Tuesday 30 August 2016
facebook.com/Outlookindia twitter.com/outlookindia digimag.outlookindia.com instagram.com/outlookindia youtube.com/user/OutlookMagazine

An Omerta For Amchi Muley

Ventures into risky territory and emerges with a breezy, informative read.
Byculla To Bangkok: Mumbai’s Maharashtrian Mobsters
By S. Hussain Zaidi
HarperCollins | Pages: 277 | Rs. 299

Most great cities have criminal underbellies. London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mos­cow, Istanbul—all these have nurtured notorious criminal networks. Mumbai’s underworld took shape in the 1950s and 1960s. The pioneering dons came from poor Muslim families—reflecting their socio-economic marginalisation. After the bomb blasts in 1993, the ascendancy of the Shiv Sena-led government and the rise of an elite, trigger-happy police unit, the balance of power shifted in favour of you­nger Maharashtrian Hindu mobsters.

In Byculla to Bangkok, S. Hussain Zaidi focuses on this part of the underworld. The nerve-centre of organised crime runs down Mumbai’s own centre. The  ear­lier generation of dons came from the southern end, close to the docks, while their successors lived further mid-town. This lower-middle-class milieu of mill wor­kers, petty government servants and street vendors was host to the dreaded BRA gang (of Babu Reshim, Rama Naik and Arun Gawli) and Amar (Raavan) Naik and his engineer brother Ashwin.

Advertisement

Starting out as small-time trouble-makers, these mobsters found themselves in high demand as the city began to reinvent itself from textile manufacturing centre to financial powerhouse. Real estate, particularly the lucrative stretch of defunct mill land, was the sought after prize. The involvement of politicians in the turf wars was no secret. Bal Thacke­ray called the Maharashtrian gangsters ‘amchi muley’ (our boys) and Chhota Rajan, grievously wounded in an attempt on his life in Bangkok, was whisked to safety by the Thai military police, suggesting protection at high levels.

Zaidi is limited by a lack of distance and narrative flair that could have injected a sense of the timeless into his material.

The story has the customary amount of bloodspill and treachery, but also runs in other directions. The phenomenon of enc­ounters and glorification of policemen specialising in extra-judicial killings of alleged criminals has been written about before and even made into movies but Zaidi’s account also sheds light on the envy and ripple effect it caused in the force. Then there is the effect of globalisation, the ties to Afghan drug cartels and guerilla networks such as the LTTE. Also, top gangsters seeking refuge outside the country: Muslims heading west to Dubai and Karachi, Hindus to Bangkok, where all they need is “a one-bedroom flat, a TV airing Indian channels and a telephone to call India to issue threats”.

Zaidi’s book is littered with similar anecdotes and insights. We learn for ins­tance that Gawli’s terrace house is as large as a badminton court; that jails are the equivalent of cafes offering net­working opportunities for criminals; that a criminal modus operandi depic­ted in Scorsese’s Gangs of New York ins­pired Amar Naik to expand his operations.

As a reporter, Zaidi is limited by a lack of distance and narrative flair that could have injected a sense of the timeless into his material. Parts of the book read like a recitation of well-known facts from new­s­papers. The absence of financial estima­tes for what is, after all, a kind of business, is glaring. Anecdotes and stories are often thrown together pell mell, including a tantalising one about a Pat­han woman whose beauty was both a sou­­rce of power and a curse. Notwithst­anding the flaws, Zaidi is to be complimented for venturing into risky territory and emerging with a breezy, informative read.

READ MORE IN:
AUTHORS: Amrita Shah
PLACES: Mumbai
SECTION: Books
SUBSECTION: Reviews
OUTLOOK: 16 June, 2014
Download the Outlook ​Magazines App. Six magazines, wherever you go! Play Store and App Store

Post a Comment

You are not logged in, please Log in or Register
  • Daily Mail
THE LATEST ISSUE
CLICK IMAGE FOR CONTENTS
REVIEW
Review
These pacy thrillers put two southern cities on the crime map
MAGAZINE August 24, 2016
Review
The dark world Harry & Co inhabit changes little after 22 years
MAGAZINE August 24, 2016
Extract
How a brutal LTTE directive was lost in the static of intelligence
MAGAZINE August 18, 2016
Review
A RBI governor remembers his doughty fights, but cuts down on the math
MAGAZINE August 11, 2016
Book Extract
Abused by a relative at six, Laxmi saw how patriarchy tried to crush her femininity. And she made it come back to crush them, ‘those straight men with wives and kids’.
MAGAZINE August 10, 2016
read more>>>
OUTLOOK ON TWITTER
POLLS

In 1999, India and France entered into a $3.5 billion deal for the supply of these submarines. The first of the 6 subs is out on sea trials for the last three months and is to be commissioned later this year. At this stage, a newspaper in Australia has revealed secret data on the submarines, plausibly stolen from India. Indian Defence authorities have ruled out any pilferage of data from India.

POLL STARTED ON: Aug 26, 2016
Quiz
Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 31st Olympic Games from August 5 to 21. This is the first Olympics being held in South America and is going on even as a majority Brazilians are unhappy with their rulers. Here’s a quiz on some random Olympic facts and related trivia.
QUIZ STARTED ON: Aug 11, 2016
Advertisement