Police used me as a bait to reach my dad, says Ejaz Lakdawala's daughter
In her first interview after the arrest of her father Ejaz Lakdawala, daughter Shifa tells mid-day that she cannot be punished just because he is a criminal
What does it mean to be a gangster's daughter? Alleged owner of a fake identity, the 23-year-old daughter of underworld gangster Ejaz Lakdawala, Shifa Advani, was accused of trying to flee to Nepal with her one-year-old kid on a passport allegedly made with fake papers. She was also charged with extortion dating back to 2005, when she was eight.
After spending over a month-and-a-half in prison, Shifa speaks to mid-day about how she came to know of her father's life of crime, the identity — deemed fake by Mumbai police — he gave her, and how she is being made to pay for Lakdawala's crimes.
What is your real name, Sonia Advani or Shifa Advani?
My parents named me Sonia Advani to protect me. After marrying Shahid Shaikh, I changed my name to Shifa. I have all the papers. I didn't forge any documents. I am a law-abiding citizen.
How do you perceive the clean chit in the extortion case?
I am thankful to police who finally realised that I have nothing to do with the extortion racket. I had been telling this to the officers from day one, but nobody listened to me. I just trusted Allah to save me. The police took all my mobile phones but found nothing. I can't describe what I went through in the past two months, leaving my one-year-old child behind. I am thankful to my in-laws who stood by me.
There is still the case of the fake passport.
I did nothing wrong, the charges will be dropped. I can't be punished for my gangster father's crimes. I have all the original documents. How is it my fault if my parents named me Sonia Advani? I was told my father's name is Manish Advani. I converted to Islam for my marriage and changed my first name to Shifa. All my documents have the same name.
What were the circumstances of your detention and the consequent arrest?
I was flying to Nepal to meet my father, mother and younger brother. It was the first trip after my marriage. I have always used the passport with the name Shifa Advani. On December 27, I was stopped by immigration officials saying there is some domestic case against me. I denied the claim and told them my husband came to drop me at the airport. Later, officers from the Anti-Extortion Cell arrested me saying I have obtained the passport using forged documents. When they found nothing, they booked me in an extortion case.
Do you believe you have been framed in a false case to get to your father?
I don't know whether he surrendered or was held. I can only tell you what I feel — just because I am his daughter, my family, my child and I are being used as bait.
Did the police ever reach out to you before your arrest?
The police never reached out to me. If they wanted information, they could have asked me. I understand they are doing their job, but is it my fault that I am Ejaz Lakdawala's daughter? I have been meeting him, speaking to him due to love and affection. He is my father and he did take care of me.
When did you come to know of your father's real name and profession?
In 2002, my father was attacked in Bangkok. I remember a duo on a two-wheeler firing at us. He took me in his arms after the attack. He had bullet wounds on his neck and right shoulder. A tabeez (amulet) he was wearing prevented a bullet from hitting his chest. I remember him being covered in blood. I was five years old. I remember asking doctors about the wound on the neck; they told me he won't survive. Even if he did, he was expected to lose his voice. After this incident, I began questioning my parents about the killers, why they wanted my father dead. My mother revealed the truth when I was eight years old. I read about him on Google and in newspapers. I also came to know he was attacked by his rival, Dawood Ibrahim's gang.
I have had a troubled life since then. I visited Mumbai with my mother to meet my grandparents in Mahim. My mother belongs to a Sindhi family and 25 years ago, she met my father. They liked each other and got married.
Did you ever confront your father about his crimes?
Yes, my mother and I would tell him that his profession will get us all killed someday. Nothing was in my hands. I could not even get my father in trouble as he loved me a lot. He never did anything in front of us, we got to know of his crimes only from the papers.
Did you and your mother, Rekha, ask him to quit?
Ejaz Lakdawala. FILE PIC
Obviously, we always asked him to lead a normal life. But he has been involved in this since childhood. He is from Dongri and belongs to a middle class family. He met the wrong people and got involved in criminal activities. I am not justifying what he does. He is paying for it. However, to me, my father was a gentleman; he took care of us. He may be whatever he is for the world, but he is a nice human being at heart.
How would your father react when you questioned him?
He would say nothing.
When was the last time you met your father?
I spoke to him five days before my arrest and met him last in Nepal two years ago.
Where are your mother and younger brother now?
I don't know. I have not spoken to them since my arrest.
Tell us about your childhood and schooling in Mumbai.
I was born in Mumbai. I completed my pre-primary education from an international school in Santacruz. We moved to Nepal after the attack. I studied hotel management there.
Do you think your family is suffering because of your father's sins?
He always knew that this would happen someday. He has many enemies who are after his life, so he could not live a normal life, and continued doing what he did.
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