Shiv Sena spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP in Maharashtra Sanjay Raut has accused former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of meeting underworld kingpin Haji Mastan and Karim Lala. However, within hours of the controversial statement, Raut issued a clarification.
Raut said Karim was the leader of Lala Pathans and many politicians used to meet him. Former Maharashtra INC president Milind Deora has demanded the Shiv Sena leader withdraw his statement.
Sharing his journalistic experiences at an event in Mumbai, Raut said that from the 1960s to the early ’80s, Mumbai’s underworld used to be dominated by three gangsters: Karim Lala, Mastan Mirza alias Haji Mastan and Vardarajan Mudaliar. They used to decide who would be the Commissioner of Mumbai Police and who would sit in Maharashtra Secretariat. When Haji Mastan came to the ministry, the entire secretariat would leave work to see him. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi met Karim Lala in Paidhoni in south Mumbai, Raut said.
In the shocking disclosure, Raut said, “Even I had met Dawood Ibrahim, the prime accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. We have seen the underworld of that time. What remains of the underworld now are vestiges of that dreaded era.”
Explaining the statement made about Indira Gandhi, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi would always be held in high regard. As far as Karim Lala is concerned, he was known as the leader of the Pathans. Therefore, other leaders used to meet him. He said, “I have always shown respect to Indira Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi and the Gandhi family. Despite being in opposition, no one badmouthed them. I stood for her whenever people targeted Indira Gandhi.”
Raut continued, “Many politicians used to visit Karim Lala. It was a different time. He was a leader of the Pathan community. He came from Afghanistan. That is why people used to meet the Pathan community with their problems.”
INC’s Maharashtra head Milind Deora said, “Indira ji was a true patriot who never compromised on India’s national security. As a former Congress president, I demand that Sanjay Raut ji withdraw his statement. Politicians should spare some time to think before making a statement about the legacy of a former prime minister.”
No senior INC leader commented on Sanjay Raut’s statement, but Congress spokesperson Charan Singh Sapra said, “Raut must give evidence in support of what he has said. We do not accept this statement as correct.”
The INC-NCP-Shiv Sena coalition runs the government in Maharashtra.
The BJP has made serious allegations against the INC following Raut’s statement. Ashish Shelar of the party said, “If what Sanjay Raut has said is correct then there should be a CBI inquiry. They should present evidence of their claim and the Congress should refute their statement. The relationship between INC and the underworld is old.”
Gangster Karim Lala’s full name was Abdul Karim Sher Khan. He was born in Afghanistan. He came to Mumbai in 1930. Lala became a major name of the underworld in Mumbai between 1960 and 1980. He smuggled gold, silver and weapons into the country’s economic capital.
Haji Mastan was a resident of Tamil Nadu. He came to Mumbai at the age of eight. He first opened a bicycle shop and then became a porter at the dock in 1944. He started smuggling at the dock itself. He smuggled gold biscuits, Philips transistors and branded watches from overseas.