Fear was his best tool
|By: J Dey|| ||Date:
2010-07-30|| ||Place: Mumbai|
Tamil don Varadarajan managed to build a Rs 100-crore empire over two decades. He also set-up a hafta system that kept the cops happy and his name off the police rolls
In the long list of Mumbai's rag-to-riches tales, one story that grabbed the imagination of the masses was that of Varadarajan Muniswami Mudaliar.
Vardha or Vardhabhai, as he was known by his followers, was a Tamilian who had migrated to Mumbai in the early 60s. He began work as a porter at VT station and soon moved on to bootlegging and running matka dens across the city.
Vardha was a contemporary of Haji Mastan and Karim Lala. In fact, Mastan and Vardha were close associates and had immense respect for each other.
The Tamil don controlled areas in Dharavi and Matunga and encouraged goons to grab collector's land in Dharavi-Koliwada area. In his fiefdom, he also protected small-time bootleggers and looked after their marketing and distribution.
Such was his hold over the central suburbs that all petty and small-time gangsters could not survive without taking help from Vardhabhai. Not only did he protect his gang members but also ensured that the policemen in his area were paid regular hafta.
This policy ensured that no cop was willing to take action against Vardha's operations in the area, and it was all good for business.
Real life inspiration: A still from Mani Ratnam's Nayakan, which was based on the life of Varadarajan
Vardhabhai was an ordinary illicit liquor vendor when he clashed with the police over a dispute in 1960s. In the following 20 years, the Tamil native built and ran a sprawling Rs 100 crore underworld network across the city.
Vardhabhai entered the big league when he made inroads into the docks and began smuggling gold, forming a nexus with the top brass of Bombay Port Trust, Customs and Mumbai police. An internal record indicated that his annual income from smuggling was an estimated Rs 40 crore in 1982.
He also collected around Rs 2 crore from the slumlords in and around Dharavi and Sion-Koliwada. There were other businesses too: bars, prostitution rackets and hotels.
Vardhabhai was probably one of the first underworld figures to realise that his empire would not survive without the support of policemen and politicians.
At least 20 per cent of the police force hob-nobbed with him at some time or the other. Several eminent lawyers were also on his payroll.
It is not surprising that Vardhabhai could easily manage the surrender and release of hundreds of hoodlums loyal to him. "Lakhs of rupees were allocated for fighting court cases," recalls an old timer.
Signs of trouble
All was well for Vardhabhai before the then commissioner of police J F Ribeiro posted erstwhile Deputy Commissioner of Police Y C Pawar in the high pressure Dharavi zone.
It took Pawar almost two years before he could crack the don's network and raid the firmly entrenched bases in the Sion-Koliwada area around 1983.
Y C Pawar, the erstwhile deputy police commissioner who cracked the don's network and raided his bases in the Sion-Koliwada area around 1983. File pic
Ribeiro's successor S D Soman continued with the pressure tactic. Relentless raids over a sustained period of time led to the downfall of Vardhabhai and the decimation of his empire.
Vardhabhai used all his clout to ease the pressure on his gang. But by then the police had busted the organised mafia's network in Sion-Koliwada area. Income from illicit liquor dens and slums had also disappeared.
The don was left with little choice but to flee to his hometown.
However, with the Mumbai cops hot on his heels, he surrendered before the authorities on January 5, 1987.
The courts could not hold Vardhabhai for long and he soon regained a firm grip over his network.
He also founded the Bombay Tamilar Peravai, a social organisation for welfare of Tamil settlers in Mumbai.
The Tamil don died in Madras on January 2, 1990. Life came to a standstill in Dharavi, Matunga and Sion Koliwada when his body was flown into the city.
|After the killing of Sabir at the hands of Amirzada, Dawood was desperate to avenge the death of his elder brother. |
Dawood visited Rama Naik's hideout at Lal Vite Ki Chawl and offered a Rs 5 lakh supari to kill Amirzada.
The supari was accepted by Rajan Nair alias Bada Rajan at the behest of Naik. Rajan and Rama both owed allegiance to Vardhabhai.
However, when Vardhabhai heard of the supari he could sense the cascading effect it would have on his business.
He called Rajan and said, "You are like my son. Return the money."
This shows Vardhabhai's style of operating. He did not believe in bloodshed, instead he instilled fear in the minds of the rival rather than engaging them in gun battles.