In what was his last interview, to Ketan Tanna, before being arrested on the eve of the Bombay Municipal Corporation elections, underworld don, Arun Gawli spoke candidly about his past and future. Some excerpts:
Why have you entered politics?
I have many educated boys with me. Some of them are engineers and double graduates. They have a fine knowledge of politics and have also done social work. Yet, many of them do not have faith in political parties. We have not planned meticulously. We may win, we many not. But I have told my boys to continue heir social work irrespective of the outcome of the elections.
Do you think the nexus between the politicians and the underworld is deep-rooted?
(Coyly) I have read about it. In Mumbai, the Maharashtra cabinet consists of senior Sena ministers like Narayan Rane who faces murder charges. Politicians have contacts with the underworld via the builders who donate generously to them. In Mumbai, land has become the biggest racket today. It has also become the biggest business.
Look at Kini. He was murdered because of Suman Shah who is a builder. Dawood’s men do the same. Recently, one prominent builder, Mr. S.Jain who has a posh apartment in the Nariman Point area (Mumbai’s most expensive business center) was threatened. There is a growing nexus between the builder-politician and the police.
Has there been an increase in the criminal-politician nexus in Mumbai?
So long as the Sena remains in power, there is no hope. In some years from now, only the rich will be seen in this city, the poor will vanish.
Does this apply to Mumbai alone or is it applicable to other parts of India too?
The underworld is concentrating on Mumbai now. There is a lot of money here and more over it is a port city. The ISI has infiltrated Mumbai. Many builders are in cahoots with Dawood and foreign businessmen who are actually front men of the ISI. They are also in league with many politicians.
Politicians need money to win electionsâ€¦
True. Democracy is a good thing. The problem is that democracy is based on values and principles. But times are bad. Drastic decisions have to be taken. There should be either dictatorship or military rule for some years, and then only will things improve.
Can there be free and fair elections?
It is very difficult. Things have become rotten down to the very core.
Sena men are coming to you despite your intense rivalry with the Sena. Why?
They come to me for my “blessings”. They come to meet me. I have known some of them for a long time.
Yet, Thackeray has publicly claimed that you and your men are intimidating Sena candidates at “gun-point”.
How can I intimidate anyone? You think that Sena men can be intimidated? The Sena is trying to ruin my image. Giving grounds to police to harass us so that we lose precious time during elections.
Are you building an anti-Sena front?
What I am building is a front of educated youths. It is necessary to have a party and one has to start somewhere.
Even the Sena was called a goonda party once. Sena grew because Congressmen became arrogant.
There were rumours that you were behind the recent murder of trade union leader Dr Datta Samant.
Yes, there were rumours. But I don’t bother about them because I am not guilty.
As many as 32 gangsters have been killed in encounters in the last couple of months. Is gang power on decline in Mumbai due to encounter killings?
No. Police are killing selectively after accepting contracts. Dawood is in Dubai. There is Chhota Rajan also. They are all liquidating people here while they are themselves abroad.
Many gangsters according to the police are killed in gang wars.
The so-called deaths in gangwars are in reality contract killings. For the police, it is sahukari and sarkari kaam, they kill for builders, get awards and money as well.
Are you feeling caged here, in your residence, as you are not allowed to leave the building?
I am not afraid of anybody. It is the police that I am afraid of. My boys are protecting me. I cannot move out of the building or I will be liquidated.
By Ketan Narottam Tanna