‘Pakmodia street, the HQ of Mumbai underworld gangs’

This morning when I heard that a building had collapsed near Pakmodia street, it was a walk down memory lane. As a reporter and lover of old Bombay, I had gorwn up with the tales of crime and the underworld.

Pakomodia street, this name would send shivers down the spine of people when the underworld ruled the old streets of Bombay. People dreaded a phone call or visit from this locality till the 90s. A call from the person called ‘Bhai’ or his man meant the worst. The Hussaini building was where Ibrahim Kaskar, the father of Dawood and his family lived when he worked as the head constable with the Mumbai Police. His eldest son, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, alias Bhai, ‘D’ started the Dawood gang from this street.

In the urban legend of the old Bombay city, Pakmodia was the Head Quarters of D gang. From late 60s, 70s till early 80s, there were there were 3 main gangs, Dawood, Pathan, Karim Lala and Haji Mastan. The Pathan and D gang were juxtaposed opposite each other, even geographically. These were the two ferocious gangs that were violent and controlled initially the smuggling, supari killings and were notorious.

These were situated in Dongri, off Mohammed Ali Road. From there to Byculla boudn ary began much later Dagdi chawl, the den of Arun Gawli. Then from Jacob’s Circle or Saath Rasta, was the domain of Amar Naik. Even today police believe the Pakmodia street has spotter, informers and is the stronghold of Dawood. Families are said to receive calls from Bhai and there is informal exchange of information and business.

Till many years after Dawood fled from Bombay, the room where his father lived was locked. After Idrahim kaskar returned to Mumbai he began staying in the same vicinity. He recalled the childhood memories of living in the old Hussaini building, where his father had a room.

For Mumbai police though this was an area for ‘look out.’ They were tricky days for policing and many a challenging night. “Long back Pakmodia was known as Dawood’s gulli. One of the main gang of the underworld was headquartered here,” Rakesh Maria, the former commissioner of police said in a telephonic call from London. Maria recalled his days of policing in this area, “This was the origin from where Mumbai’s underworld began.” Maria said the location was such that areas were demarcated. “On one side was the Pathan gang and on the other Dawood gang. Ahead was Haji mastan, these were the main gangs.”

These controlled the crime – murders, shoto outs, extorition, smuggling and much later drifted into drugs and major killings.

Veteran IPS officer and former DG of Maharashtra, Arvind Inamdar was one of the first to have gone in this area to bust the smuggled gold. The mention of a building collapse and Pakmodia brought a cheer to his face. “Yes, I remember Pakmodia street. Sometime in 1988, we had raided this street. Gone inside and busted their plans. We seized gold worth Rs 3 crores at that time. It was the first time police had taken such a strong stand,” said Inamdar.

This was the first kind of direct action by police in Pakmodia street, for which the entire team was enthusiastic. Inamdar would frequently parole the area in plain clothes. “I would go to Pakmodia and the entire area in plain clothes as part of my job. In fact one could see spotters. We ensured that whatever action we took, the police would have an upper hand.”

Today, life has changed a lot. Name of Dawood does not evoke any awe or fear. Residents would rather stay away and get on with their lives. Nature too has its way of alarming. Dawood’s younger brother Ibrahim Kaskar who lives in the adjacent building got a rude shock this morning when his building too vibrated as he heard an explosion-like sound when the Hussaini building fell.

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