Who Was Karim Lala? The Underworld Don Who Former PM Indira Gandhi Met

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Don Karim Lala began his journey in Mumbai as an ordinary worker, however, later joined the ethnic gang of Pathans, eventually to operate as its leader.

Written By Aishwaria Sonavane | Mumbai | Updated On:
Karim Lala

Elaborating on the history of influence of the underworld over Mumbai, Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut sparked a row by claiming that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi used to meet with Karim Lala, an underworld don. The statement, however, was then retracted after facing backlash from Maharashta ally, Congress. Despite the withdrawal of his statement, on Thursday a photograph of the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the underworld don Karim Lala emerged on social media. As per reports, the picture dated back to 1973, years before the imposition of Emergency. 

Who was Karim Lala? 

Born as Abdul Karim Sher Khan in Afghanistan's Kunar province, Karim Lala was involved in extortion rackers, operating liquor dens, illegal land evictions, kidnapping, protection racket, contract killing, counterfeit currency, narcotics and gambling in 1960s to early 1980s. Known as the first don of Mumbai, Karim Lala moved to India in 1930s. Leader of the 'Pathan Gang' which included Afghani migrants, Karim Lala had a significant influence over Mumbai, then Bombay.

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The underworld don began his journey in the city as an ordinary worker, however, later joined the ethnic gang of Pathans, eventually to operate as its leader. The infamous gang operated in the crime-infested part of the city like--Mohammad Ali Road, Bhendi Bazaar, Dongri. The gang was known to operate plenty of "carrom clubs" which was a pretence to gambling, betting rackets and moneylending. Karim Lala rose up to be known as one of the three "mafia dons of Mumbai", the others being Haji Mastan and Varadarajan. In the late 1970s, the three agreed on a pact to divide the city amongst themselves to avoid conflict between each other. 

Karim Lala, in this peak days invited several personalities from Bollywood to his parties and Eid celebrations. He also was known to hold a weekly 'durbar' wherein he heard the grievances of people from various strata of the society, and helped them through his financial and muscle power. Apart from his illegal networks, the underworld don had built his legitimate businesses through which he maintained his influence. 

In the last 70s, he gradually the reigns of his Pathan Gang to his nephew, Samad Khan, who was later killed by rival underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's gang D-Company in 1984. Karim Lala did not share a cordial relationship with Dawood, and on one ocassion had also thrashed him after it was known that the D-Company was running a racket in his area. At the age of 90, the underworld don died in February 2002. 

READ| Indira Gandhi's pic with don Karim Lala surfaces, even as Sena's Raut retracts statement

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