancy, they took to contract killings. The real estate and industrial sector boom of the early 2000s saw several criminals surfacing with the primary objective of controlling unions. The flourishing of the banking sector, especially finance companies, spurred the demand for bouncers who ensured recovery of bad loans and helped in grabbing disputed properties. Cricket bookies too used their services. Around five years back when the boom in real estate ended, these gangs then tuned to extortion and protection money as their source of income. Most of these are inter-state gangs as well as the ones specializing in arms smuggling, narcotics and abduction. Kidnappings for ransom in Punjab, something which rarely happened earlier, are on the rise.[29]

A major form of Indian Punjabi organised crime are also the foreign-based, Indo-Canadian organised crime, the vast majority of them being of Punjabi origin from the Jat Sikh community, whose exploits have led to over 100 gang deaths of young men of Punjabi descent in Canada since the 1990s. Indo-Canadian gangs are one of Canada's major organized crime problems, ranked third behind motorcycle clubs and Aboriginal criminal groups. These criminal organizations are mainly active in the province of British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario.


India is a major transit point for heroin from the Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent en route to Europe. India is also the world's largest legal grower of opium; experts estimate that 5–10% of the legal opium is converted into illegal heroin, and 8–10% is consumed in high quantities as concentrated liquid. The pharmaceutical industry is also responsible for a lot of illegal production of mandrax, much of which is smuggled into South Africa. Diamond smuggling via South Africa is also a major criminal activity, and diamonds are sometimes used to disguise shipments of heroin. Finally, a lot of money laundering takes place in the country, mostly through the use of the traditional hawala system, although India has criminalised money laundering as of 2003.[30] [31]

In the cinema of India, particularly Bollywood, crime films and gangster films inspired by organized crime in India have been produced since 1940. Indian cinema has several genres of such crime films.

Dacoit films

The dacoit film was a genre of Indian cinema that began with Mehboob Khan's Aurat (1940) and gained popularity with its remake Mother India (1957) as well as Dilip Kumar's Gunga Jumna (1961). A subgenre is the Dacoit Western, popularized by Sholay (1975). These films are usually set in rural India, and often inspired by real dacoits.

Examples of the genre:

Mumbai underworld films

In the early 1970s, a new genre of Indian crime films and gangster films arose, set in urban India: Bombay underworld films, later called Mumbai underworld films. These films are often inspired by real Mumbai underworld gangsters, such as Haji Mastan, Dawood Ibrahim and D-Company. These films are often set around Mumbai slums such as Dharavi or Juhu, and gangsters in these films often speak with a Tapori or Bombay Hindi street dialect.

The genre was pioneered by screenwriter duo Salim-Javed. They began the genre of gritty, violent, Bombay underworld crime films in the early 1970s, with films such as Zanjeer (1973) and Deewaar (1975).[32][33] They reinterpreted the rural themes of Mehboob Khan's Mother India (1957) and Nitin Bose's Gunga Jumna (1961) in a contemporary urban context reflecting the socio-economic and socio-political climate of 1970s India,[34][35] channeling the growing discontent and disillusionment among the masses,[34] and unprecedented growth of slums,[36] and dealing with themes involving urban poverty, corruption, and crime,[37] as well as anti-establishment themes.[38] This resulted in their creation of the "angry young man", personified by Amitabh Bachchan,[38] who reinterpreted Dilip Kumar's performance in Gunga Jumna in a contemporary urban context.[34][35]

By the mid-1970s, gritty, violent crime films and action films about gangsters (Bombay underworld) as well as bandits (dacoits) had become popular. The writing of Salim-Javed and acting of Amitabh Bachchan popularized the trend, with films such as Zanjeer and particularly Deewaar, a crime film inspired by Gunga Jumna[32] that pitted "a policeman against his brother, a gang leader based on real-life smuggler Haji Mastan" portrayed by Bachchan; Deewaar was described as being "absolutely key to Indian cinema" by Danny Boyle.[39] Along with Bachchan, other actors that rode the crest of this trend include Feroz Khan,[40]

The popular crime films written by Salim-Javed and starring Amitabh Bachchan reflected the socio-economic and socio-political realities of 1970s India, channeling the growing popular discontent and disillusionment among the masses, and the failure of the state in ensuring their welfare and well-being, in a time when prices were rapidly rising, commodities were becoming scarce, public institutions were losing legitimacy, smugglers and gangsters were gathering political clout,[34] and there was an unprecedented growth of slums.[36] The cinema of Salim-Javed and Amitabh Bachchan dealt with themes relevant to Indian society at the time, such as urban poverty in slums, corruption in society, and the Bombay underworld crime scene,[37] and was perceived by audiences as anti-establishment, often represented by an "angry young man" protagonist, presented as a vigilante or anti-hero,[38] with his suppressed rage giving a voice to the angst of the urban poor.[36]

Later milestones in the genre include Ram Gopal Verma's Satya (1998) and Company (2002), based on the D-Company, which both offered "slick, often mesmerising portrayals of the Mumbai underworld" and displayed realistic "brutality and urban violence." Another notable film in the genre was Black Friday (2004), adapted from Hussein Zaidi's book of the same name about the 1993 Bombay bombings.[39][41][42][43]

The genre later inspired the film Slumdog Millionaire (2009), which drew inspiration from Mumbai underworld films. Its influences included Deewaar,[44][45] Satya, Company, and Black Friday.[39][41][42][43] 1970s Bollywood crime films such as Deewaar and Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) also have similarities to the heroic bloodshed crime genre of 1980s Hong Kong action cinema.[46] Deewaar had a Hong Kong remake, The Brothers (1979),[47] which went on to inspire John Woo's internationally acclaimed breakthrough A Better Tomorrow (1986),[48][47] which set the template for the heroic bloodshed genre in Hong Kong cinema.[49][50]

Examples of the Mumbai underworld film genre:

Mafia Raj films

See also


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  4. "Dongri to Dubai". Retrieved 6 May 2015.
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