10 Dangerous Indian Gangsters Who Built Criminal Empires

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Updated on 5 Sep, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Gangsters are mostly related to a gang, which is usually involved in activities like murders, kidnappings and trafficking cases. Gangster culture started in the second half of the last century and ever since then, there have been various hooligans adding up to this list; they have completely changed the fabric of the mobster world.

1. Dawood Ibrahim

The famous Dawood Ibrahim is the third most dangerous gangster in the world and probably first from India. He is also headed the India-based and organized crime syndicate – D company in Mumbai. He is also known as the Gold Man to the world, and often referred to as “Bhai” by his associates. He has been involved in various criminal cases. You are probably acquainted with the fact that he was the mastermind of 1993 bomb blast in Mumbai and also provided the logistics for 2008 Mumbai attacks. Not only India, but even the United States has declared him a ‘global terrorist’.


2. Abu Salem

The underworld don Abu Salem was originally born in the Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh and was named Aqil Ahmed Azmi. Other than his extortion and significant crimes, he is known to extort money from Bollywood celebrities and invest it in the film industry. He was the person who allegedly supplied weapons to Sanjay Dutt, and his men are reported to have murdered Gulshan Kumar. His men also shot Aamir Diwani, personal secretary of actress Manisha Koirala. However, members of his gang were shot down once celebrities like Aamir Khan, Ashutosh Gowarikar and Jhamu Sughand spoke against them. He was also convicted in the 1993 bomb blast and 50 other cases.


3. Chota Rajan

Chota Rajan was born as Rajan Nikalaje in a Marathi family, and grew up in a middle-class family in a locality of Tilaknagar in Chembur. His criminal activities start in the 1980s when he started scalping cinema tickets at Sahakar Cinema. Now he is referred to as ‘Nana’ and is known to be the boss of major crime syndicates in India. He started working as a thief and bootlegger working for Rajan Nair, also known as Bada Rajan; he has also been a former key adviser to Dawood. However, he parted ways with Dawood after the Mumbai bombing case in 1996. He was the first wanted hoodlum in India due to his criminal cases including extortion, murder, film finance and smuggling.


4. Tiger Memon

Ibrahim Mushtaq Abdul Razak Nadim Memon, commonly known as Tiger Memon is one of the dangerous terrorists of India. He is called ‘Tiger’ because he helped drugs and weapons smugglers to get away from Mumbai police by driving his car recklessly over 100km/hr. He has been the prime suspect in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blast case and has been confirmed by Special court. The major activities of Tiger Memon have been depicted in the movie ‘Black Friday’.


5. Rajan Mahadev Nair, Bada Rajan

Rajan Mahadev Nair, or Bada Rajan, was an underworld don who commonly operated all the activities from his base in the neighborhood of Tilaknagar, Chembur. He got this dubious name of Bada Rajan since he got into petty crime in his childhood. When Tamilian don of Matunga, Varadarajan Mudaliar, shifted his base to Madras, Bada Rajan and his alliances, including Chota Rajan, controlled criminal rackets all over Chembur. He also has close ties with D company and Dawood. The Malayalam movie ‘Abhimanyu’ was inspired by the life of Bada Rajan.


6. Varadarajan Mudaliar

Varadarajan Muniswami Mudaliar also known as Vardhabhai was one of the most famous Indian gangsters. He was born in Madras Presidency and later moved to Mumbai where he started working as a porter at VT station. He started his criminal life by distributing illicit liquor. Mudaliar controlled the criminal operations in east and north central Mumbai and later Mumbai was ruled by Madaliar, Karim Lala and Haji Mastan. On 2 January 1998, life came to standstill in Dharavi and Matunga when Mudaliar died due to a heart attack and his body was brought by Haji.


7. Haji Mastan

Mastan Haider Mirza popularly known as Haji Mastan was not only a filmmaker but also an Indian thug. He is a gangster who is often remembered for his earnings, as he made millions and billions from smuggling and other extortion activities. The hard fact about this gangster is that he never killed anyone nor did his men shoot anybody. Haji Mastan never saw bloody shootouts in his reign, but he carried out smuggling for 20 years without any disputes. Haji was born in Madras Presidency and at the age of 8 he migrated to Mumbai, where he ran a small cycle repair shop at Crawford Market. ‘Once Upon a Time in Mumbai’ is based on Haji Mastan.


8. Chota Shakeel

Shakeel Babumiya Shaikh or the Chota Shakeel was the key former aide to Dawood Ibrahmin and has admitted to ‘India Today’ magazine about this involvement in financing Hindi films. He has also admitted about his plans for a Mumbai attack along with Chota Rajan and has been jailed for various extortion and trafficking cases. Recently, it was Chota Shakeel who gave the information to Indian authorities about Dawood Ibrahim’s desire to surrender.


9. Karim Lala

Karim Lala or Abdul Karim Sher Khan is known as ‘Don of Mumbai’. Karim was born in Kunar province of Afghanistan and was the founder of the Indian Mafia in Mumbai. In the later half the last century, major parts of Mumbai and especially the Mumbai docks, were majorly controlled by three people – Karim Lala, Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudailar. Karim Lala and his men were involved in smuggling jewelry, gambling, selling hashish and so on. He died on 19 February, 2001 at the age of 90.


10. Ali Budesh

Ali Budesh is an Indian extortionist and underworld don of the Indian mafia, operating from Bahrain. Budesh was born to an Indian mother and Arab father who entered Mumbai as a pickpocket and a street hooligan. He secretly became a part of D Company and met Dawood for the same reasons. Later he spilt from D Company and started working with key aides of Dawood from Pakistan. His activities were close to Dawood’s – his targets included builders, diamond merchants and famous Bollywood celebs. He had also made threatening calls to Rakesh Roshan, Mukesh Bhatt, Boney Kapoor.