31 years ago, on this very day, Manya Surve was encountered

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A first-hand account of what led to the formation of the D-Gang and Manya’s shootout

By Sanjay Gupta (BOMBAY TIMES; January 11, 2013)

 

After the success of Shootout At Lokhandwala, Ekta (Kapoor) and I were keen to take the franchise forward. One of the assistants came up with a startling statistic. Till date, there had been more than 850 encounters on the streets of Mumbai.

That got me thinking. When we hear about encounters today, we are neither shocked nor surprised. It’s an accepted way of life. But a cop shooting down a criminal in the middle of the road and in broad daylight was unheard of when I was growing up.

So when was it that the cops decided to kill and not catch? What was that single incident, which was the catalyst? Who was the first victim? Who was the first perpetrator? Who created the concept of encounter killings and why? Who was the mastermind?

I set out to look for answers to these questions, and in doing so, stumbled upon a story more shocking than I’d imagined. A story that gave birth to my forthcoming film, Shootout At Wadala.

From the 1950s to the 70s, Bombay was ruled by one particular gang who did not believe in the law of the land — The Pathans. These men from Afghanistan had come to the city as money-lenders. Often, retrieving their funds required muscle, which soon changed into ‘dadagiri’ or roughing up people violently.

In the 70s, one young man stood up to challenge their supremacy and to end their reign of terror with terror. His name was Sabir Ibrahim Kaskar, and standing by his side was his younger brother and second-in-command, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar. At their wits end in controlling the spiraling crime in the city, the cops decided to end the Pathan menace by backing Sabir and Dawood against them.

Soon the war between the Pathans and Kaskar brothers escalated into the worst gang war that the city had ever seen. Blood was on the streets and law and order became a joke.

Things got so out of hand that Haji Mastan, who was respected by both sides, was forced to intervene and call for a truce with both the sides swearing on the Holy Quran to stop the bloodshed.

Somewhere in the middle of this, a young man, Manohar Surve, fresh out of Kirti College got implicated in a murder that he did not commit and was sentenced to life in Yerwada Jail. After nine long years he escaped and returned to Bombay with the sole intention of getting into the underworld. But till then the gangs were communal and being a Hindu, he was denied acceptance. Enraged, he decided to form his own gang.

Thus was born the legend of Manya Surve, the first desperado in the Bombay gangland.

The first educated Hindu gangster whose reign of terror in the area of Agar Bazaar, Dadar, still sends a shiver down the spines of people I met who knew him.

The Pathans, taking advantage of the peace that had been brokered by Haji Mastan, contacted Manya Surve to eliminate Sabir. Manya was known for his daredevilry and strategic planning. For Manya, it was a clear shot to success. The top gang of the city had come asking him for help and in doing so he would eliminate the other, and therefore become, as he said, “Bambai ka naya baap, Manya Surve.”

On 12th February, 1981, Manya, along with the Pathans, planned, orchestrated and executed the most infamous murder in the history of Bombay’s underworld. Sabir was killed at the Prabhadevi Petrol Pump outside Siddhivinayak temple in the dead of the night. That’s the night that changed Bombay’s underworld forever. That’s the night Dawood Ibrahim took over as the leader of the gang. That’s the night the D-Gang was born and Dawood swore revenge.

Each and every one involved in Sabir’s gruesome murder met with a worse fate. All except Manya Surve. He vanished in the city like a needle in a haystack. Dawood and his boys were unable to trace him.

Around the same time, the Bombay Police had decided that enough was enough. They would no longer stand on the side as onlookers. The best in the force were assembled to send out one strong message to the underworld: No more nonsense. And thus was launched Operation Manya Surve. Inspectors Isaque Bagwan and Raja Tambhat were put in charge.

On 11th January, 1982, Bombay witnessed its first ever police encounter outside Wadala College. In the annals of police history, it’s known as the Shootout at Wadala.

Shootout At Wadala, produced by Balaji Motion Pictures and White Feather Films, releases May 1.

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