Former Maharashtra Police officer Isaque Bagwan’s memoir Me against the Mumbai Underworld details his most interesting cases and his encounters with some of the city’s colourful gangsters. In edited excerpts from the chapter on the kidnapping of Mushir Alam, one of the two producers of Ramesh Sippy’s 1982 movie Shakti, Bagwan reveals how Alam’s olfactory abilities combined with the policeman’s extensive knowledge of Mumbai to solve the case.
I worked in the Crime Branch under the direct supervision of PI Madhukar Zende and handled complicated cases of chain- snatching, housebreaking, theft, robberies and murder. On 24 September 1982, a constable informed us about the arrival of thespian Dilip Kumar at the commissioner’s office. We thought that such a famous actor must have come to see the commissioner for the renewal of his gun licence or some other security matter. But that was not the case. Within a few minutes, Commissioner Ribeiro had summoned PI Zende to his office. He asked me to come with him.
When we reached the commissioner’s office, we saw Dilip Kumar sitting with two other people. Commissioner Ribeiro said, ‘This is Mr Mushir and Mr Riaz.’
Then he spoke to the two men. ‘These are my super cops. You can tell them everything.’
One of them turned to us. ‘My name is Mushir. I am the producer of a film called Shakti. Two days ago, I left my office, M.R. Productions, with my friend Harish. We were in my car. I was driving towards Haji Ali. I dropped Harish at his office behind Poddar Hospital in Worli. Just as I approached Haji Ali, a white Ambassador car overtook mine and blocked it. I was forced to stop. Three men emerged from the car and pulled me out. They were armed and pushed me into their car after blindfolding me. They pushed me to the floor of the car, took me to their hideout and demanded Rs 20 lakh. I requested Harish to give me Rs 2 lakh urgently. I promised to pay the remaining Rs 18 lakh as soon as possible. That was when they set me free.’
Since Mushir was blindfolded, he could not identify the kidnappers or tell us where they had taken him. I wanted to ask him a couple of questions but was not sure whether I should do so in front of the commissioner. PI Zende saw me hesitate. ‘Bagwan, do you have any clue? Any questions or suggestions?’
‘Sir, if you permit me, may I ask Mushir some questions?’
‘Go ahead. You can ask any question. Don’t hesitate.’
‘Mushirbhai, they blindfolded you at Haji Ali?’
‘How much time did it take you to reach the room where you were confined?’
‘Approximately ten to twelve minutes.’
The only likely places within ten to twelve minutes from Haji Ali were Nagpada or Dongri.
‘What happened then?’
‘After we stepped out of the car, they made me walk on a gutter.’
‘If you were blindfolded, how did you know it was a gutter?’
‘Sir, I know from the stench that assailed my nostrils.’
I suspected the place to be Nagpada as such gutters were to be found there in those days.
‘How long did it take you to reach the building after crossing the gutter?
’ ‘The building was close to it.’
‘How did you climb the stairs? Did the kidnappers help you?’
‘I slipped once, after which one of them took my hand and placed it on the railing.’
‘On which side was the railing: right or left?’
‘On the right side.’
‘How many steps did you climb?’
‘About ten to twelve steps.’
‘You must have stopped on the first floor. Did you turn to the left or to the right?’
‘I turned to the right.’
‘Did they immediately take you to a room or did you have to climb some more steps?’
‘No, Sir. After reaching the first floor, I had to walk a few steps. Perhaps it was the passage of the building.’
My suspicions were confirmed. This was a chawl in Nagpada. ‘Then what happened?’
‘Sir, while I was in the passage, I could hear the voices of children. They were reading verses from the Koran.’
‘Then what happened?’
‘They took me to a room, locked it from inside, removed my blindfold and started threatening me with dire consequences.’
‘What did you see in the room?’
‘The room was empty except for two chairs, and there was a photo frame with a picture of Mecca and Medina above the door.’ Mushir’s description suggested that the room was in Nagpada. I was aware of Koran classes being conducted there.
I got up. ‘Sir, I have a clue.’
I went to Nagpada to look for a building which had a gutter next to it and a staircase on the right side. Our team went to the fifth lane in Nagpada. The first building was Cheena building, but that was not the one we were looking for. Next to it was Kadar building, and it had railings on the right. We went up to the first floor. In the first room on the left was a classroom for children. We realized that we were on the right track. I turned right as described by Mushir. I passed two rooms and found the third room latched.
I unlocked it and saw two chairs inside. When I looked up, I saw the photo Mushir had spoken of.
In the meantime, a crowd gathered. The entry of the police had caused a sensation. Amidst the crowd, I saw Salim, the only male dancer at Soniya Mahal. I asked him, ‘Who does this room belong to?’
‘Sir, this is the inquiry room of the Amirzada–Alamzeb gang.’
I went to Temkar Mohalla near Do Tanki to gather information about Amirzada and Alamzeb from Bastar, a resident of the area. He was an informer for Dawood’s gang and had already become a part of my network too. He said, ‘After the murder of Sabirbhai, there has been a lot of tension in the area. All members of the underworld have gone underground.’
Amirzada, Alamzeb and Jaffer Ismail Siddique had been absconding since Sabir’s murder. That they had kidnapped Mushir even while they were wanted by the police indicated that they had a hideout near Bombay. Rumour had it that they were holed up under the refuge of two local bigwigs—MLA Liaquat Rafiq and gangster Abdul Latif who enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame when Shah Rukh Khan played him in the movie Raees.
‘Take me to the den of any one of them.’
‘Sir, Alamzeb can be found on the second floor of Ali building on Duncan Road.’
I took Bastar to Duncan Road. Alamzeb was not to be found at home, but I met his father, Jangrez Khan. I also arrested a young man, Salim, who I thought was suspicious. The moment we left Ali building, I asked a constable to keep Salim at a distance. I walked to our Ambassador car which was parked at a distance. Bastar was sitting inside with his face covered. ‘Sir, the boy you have arrested is Salim Bhangi, aka Sanya. He is an associate of Alamzeb’s brother, Shahzada, and is involved in the murder of Abu Kaliya.’
I went back to Salim and asked him, ‘Salim, where are Amirzada and Alamzeb?’
It wasn’t long before Salim confessed to his role in kidnapping Mushir and said that Amirzada and Alamzeb had fled to Kalapur in Ahmedabad to seek refuge under MLA Rafiq. He added that Shahzada had gone to Shegaon.
PI Zende formed two teams. One comprised SIs Bawiskar and Jeremiah and Hawaldars More and Narayan Parab, who left for Ahmedabad. The other team comprising PI Bhaskar Satam and me left for Malkapur by the Nagpur Express to look for Shahzada. We took a taxi from Malkapur to Shegaon but could not locate him. Later, we came to know that Shahzada had given Salim false information to mislead the police. We returned to Bombay empty-handed. But the team that went to Ahmedabad had better luck. They were combing through Kalapur when Constable Parab spotted a white Ambassador car parked outside a gambling den. Parab identified the car and Amirzada. Soon, Amirzada was arrested and brought to Bombay. When I was interrogating him, he said, ‘Sir, we got a tip-off about Mushir from one Ahmed Sayad Khan, a resident of Wanja Wadi in Mahim.’
The same day, I went to Chappra building in Mahim and arrested Khan. His father also accompanied us to the Crime Branch. At the same time, Amirzada’s father, Nabab Khan, was also brought in for questioning. In the detention room, while we were busy with paperwork, Hawaldar Parab noticed Amirzada’s father slipping a piece of paper into Khan’s father’s hand. He took it and showed it to PI Zende. Amirzada’s father had addressed a note to his son-in-law, Nasir Pathan, in Urdu. It read: ‘Ahmed has been arrested by the police. Go to the rear of the building and remove all the weapons buried in the ground.’ PI Zende ordered some of the officers to seize this important evidence.
Khan’s interrogation around his involvement in Mushir’s kidnapping revealed the following facts:
Twenty-nine-year-old Ahmed Sayad Khan lived with his parents in Chappra building in Wanja Wadi. He had two brothers, Mohammed Salim and Abdul Wahab. Both were married and lived in Rustom Manzil near Mount Mary Church in Bandra. Abdul Wahab was a film artist and Ahmed was a production manager. Ahmed had a very close friend, Abu Bakar, a resident of Mahim. One day, Abu took Ahmed to Bhendi Bazaar and introduced him to Amirzada who invited him to his sister’s wedding. Ahmed was impressed that Amirzada, a well-known figure of the underworld, had invited him so cordially. Amirzada then introduced him to Alamzeb, Shahzada and Mehmood Kaliya.
Ahmed was overawed to be in the company of dons. Amirzada and Ahmed’s friendship blossomed and they started meeting regularly. Ahmed started distancing himself when he came to know that the Amirzada gang was involved in recovering money and extortion. Some months passed. One day, before 1982, Alamzeb came to Ahmed’s house. When Ahmed inquired about Amirzada’s role in Sabir’s murder, Alamzeb remained silent. In July 1982, Amirzada and Alamzeb again paid Ahmed a visit. Ahmed was frightened. ‘We have come to you because you are in the film industry. You have to show us some party whose money is stuck in the business and is having difficulties recovering it. Show us someone who has black money. You must do this for us.’
Ahmed was scared, but he had no option but to help the gang. That is when he remembered Harish. Harish had a well-furnished office, ‘Glamour Colour’, from where he did publicity work for Bollywood. Harish had done some work for Ahmed’s film Tajurba. About a month earlier, Ahmed’s brother Mohammed had gone with Harish to Studio Chandrakant in Mahim. During this meeting, Ahmed had come to know that there was Rs 90 lakh belonging to Mushir in Harish’s office. Ahmed desperately wanted to extricate himself from the clutches of this gang and was happy to share this information with Amirzada.
Amirzada had met Harish at a trial show. He had found an easy target.
On 23 September 1982, Shahzada, Liaquat and two others kidnapped Mushir. Since Mushir did not have the full amount with him, they beat him mercilessly. When he could not bear it any longer, he took Harish’s name. Shahzada and Liaquat asked Amirzada to confirm with Ahmed if Harish had the money. Once Amirzada gave the go-ahead, Shahzada and Liaquat went to Harish’s residence in Madhav building near Shivaji Park. They took Rs 2 lakh from him. Mushir promised to pay the balance amount of Rs 18 lakh soon. He was released after that.
We were left wondering why the Amirzada–Alamzeb gang had resorted to kidnapping to extort money. In those days, the gang had unleashed a reign of terror and managed to extort money with ease. There was no need to kidnap Mushir.
Once the whole picture was taken into consideration, we realized that all attempts to kill Dawood had taken a heavy toll on the financial resources of the gang. They desperately needed funds, which is why they had forced Ahmed Sayyad Khan to identify rich targets in the film industry, who in turn led them to Mushir.
Excerpted with permission from Me against the Mumbai Underworld, Isaque Bagwan, Penguin India.