Will the two dons take their enmity to the political battleground? Police think so
Mumbai police fear that the old enmity between the two dons Arun Gawli and his bete noir Ashwin Naik may come to the fore once again during the Assembly elections in Central Mumbai scheduled next month.
"Now that Ashwin Naik is out, we are taking extra precautions that his enmity with Gawli does not come to the fore. They are enemies for the past many years and Ashwin still holds sway over his area," Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) Rakesh Maria told Sunday MiD DAY.
Maria said Gawli has sought the court's permission to file his nomination on September 23, a fact confirmed by Gawli's daughter Geeta. "Yes, Daddy is going to fight elections from Byculla constituency," she added.
Sources in the political circles informed that Ashwin Naik alias Anna too might stand for the elections. This is based on the fact he met Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray at his residence soon after his release from Kalyan jail in May this year.
However, police sources said Ashwin might still hold a strong influence over large areas surrounding the 144 Tenement in Arthur Road jail, which was considered the Bapat gang's headquarters. Large areas in Chinchpokli, Currey Road, Bakri Adda, Arthur Road, Peon Chawl and S Bridge are shared with Gawli's henchmen.
Gawli, on the other hand, has made deep inroads into most of the dilapidated buildings in central Mumbai.
Several khoka or crore have gone into giving the structures a new lease of life.
Police also believe that Gawli and other members of his gang get a 'cut' for some of the buildings developed in central Mumbai.
In the past 20 years, both gangs have seen a rise and ebb in their clout. Today, Ashwin's gang is among the first four in the city, has strong finances, lives off its network but is hardly heard or talked about. It has a few people in the pre-determined areas of operations that bring in more than a crore each month.
The enmity between Gawli and the Naiks, both sons of mill workers, can be traced to an alleged scuffle inside Arthur Road jail, which resulted in Amar Naik stabbing Gawli with a blade. It was the fallout of protecting an incarcerated drug trafficker.
Gangsters rarely forget enmity. But now, it seems mostly a turf war over money and politics.
Twenty years ago, politics and underworld was nowhere on the horizon for Gawli, Ashwin or his wife Neeta.
Ashwin, in the 1980s, was a Ruparel student preparing for his science graduation exams in the narrow alleys of the mill area in Lower Parel. His spare time was devoted to honing cricket skills at a maidan near Podar College in Matunga.
Amar was apprehensive that Gawli would attack Ashwin to avenge the fight in the jail. He knew his younger brother was not prepared for the underworld.
Ashwin was sent away to Mauritius where he studied for his engineering degree. By the time he returned with his degree in the early eighties, Mumbai had become synonymous with gang war.
Even as he was driving home from the airport, he was attacked at Kalanagar junction, reportedly by members of Gawli's gang. Close friends Shyam Roge and Vinod Bhaiya died, but Ashwin escaped.
Soon, Ashwin's and Neeta's marriage had a deadly start a bullet grazed past his head as was escorting his new bride in a taxi near Shivaji Park in 1984.
Ashwin soon found safety in joining the underworld and emulating his elder brother Amar, rather than staying away from it. He was a gang lord like no gang lord nobody was more qualified than him.
Gawli, on the other hand, began as a mill employee at Khatau Mill soon after he dropped out of Bakriadda Municipal school in the eighth standard. He was more of an industrial vagabond changing jobs before he took on the mantle of the Byculla Company from his mentor Rama Naik in 1987.
Meanwhile, the Naik rivalry with Gawli was getting bitter. Gawli allegedly asked his key associate Sada Pawle to shoot Amar or Ashwin. Dressed like an advocate, Ravindra Sawant reportedly pumped bullets into Ashwin's head in the Sessions Court on April 18, 1984.
Ashwin survived; he was paralysed, jumped bail and escaped overseas. He finally surrendered before authorities in 1999. Amar was the leader of the notorious Bapat gang, which was started by Sitaram Dada in the 1970s, and held sway over Dadar's wholesale vegetable market, Lower Parel, Prabhadevi, Girgaum and parts of Byculla, which was also Gawli's domain. The police shot him in an encounter in Agripada on August 10, 1996.
Ashwin took charge with trusted aides like Vishwakarma alias Lali, Kumar Pillai, Shashikant Sagwekar alias Chikna Babu and Sandeep Bicholkar, to name a few.
He knew the sharpshooters by their first names, kept track of the collection from Dadar vegetable market, the traders on Shuklaji Street and traffickers.
Gawli's and Naik's story began in the dark and dusty bylanes of Byculla narrow alleys of Peon Chawl, Parsi Chawl, Lal Vite ke Chawl and Dagdi Chawls. From thuggery and territorial disputes, both the gangs graduated to full-scale wars over drugs, matka and illicit liquor money.
Police now fear that politics will be their next battleground.
The year Arun Gawli took on the mantle from his mentor Rama Naik
The year Ashwin Naik surrendered before the authorities