Know the story of Karim Lala & Haji Mastan – The pioneers of Mumbai Underworld and mentors of Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar

The name Dawood Ibrahim is synonymous with Mumbai Underworld. However, he wasn’t the one who had laid the stepping stone of this dark world of danger and deceit. Here I introduce you to the 2 most significant name in India who gave impetus to the whole terminology “Indian Mafia”

karim lala haji mastan mumbai underworld Karim Lala & Haji Mastan: The 2 Big Bosses of Mumbai UnderworldHaji Mastan and Karim Lala. Image Source: Mumbai Mirror

Karim Lala – The Founder of Indian Mafia

Karim Lala was the crime lord and one of the leaders of the Pathan Gang in the 1940s, when several of the Afghanistani migrants rushed into the city of Mumbai. They were all Pasthuns from the north eastern Kunar region of Afghanistan and Karim Lala leaded them at several occasions. Karim Lala originally known as Abdur Karim Sher Khan was a school drop out. He came to the mayanagri through Peshawar and started working in the Mumbai docks during the 40s.

Karim Lala Mumbai Underworld Karim Lala & Haji Mastan: The 2 Big Bosses of Mumbai UnderworldKarim Lala. Image Source: Indiatoday

Karim Lala was a self proclaimed don of Mumbai and since he was the pioneer of an organized crime in India, he is often regarded as the “Founder of Indian Mafia.” Lala was mainly involved in running liquor and gambling dens along with executing various kinds of illegal activities such as extortion and smuggling.

Back then during the 40s Pathan Gang (The name was given by the Police) had their own monopoly but it ended after the rise of Dawood Ibrahim in the 1980s. Dawood indulged into Gang war with the Pathan gang after his brother Shabir Ibrahim Kaskar was killed by them in 1981 with the help of Manya Surve, a hired assassin. (Sony TV Encounter Episode 1 shows this incident where Shankya Mane is none other than the hired Manya Surve)

Karim Lala, being the senior most dons was always respected by everyone. He died at the age of 90 in the year 2002.

Haji Mastan the Smuggler Cum Film Producer and Dawood’s Mentor

Haji Mastan commonly known as Sultan Mirza is a common and familiar name among the Indian masses as every third film in Bollywood is roughly made on him. However, contrary to what it is shown, let me tell you Haji Mastan was not a dreaded don because never in his life he had killed anyone or shot a bullet on another. But you cannot deny the fact that he was a mobster and was a big time smuggler who reigned for 20 years (1955 to 1975) without any dispute from anybody

Haji Mastan Mirza Karim Lala & Haji Mastan: The 2 Big Bosses of Mumbai UnderworldHaji Mastan Mirza. Image Source: Wikimedia

Born in 1926 in Madras Presidency, Haji Mastan originally known as Mastan Haider Mirza at the age of 8 migrated with his father in Mumbai. The father son duo ran a small cycle repairing shop in Crawford market which wasn’t enough to feed the family. 10 years later in the year 1944, Bawa joined Bombay docks as a porter and this changed his life forever.

He worked in association with Karim Lala and by 1960s he became a rich man. He even started financing his money in Bollywood and became a film producer. Amitabh Bachchan whose character in Deewar was influenced by Mastan met him personally along with Salim. Being a film producer he had good relations with many of the stars of the yesteryears such as Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dharmendra, Firoze Khan and even Sanjeev Kumar.

He was imprisoned during the emergency (1975 to 1977) for 2 years. After coming out of the jail, Haji Mastan retired in the early 1980s and made Dawood Ibrahmin Kaskar, the lieutenant as his successor. Watching Bollywood movies I always thought Dawood killed Haji Mastan but in reality Dawood and his elder brother had killed Basu Dada, the don of Dongri and not Haji Mastan.

Dawood Ibrahimm Mumbai Underworld Karim Lala & Haji Mastan: The 2 Big Bosses of Mumbai UnderworldDawood Ibrahim Kaskar. Image Source:

Later, in the year 1985, Haji Mastan even formed a sangh called as Dalit Muslim Suraksha MahaSangh. He breathed his last in the year 1994. Though Haji Mastan wasn’t a dreadful criminal he gave birth to all the dreadful gangsters especially Dawood Ibrahim who became his successor and changed the face of the Indian Mafia once and for all.

Source: Various News Reports/Interviews Published in Leading Newspapers and Magazines

By: Deepti Verma

Also See:

Sony TV Encounter 1: Operation Shankya Mane

Dharavi Goes to Poll

Top 3 Controversial Gossips Haunting Jawaharlal Nehru Till Date

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