YC Pawar, who decimated the Vardarajan Mudaliar gang during his tenure as deputy commissioner of police (DCP), zone 4, in 1982, said the encounter of Manya Surve may be spoken of quite a bit today, but it did not have any impact on the underworld in the early 1980s. Excerpts from an interview:
What was the impact of Manya’s encounter killing on the underworld?
I didn’t see any major impact. It (the encounter) was seen as a stray incident. I was posted in Mumbai soon after Manya’s killing. Manya was not an underworld gang leader, unlike Vardarajan Mudaliar, Haji Mastan or Karim Lala. He was mostly a solitary operative whose trade was covert. Initially, his killing created some ripples in the underworld. But the matter quickly faded away from memory.
As the first encounter death, did the death of Manya Surve give a fillip to young officers like you?
Manya’s death had little impact on me. I tackled problems in my own way. I too had been involved in one such operation (an encounter), where a notorious criminal was shot dead. But the circumstances demanded it (the encounter killing).
What did the Mumbai crime scene then look like?
Vardarajan was the sole don in the city in the early 1980s, as key underworld figures like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, and Yusuf Patel had begun to fade. Lala was more interested in narcotics smuggling, something that triggered a rivalry between Lala’s Pathan gang and the Dawood-Shabbir gang. Rama Naik was a small operative. But Varda was involved in various things: killing for a ransom, extortion, gambling, property-grabbing, bootlegging, smuggling and even chain-snatching. My area of jurisdiction (from Matunga to Vashi creek) was where he was active.
It was natural that I went after him.
It is said that Manya’s killing opened a new chapter of gun culture in the Mumbai police, and young officers became trigger-happy and stopped focusing on arrests.
I take strong objection to this observation. It’s unfair to term it as gun culture. It was the killing of Dawood man Maya Dolas in a police encounter at Lokhandwala that signalled the beginning of the gun culture.
The 1992-93 communal riots, the ’93 blasts, and the splits in gangs triggered gang rivalry and a corresponding growth of gun culture among the ranks of Mumbai police.