‘Mumbai Mafia: Police vs The Underworld’ documents the rise and fall of the encounter specialists in the city of Mumbai. The documentary is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
The Mumbai of the 1980s and 1990s sees organized crime rising at an unprecedented rate. Common people are getting killed in broad daylight by gangsters who fear no one. These gangsters wield more power than the police.
A.A. Khan, the Police Addl. Commissioner, decides to take matters into his own hands. He wants to control these gangsters, so he starts studying their activities closely. He further plants his informants in and around the areas where the gang activities take place.
The major threat that the city was facing was from the mafia gangster Dawood Ibrahim and his crime syndicate, D-Company. The syndicate operated on a large scale.
It was involved in illegal activities including, but not limited to, gambling, drugs, smuggling, bootlegging, and extortion.
Anyone who was making money and wanted to live in the city peacefully had to pay them a part of their profits. Even industries like Bollywood and cricket were not left untouched. This ruthless and dangerous gang was practically ruling the city.
To instill fear in the gangsters, Khan forms a team of hand-picked police officers. He believes that these officers are bold and ready to put their lives on the line to put an end to organized crime. One could face criminal charges and gang retaliation by going after these gangsters.
Dilip Buwa is a gangster known to be the most fearless member of Dawood’s gang. He even shot a policeman in the past. Khan gets to know that Buwa has ganged up with Maya Dolas, a gangster who had escaped police custody.
The two had started extortion on a massive scale and killed several people. Through one of Khan’s informants, the police locate these gangsters.
In November 1991, in a residential area in Lokhandwala, 200 armed policemen take down the two gangsters along with five other members; this was considered the biggest operation in the history of Mumbai Police.
This operation makes the citizens of the city hopeful. The public starts trusting the police and believes that they have the power to protect them. Additionally, after this operation, such incidents came to be known as “encounters” in India.
Mumbai Mafia: Police vs The Underworld ending explained in detail:
What happens after the riots of 1992?
The demolition of the Babri Masjid caused riots in India. To get the situation under control, the police in Mumbai employ violent measures. The police are accused of causing the deaths of several citizens, and the masses start fearing them.
During the riots of 1992, Dawood was operating from Dubai. He decided to get involved; the police claim that he supplied arms to several rioters in order to aid them.
In retaliation, two police officers, Pradeep Sharma and Vijay Salaskar, kill Shrikant Desai in an encounter. Desai was one of the top ten gangsters in Mumbai. He was responsible for supervising D-Company’s illegal air cargo and smuggling routes.
As Dawood faces losses, he wants to send across a message. He orchestrates the 1993 bomb blasts across Mumbai, killing several people. These attacks attach the label of terrorist to Dawood.
What is the response of the police to the 1993 bombings?
The terrorist attacks change the city and the attitude of the authorities. The Mumbai Crime Branch forms a special squad of encounter specialists. These officers are given unlimited power to stop gang activities by any means possible.
Police Commissioner, R.D. Tyagi, demands encounters from this squad. This brings bloodshed to the streets of Mumbai. The police go around killing gangsters in large numbers instead of arresting them. By the late 1990s, the city becomes a war zone.
These encounter specialists start competing with each other for the highest kill count. However, no one in the city questions the actions of the police, as the police are able to instill fear in the minds of the gangsters, who had enjoyed unchecked power for years.
Why do the people turn against the police?
Khan believes that the job of the police is to stop crimes, not unnecessarily kill people. Seeing the actions of the police, he takes voluntary retirement from the force. He found a private security business after his retirement and passed away in 2022.
By 2003, 1,200 alleged gangsters get killed. Pradeep Sharma is the leading encounter cop. Encounters curbed gang activities. The most powerful gang members of the D-Company, including Dawood, went into hiding, and the police were seen as the heroes.
Rupin Sharma, former assistant director of CBI, arrests Abu Salem, a wanted gangster for the 1993 blasts and the murder of an Indian celebrity, among other things.
Salem was arrested in Portugal. His arrest was proof that criminals can be caught without the need to kill them.
Then comes the question of fake encounters. Alex Perry interviews Pradeep Sharma for TIME magazine. In 2003, he writes an article about the misuse of power by the encounter specialists and the unnecessary killings committed by them.
The article brings the actions of encounter specialists under public scrutiny. Pradeep Sharma becomes the first encounter specialist to be removed from active duty. Ravindra Angre, another encounter specialist, faces prison time for extortion.
Angre joins a political party to become a politician in 2018, whereas Dawood is still in hiding.
What happens to Pradeep Sharma?
In 2010, Pradeep Sharma gets charged with the kidnapping and killing of Ramnarayan Gupta, also known as Lakhan Bhaiya. He has been involved in more than 100 encounters. However, he claims that he had no hand in the killing of Lakhan Bhaiya.
There are several factors in the case that point towards the possibility of a fake encounter, but the only eyewitness in the case goes missing and is later found dead, a few days before he was supposed to appear in court. Due to a lack of evidence, Sharma is acquitted.
Furthermore, in 2017, Sharma arrests Iqbal Kaskar, Dawood’s brother. It is believed that Kaskar was not a significant gangster and that the arrest was made to show Sharma’s reformation.
In 2021, Sharma gets arrested again and charged in connection with the alleged murder of a Mumbai businessman. He is awaiting trial in prison.
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