1. Haji Mastan
Mumbai is the financial capital of India. Soon after independence, the port became the epicentre of trade for imported goods being brought in and sent out of the country. This also gave birth to smuggling and other illegal activities thereby paving the way for organised crime syndicates and groups in India. Bombay-based Tamil Muslim mobster Haji Mastan, known as Mastan Haider Mirza, became the first celebrity gangster in the city of Bombay. In 1944, Mastan joined the Bombay docks as a porter and from there entered organized crime. He was one of the influential personalities in Bombay by the 1960s. He amassed millions from smuggling gold, silver, and electronic goods, and expanded his clout in the film industry by investing his money with directors and studios, in film production in Bollywood.
However, while Mastan controlled the city of dreams, he was next to God for the poor as he often helped them out.
2. Dawood Ibrahim
3. Arun Gawli
Arun Gulab Ahir aka Arun Gawli may be serving a life sentence but that hasn’t deterred his following one bit. Even today in Dagdi Chawl at Byculla, Gawli is respected immensely.
Gawli entered the crime scene in the 1980s when he joined gangster Rama Naik and offered protection to Dawood Ibrahim’s consignments. He later fell out with Ibrahim over the latter’s killing of Naik by the police. He floated his own political party and became an MLA, but his run came into an end with the murder of a Shiv Sena corporator in 2007.
4. Anandpal Singh
Anandpal Singh’s death in 2017 attracted hug unrest in several parts of Rajasthan as the Rajput community staged a protest. The notorious criminal was accused of multiple murder, extortion and robbery cases. However, his family and followers alleged that he was killed in an encounter and have been demanding a CBI inquiry in the case.
5. Varadarajan Mudaliar
Varadarajan was Born in Tuticorin (Tamilnadu), Varadarajan Mudaliar began his criminal life by stealing dock cargo. Varada, as he was fondly called, was hugely popular among the poor south Indian residents in the Dharavi slums. His criminal activities stretched from extortion, kidnapping, contract killing, land encroachment, illegal gambling, and liquor dens, to manufacturing illicit liquor and bootlegging.
However, his magnificent and opulent pandals at Matunga station during Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations were quite famous and celebrities thronged to pay a visit. Life came to a standstill in Dharavi, Matunga and Sion Koliwada as his death was mourned by many.
6. Phoolan Devi
Phoolan Devi is popularly known as the ‘Bandit Queen.’ She was born in a poor family in rural Uttar Pradesh. Before foraying into the world of crime, Phoolan endured poverty, child marriage and an abusive marriage. She eloped and joined a gang of bandits where she fell in love with one of the members. However, Phoolan’s lover was shot and she was gang raped.
A few months later, she sought revenge and killed her lover’s murderers. In 1983, Phoolan and her gang members surrendered to the police. They were charged with 48 crimes, including multiple murders, plunder, arson and kidnapping for ransom. 11 years later, in 1994, Mulayam Singh Yadav-headed government withdrew all charges against her, and Phoolan was released. She then stood for election to parliament as a candidate of the Samajwadi Party and was twice elected to the Lok Sabha as the member for Mirzapur. In 2001, she was shot dead at the gates of her official bungalow (allotted to her as MP) in New Delhi by former rival bandits whose kinsmen had been killed by her gang.
7. Daku Man Singh
Manoj Bajpayee’s character in Sonchiriya is reportedly inspired from Daaku Maan Singh. Thakur Daku Man Singh Rathore was a notorious dacoit, or bandit, born in Agra. He is credited with 1, 112 robberies and 185 murders, including the killing of 32 police officers. His gang remained unchallenged in the Chambal Valley and is worshipped even today. After Maan Singh was killed, the villagers built a temple and annually celebrate his birth and death anniversaries respectively.
Watch Vikrant Massey play the role of Arjun Kapoor’s best friend in Half Girlfriend, streaming on ZEE5.