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Mumbai’s old gangland is now just chawls and malls

mumbai Updated: Mar 18, 2017 01:14 IST
Pratik Salunke
Crime

It’s 1854. Bombay has just got its first textile mill.

Within half-a-century, this mill and several more revolutionised the city. The chawls and workers’ colonies around them gave Bombay that unique character it is known for today. Steeped in history and rooted to that culture, centuries later, Central Mumbai is quite literally this megapolis’ heart. But a heart that has lost its beat many times.

In the 1980s, as the mills began shutting down, the underworld began rising. Heartland turned bloody gangland, and the likes of gangsters Arun Gawli, Amar Naik and Ashwin Naik rose to power. And, in the sprawling slums of Dharavi not very far away, there was Vardharaja Mudaliar. Several young mill worker who were left unemployed joined these gangs. A decade of tough police crackdown and encounter killings managed to restore some order, but the peace is threatened today again by the mighty divide between the rich and the poor that live here.

The transition

The out-of-work mills left behind vast expanses of land that were soon reused to build swanky malls, commercial towers and ultra-modern residential complexes that edged the chawls and the working classes to the region’s fringes. A quintessential case of the rich getting richer, the poor poorer, the rising inequality has started showing in the area’s crime patterns. The region’s 20 police stations recorded 8,748 crimes in 2016 — that’s 24 cases daily.

All the different crimes

There were 127 cases of rape in the region, one of the highest in the city. The area was in the news four years ago, for the brutal gang rape of a 22-year-old photojournalist inside the abandoned Shakti Mill compound. Experts had pointed out then how unsupervised mill lands like these were growing hubs for criminal activity.

In 2016, there was also a rise in cybercrime cases — threatening e-mails and SMSes and card frauds — compared to 2015. There were 167 cases filed compared to 2015’s 95 cybercrime cases. Crimes against children recorded an increase too, at 446 cases in 2016, compared to 269 cases the year before. Some 929 cases of crimes against women, such as molestation (451) and kidnapping of minors (170), were filed. And then, there’s the Dharavi challenge. One of Asia’s largest slums came second in the number of crimes recorded.

Cases fall, detection down

While fewer cases were filed in 2016, fewer cases were solved too. Of 8,748 cases filed, the police managed to solve just 5,985. Of all the cyber crimes recorded, just 18 were solved. But police sources said this was because those involved worked from far-off places, sometimes abroad. Of 1,332 theft cases, 430 were solved; 117 robberies filed, 96 were solved. When it came to major crimes — rape, crimes against women and murder — the police’s record was better. Of 929 cases of crimes against women, 684 were solved; 22 murders, 19 solved. “We are working to ensure detection rates get better,” said a senior officer.