Mumbai’s first shoot-out in court was a sensational incident that marked the first high-profile strike by a small-time smuggler called Dawood Ibrahim.
And it set off a string of repeat performances, the latest being Monday’s Kala Ghoda incident that killed police informer Amjad Khan and Himanshu Chaudhari.
Here, a replay of that dramatic 1983 incident in which Isaque Bagwan, Police Sub-Inspector attached to the crime branch, managed to apprehend the culprit with some quick thinking.
It was 11.30 am on September 6, 1983. Police Sub-Inspector Isaque Bagwan had just escorted dreaded gangster Amirzada Nawab Khan to Mumbai’s Sessions Court in connection with the murder of Shabbir Ibrahim, elder brother of Khan’s arch rival Dawood Ibrahim.
The burly Amirzada, wearing a white T-shirt and blue trousers, strode into the prisoner’s enclosure inside the busy court. He was accompanied by Jaffar Jamal Siddique, an associate.
The lawyers were waiting for Sessions Judge SV Joshi to begin proceedings and the bustle was settling down when a 20-year-old managed to slip past the police cordon and enter the court. The lean youth walked about 15 steps forward before viewing his target from the corner of his left eye. Police Sub-Inspector Isaque Bagwan was positioned about 12 feet away from the stranger.
Suddenly, the youth swiveled 180 degrees and headed towards the prisoner’s enclosure. The swift movement took Amirzada completely by surprise. He was still taking to Siddique when the youth pulled out a .38 calibre revolver from under his shirt and opened fire on Amirzada from less than five feet away.
Amirzada took three bullets in the chest, stomach and upper neck and died in a pool of blood.
As the unhurt but terrified Siddique buried his face in his palms, the bullets spread terror in the court. People ran helter-skelter for cover.But the assassin managed to dribble past the crowd and was heading for the window. Apparently, he was planning to jump from the first floor. But Bagwan, quick on his feet, had moved swiftly into position and opened fire from his .38 caliber Titan Tiger service revolver. The shot pierced the assassin’s right thigh as he straddled the window. He was soon overpowered and disarmed.
The wounded assassin was David Pardesi, an unemployed youth from Tilak Nagar, a lower middle-class colony in Chembur. The operation became the stuff of legend and instantly changed underworld equations in Mumbai. For Dawood Ibrahim, who had offered the supari, became a force to reckon with.
Dawood was avenging the murder of his elder brother Shabbir killed on February 12, 1983. Shabir, who was enamoured by a dancer called Chitra from Congress House near Mumbai Central, was out with her in a Fiat heading towards Bandra, unaware that they were being followed by members of the Dongri-based Pathan gang who had crossed swords with Dawood.
The chase began at Haji Ali and the Pathans closed in on their target when the Fiat halted at a petrol station opposite the Siddhi Vinayak temple in Prabhadevi. It was around 1.30 am and Shabbir was aghast to see Manya Surve, Amirzada, his cousin Alamzeb Jangrez Khan, Siddique and two others standing outside his car.
Amirzada asked Chitra to step out of the car and leave the scene. The four men then pumped five bullets into Shabir, leaving him lifeless in the car.
An hour later the Pathans were at Pakmodia Street. The plan was to take Dawood by surprise even before the news of his brother’s death could reach him.
But Dawood’s key associate Khalid Pehalwan and a few others were guarding Pakmodia Street and recognised the vehicle used by the Pathans. The huge steel door to Dawood’s house was shut seconds before the rival gang resorted to indiscriminate firing. Gunshots rent the neighbourhood as both gangs engaged in gunfire and abuse.
Amirzada was injured in the exchange of fire but managed to escape. Only to meet his end seven months later. It was the beginning of a war that resulted in the elimination of over 50 gangsters and their relatives, in the next 10 years.