As Bollywood gears up to release Shootout at Lokhandwala, Baljeet Parmar chronicles the sequence of the events leading to the killing of several hard-core gangsters during the infamous daylight encounter
The period between 1985 and 1995 was considered to be the most important in the history of the Mumbai’s underworld. The decade bore witness to decisive changes in the well-established crime empire of aging Dongri don Karim Lala, the beginning of the end of Matunga don Vardabhai, the decimation of the smuggler mafia headed by Haji Mastan, the coming of Dagdi don Arun Gawli and the meteoric rise of Dawood Ibrahim and his aide Chhota Rajan.
This was a bloody time in Mumbai’s history as scores of gang wars broke out. Several prominent gangsters were killed in turf wars. This period also saw the rise of encounter specialists, who gunned down notorious criminals.
Under the given circumstances, professional compulsions and political priorities forced the warring gangs to strike alliances with certain wings of the city police, a development that later came to be known as the political-police-criminal-nexus, which, to a certain extent, is still in vogue. In this ‘marriage of convenience’, the cops used one gang against the other and on certain occasions the gangsters used the cops to get even with their rivals.
The boom in the construction and film industries further extended the operational sphere of the underworld.
Protection and extortion calls became the order of the day. Big business and film personalities paid obeisance at the doors of the dons like Varda, Lala and Dawood. Those who dared to defy the dons’ diktat were brutally murdered — and their deaths came as a warning to the others to fall in line.
The gang lords’ reach crossed geographical boundaries and reached cities like Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata and even Bhopal. The more influential set up shop in Dubai, South Africa or London and the business of criminality turned international. With the rise in criminal activities the gangs needed more hands to hold the gun. And the time was ripe to pluck uneducated, unemployed, enterprising youngsters who were willing to do so. In a demand-versus-supply scenario, small-time criminals joined the lower rungs of the various city gangs, hoping to make it big one day.
Wanting to become gangsters, youngsters like Dilip Buwa, Anil Pawar, Raju Pujari, Ashok Nadkarni and Maya Dolas joined the gang ranks, and over the years became trusted sharpshooters of for Dawood Ibrahim. They were the five criminals who were shot dead during the Lokhandwala shootout. The other two just happened to be at the scene during the bloody encounter.
The final strike
November 16, 1991. Time 12.30pm. The cops keeping a watch at Swati Apartments informed their boss AA Khan that there was hectic movement at the ground floor flat.
A team of ten members of the Anti Terrorist Squad, lead by Inspector Kavi, arrived at the spot and laid siege to the building at around 1.20pm. It was decided that Kavi along with Sub-inspector Gharal would knock the door and ask the gangsters to surrender. Inspector Ambadas Pote and a constable were to provide them with cover.
At 1.30pm Inspector Kavi knocked on the door. A burst from a self-loading rifle startled the cops. A bullet passed through the right side of Dharal’s chest and another hit Kavi on his left elbow. For sometime there was a lull in activity. Additional forces were summoned. By 2pm, ATS chief AA Khan arrived with extra fire power. A company of Special Reserve Police too was called in.
The cops launched their second attack and by 2.30pm three gangsters were killed. They were later identified as Anil Khubchandani, a Bandra resident, the second a warden from Yerwada Jail, and the third D company’s sharp shooter Anil Pawar.
Dilip Buwa opened the rear door, went upstairs and started firing from the third floor, while Maya Dolas, Pujari and Nadkarni kept firing using AK 47 rifles and Uzi hand guns made in Israel.
By 2.45 a crime branch team lead by ACP Gobse arrived and held discussions with Khan. Maya Dolas kept abusing the cops and dared them to come nearer. Gobse requested Khan to abort the encounter, so that the remaining gangsters could be coerced into surrendering. But Khan ordered his men to go all out for the kill. There were repeated volleys of rapid fire from both sides for another hour. Dilip Buwa, who was injured in the thigh but kept egging his men. By 4pm, the guns fell silent.
Dolas came out begging to be spared, but was sprayed with bullets coming from all sides. Sources later confirmed that his body was riddled with more than 100 bullets. By 4.30, the encounter was over. Hundreds of bullets, shells and seven blood-covered bodies strewn all over stood testimony to the biggest and most lethal encounter ever witnessed by the underworld.