From Gangster to politician: How Daddy Arun Gawli turned his gangster-life into ‘public service’

One of the most feared names in Mumbai’s underworld. A name that is like a godfather for some and, for some, just a criminal. For some he is gangster and for some he is a politician. He started as mill working Marathi guy from Byculla, then became a dreaded gangster and then a politician and then a convict. Arun Gawli or Arun Gulab Ahir, aka ‘Daddy’ whose life not only sounds flimsy but his life also inspired a movie. Gawli became a godfather figure for his followers, particularly the residents of Dagdi Chawl where he lived. He later joined politics and floated his own party named the Akhil Bharatiy Sena.

Gawli was born in Kopargaon, Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra on July 17, 1955. His father Gulabrao had moved from Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra in the early 1950s. Much of the Gawli clan – including Arun’s father Gulab Gawli – worked in the mill industry, but the latter was eager that his children acquire a good education. In fact, Arun did manage to complete his matriculation – which was a big deal in the sixties and seventies – but once his father left his job, he had to look for work himself.

He married Asha Gawli, a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Maharashtra, and has two children, Mahesha and Geeta. Geeta is a first term ABS corporator from in the Chinchpokli assembly constituency. Gawli’s nephew Sachin Ahir is an MLA and is the former Maharashtra Minister of State for Housing. Gawli’s uncle Hukumchand Yadav is a legislator from Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh.

From mill worker to gangster

After his father left his job, Gawli joined Shakti Mills in Mahalaxmi – but it was in 1977 that he joined Crompton Greaves and first shook hands with Sadashiv Pawle (later called Sada Mama). It was in Sada Mama’s company that Galwi first turned to anti-social activities.

It was at Crompton Greaves that Gawli ran into Rama Naik, who he had gone to school with. It was in the 1980s, then, that Gawli joined the “Byculla Company” gang led by Naik and Babu Reshim, and supervised their illegal liquor dens. Their gang would go on to be called – and feared – as the B.R.A. gang (Babu, Rama and Arun).

In 1984, Rama Naik helped Dawood Ibrahim to eliminate his then arch-rival Samad Khan, the leader of the Pathan gang in Mumbai. From 1984 to 1988, the Byculla Company supported Dawood’s local criminal activities, who himself had escaped police arrest and settled in Dubai. In 1988, however, Rama Naik and Sharad Shetty had major differences over a land deal in Jogeshwari. Dawood supported Shetty, which enraged Naik, who in turn insulted Dawood. In late 1988, Naik was killed in a police encounter.

Subsequently, Arun Gawli took charge of the gang based at Dagdi Chawl in Byculla. Gawli believed that the encounter in which Naik was killed was engineered by Dawood, and thus started a gruesome gang war between Dawood’s D-Company gang and Gawli’s gang that lasted from 1988 until the mid-1990s.

The battle only got more gruesome with each passing year. In the early 1990s when Arun Gawli’s brother Bappa Gawli (Kishor Gawli) was killed by Dawood Ibrahim’s men, Gawli retaliated by killing Dawood’s brother-in-law Ibrahim Parkar. Gawli and his brother Kishor entered the Mumbai underworld in the 1970s when they joined the “Byculla Company”.

From gangster to politician

Gawli got political patronage in the 1980s when the then Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray, criticised the Mumbai police for taking stringent action against Hindu gangsters like Arun Gawli, referring to them as ‘amchi muley’ (our boys).

However, Gawli fell out with Shiv Sena in the mid-1990s, and formed his own political party, the Akhil Bharatiya Sena (ABS). In 2004, Gawli was elected as MLA from the Mumbai’s Chinchpokli constituency as an Akhil Bharatiya Sena candidate.

Gawli’s suffered a major blow when his nephew and party legislator, Sachin Ahir, came out openly against him and joined Sharad Pawar’s NCP. Ahir even contested against Gawli in the subsequent Lok Sabha elections on a NCP ticket, resulting in defeat for both, but a victory for the Shiv Sena’s sitting MP Mohan Rawale.

Gangster, Politician and now a convict

Mumbai Police raided the premises of Dagdi Chawl several times and finally broke Gawli’s underworld operations. Gawli was arrested several times for criminal activities and was detained for long periods during the trial. However, he could not be convicted in most of the cases as witnesses would not depose against him for fear of retaliation. He was finally convicted of the murder in August 2012. Gawli and eleven others were found guilty of murder of Shiv Sena leader Kamlakar Jamsandekar. Court sentenced gangster-turned-politician Arun Gawli to life imprisonment.

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