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Tales of the underworld in 'little Mumbai'

August 13, 2010 14:06 IST

Mangalore has always been a battleground between local mafia dons and the Dawood Ibrahim gang. Of late, the dimensions of battles in this city in costal Karnataka have transformed taking on communal hues.

The recent arrest of Altaf, an accomplice of Dawood gang member Chhota Shakeel, at Cottonpet in Bangalore revealed a bigger modus operandi.

Although Altaf has been accused of trying to strike a deal with the Naxals, the police say his ultimate goal was to stamp the presence of the D-gang in Mangalore, which is today being termed as mini Mumbai.

Ravi Pujary, an associate of gangster Chhota Rajan, has fast set up base in Mangalore. He has openly proclaimed that he is a don for the Hindus and a patriot. Communal polarisation of the region has changed the manner in which the underworld operates here.

Members of the Dawood gang, who enjoyed the support of some local underworld operatives till a decade ago, are fighting to finish off Pujary's dominance in this belt.

After a lull, the Dawood gang sent in underworld don Chhota Shakeel's aide Rasheed Malabari. Apart from being given the brief to eliminate BJP leader Varun Gandhi, he was tasked to regain lost ground in Mangalore. He was, however, arrested some time back and is currently in custody.

The next setback for the Dawood gang came after Naushad Kasim, one of the lawyers who had taken up Malabari's case, was shot dead. The police believe that the killing was the handiwork of rival gangs.

The Dawood gang was, however, quick to react and appointed Yusuf Madoor, 32, who hailed from Kerala's Kasargod district, which borders Mangalore.

The police say that Madoor was making inroads and was carrying out operations for a period of at least six months. He operated out of Kasargod where he enjoyed a lot of clout.

The police claim that rival dons are unable to operate with ease in Kasargod, as they do not have local support. Hence several attempts to eliminate him failed.

The Kerala police built a case against Madoor and kept a watch on him. Realising that the police had upped the ante against him, Madoor slipped out of India and set up shop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Prior to fleeing, Madoor had set up a hawala network and was also involved in various extortion activities on behalf of the Dawood gang.

The police eventually managed to nab him in Riyadh with the help of the Interpol and brought him down for interrogation.

Following Madoor's arrest, the Dawood gang sent in Altaf along with an ISI rider. He was specifically instructed to make contact with the Naxals and then proceed to Mangalore where he would set up shop. However, he too was arrested recently.

The Mangalore police say that this war between the underworld elements, which commenced after the 1993 riots, is expected to continue. These dons are termed as traitor dons and patriotic dons by one another.

While for the so-called patriotic dons, Mangalore acts as the ideal base due to the local support they enjoy, the Dawood gang is more into the logistics and the link this coastal town has to Dubai. They find the town shaping up on the lines of Mumbai with real estate prices shooting up, thus offering them extortion opportunities.

In the past year, at least 23 cases of extortion have been booked against various persons. Besides, sea operations are easier to carry out here. Hence, nobody is ready to let go of Mangalore, the police say.

Vicky Nanjappa