When the court pronounced Arun Gawli guilty of the murder of Shiv Sena corporator Kamlakar Jamsandekar under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) on Friday morning, he became the first gang lord in the city to have been found guilty of any crime.
The only exception would be Abu Salem, who was convicted in a fake passport case in Bhopal two years ago, but he is hardly considered a don. He is, to both the police and the underworld, just a Dawood Ibrahim gangster who defected.
Gawli’s conviction holds considerable significance for the police, who have been fighting the mafia for nearly four decades, because it has been one of those rare cases in which the witnesses did not turn hostile.
“The hard work has paid off. Right till the very end [of the trial], the gang tried to intimidate the witnesses. But truth prevailed,” said Rakesh Maria, additional director general of police, Anti terrorism Squad. “This is the first time that an underworld gang leader has been convicted. It is also the first time for Gawli.”
As joint commissioner of police (crime) in 2008, Maria had played a crucial part in Gawli’s arrest in connection with the murder.
D Sivanandhan, former Maharashtra director general of police, who is credited to have broken the backbone of Mumbai’s underworld in the late 1990s, termed Gawli’s conviction as an “exhilarating event” for the force.
“It shows that they [gangsters] can do whatever they want, but that law will prevail,” he said.
The likes of Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Rajan, Amar Naik and Ashwin Naik, and gangsters of the yesteryears such as Vardharajan Mudaliar got away because people were too scared to speak against them or they would threaten or buy witnesses off, police officials said.
“They had teams to coerce and threaten witnesses. If that didn’t work, they would get the investigating officer transferred,” he said.
Another issue was that before the MCOCA came into effect, trials under the IPC would take years to conclude. “As a result, witnesses would forgetting details of the incident,” he said.