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What's in a name? Plenty, if you are in the Mumbai mafia!

Last updated on: October 7, 2010 13:56 IST

What's in a name? Plenty, for the Mumbai mafia!

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Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil recently came under fire for being present at an iftaar party that also had criminals like Salim Goa Gutka in attendance. Salim Goa Gutkha, wondered N Ganesh, and dug deep for more such unusual names from the Mumbai mafia

Ever heard of Mohaamed Iqbal Memon, Rajendra Nikalje and Salim Kuttanelur? Probably not, because these men are more popularly (or notoriously) known as Iqbal Mirchi, Chhota Rajan and Salim Kutta respectively. All of them are dreaded gangsters of the Mumbai underworld. All of them are better known by the funny or strange monikers they have acquired over the course of their criminal careers.

How did these men, associated with ruthless violence and bloodshed, end up with such quirky nicknames? 

Mohaamed Iqbal Memon alias Iqbal Mirchi, who is currently based in London, started off as a vendor of spicy naan chaps (barbecued meat) on the streets of Mumbai. He went on to run a grocery shop specialising in spices, particularly red chillies. The suffix mirchi was attached to his name when he became one of the foremost traffickers of narcotics in Mumbai.

Reportage: N Ganesh in Mumbai  Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh



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Rajendra Nikalje, who hails from Satara district in Maharashta, was the henchman of the Rajan Nair gang that specialises in bootlegging. Chhota was added to his name to differentiate him from the gang's boss. The name stuck to him when he took over the gang after the death of his boss.

Chhota Rajan's arch rival and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's aide Chhota Shakeel became chota (short) because there was already a lambu (tall) Shakeel in the D Gang.

Contrary to popular belief, Salim Kuttanelur or Salim Kutta, a smuggler once considered close to notorious criminals like Mohammad Dossa, Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim, has nothing to do with canines!

Salim's surname indicates the name of the place he hails from -- Kuttanelur in Thrissur district of Kerala. Since there were several other Salims in the gang, his surname Kuttanelur was shortened to Kutta to identify him.



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What's in a name? Plenty, for the Mumbai mafia!

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Mumbai mafia has more than its fair share of criminals who were given nicknames based on a particular trait, trade, place or physical characteristics. For instance Javed Fawda, a sharpshooter who was shot dead in an encounter, had buckteeth. Fawda (a spade) is a commonly used slang for people with bucktooth.

In fact, when Javed's encounter death was challenged by his family, the police pointed to the bucktooth as positive confirmation of the gangster's identity.



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What's in a name? Plenty, for the Mumbai mafia!

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Salim Haddi, a gangster associated with Abu Salem, has a similar story. Haddi, who was killed in a police encounter, had a prominent and protruding Adam's apple.

Salim Goa Gutka alias Salim Patel, the former driver of Dawood Ibrahim and now an aide of Dawood's sister Haseena Parkar, also has an interesting tale associated with his name. He had undertaken a liaison for a leading Gutka manufacturer with Shakeel, who had identified the tobacco based business as a new source of income.



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What's in a name? Plenty, for the Mumbai mafia!

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Salim Tempo, a member of Dawood Ibrahim's gang, owned a small fleet of tempos or mid-sized cargo trucks that were allegedly used for ferrying smuggled goods.

Two Salims of the Mumbai underworld -- Salim Mazgaon and Salim Kurla -- used to live near Mazgaon and Kurla respectively.

Yet another gangster who shares the same name, Salim Fruit, is one of the most notorious extortionists of the D gang. In spite of his fearful clout, he could not shake off his last name, thanks to the fact that his family was involved in the business of exporting fruits.



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