Shootout at Lokhandwala - Whats right and whats wrong?

Shootout at Lokhandwala - Whats right and whats wrong?

My Take on the "underworld"

Recently I had seen this new bollywood flick "Shootout at Lokhandwala" which fell into the general cops vs gangsters category (like its predecessor "Company" by RGV). However, this particular effort by the Director Apurva Lakhia and his entire production crew was something really extraordinary and done with meticulous efforts. It is based upon the real-life police shootout led by Mumbai Police Inspector Aftab Ahmed Khan at Lokhandwala Complex on November 16, 1991. The leading protagonists in the film have slightly different names than their real-life counterparts and the film caption is "based on true rumours."

The "Real" Story

The film, as told earlier revolves around a particular time frame of 1991 which was a significat period in the history of Mumbai Police. The ATS or the Anti terrorist squad formed by Aftab Ahmed Khan, the then Police Chief, was a force of about 30 to 35 selected brave and courageous police officers in Mumbai, India. This Squad had stopped several attacks in the country. After its formation in 1990, ATS's officers won 23 gallantry awards. Its worthwhile to note that the encounter victims count rose from 12 to 53 in 2 yrs after its inception, making it a strong fear in the criminal syndicate of the city.

The Lokhandwala Complex was an upper end middle-class housing area in Andheri, Mumbai, where Shiv Sena criminal-politician Gopal Rajwani had purchased a flat for mega-mobster Dawood Ibrahim. On November 16, 1991, Dawood henchmen Maya Dolas and Dilip Bhuwa, along with four others, were in this apartment when they were surrounded by Khan.

The ensuing fourteen hour shootout, much of it publicized live on news channels, made Khan a household name.About the actual event, Khan has said: "Maya was abusing me a lot when we went to capture him. I asked him to surrender, yet he abused me nonstop. He had escaped from police custody earlier and had created fear in the minds of people."

However, Khan was subsequently accused of having carried out the murder on behalf of Dawood Ibrahim, from whose gang Maya Dolas and Dilip Buwa were said to have defected in 1989. The defection by these two Hindu gangsters, together with Chhota Rajan's alienation, led to the increasing Muslim polarization of Dawood Ibrahim's D-Company gang, and eventually, the 12 March 1993 Bombay Bombings.

It was alleged that Dawood had tipped off Khan about the whereabouts of Maya and Buwa, leading to the shootout. Allegations were also levelled that the anti-terrorist squad (ATS) which had participated in the encounter had made off with Rs. 70 lakh cash found with Maya Dolas. Khan himself was also charged with corruption. Four inquiries were instituted against Khan, and although he was cleared in three of them, his controversial reputation remains. Khan has rejected these allegations, saying "Those were Dawood's men that I killed in that encounter", but reports in the media do indicate that these men may have parted company with Dawood Ibrahim. Although all the allegations were cleared, the ATS was dissolved on humanitarian grounds since it had become an evil facade for the corrupt cops who used it as to masquered as law enforcers in the guile of gangsters.

Soon after its closure in the mid 1993, the tragedy of the December 1993 blasts happened in the country leading to a dilemma whether the scrapping of ATS was worth or not?

Back to the Question

Now that one has got a clear idea of what the entire incident is about, I will like to pose a few queries which have haunted me for some days and given some sleepless nights.

1) How much ethically correct it was to scrap such an integral part of our social protection system like Anti Terrorist Squad, just on the premise that they dared to be "different" to pursue their goals of total annihilation of terrorism from the financial capital of the country? Its important to note that their actually was a 70 % reduction in crime rates involving extortion, murders etc during that regime.

2) Given the current scenario of increasing terrorist and naxalite activities, are we
content with the army and the BSF (Border Security force) operating at the fences of nation?

3) Considering the other view, how much morally correct was the ATS when it decided to literally eliminate the evil from its root instead of giving a second chance, i.e. there were many cases when someone was "encountered" even when they were ready to surrender?

The very purpose of the ATS was endangered when a criminal was sent to the judiciary, from where he could easily buy his way out to freedom, thanks to the corrupt bribe infected system of law enforcement that we inhabit in. This was the reason pouted by the specialist officers to justify their killings. However, sometimes innocent people are also killed in the line of fire or due to lack of proper information, evidence, timing and planning of such dangerous operations. Hence its imperative for us to decide which of the lesser evil we want to control our society - whether its the "trigger happy" gangsters or the "spare none in between" squads like these. The choice lies in the hands of people of India, since ours is a democratic country and the question can be answered by us and us alone, as pointed out by Dia Mirza in the movie. The intricacies involved in the love hate relationship of the cops-gangsters and mafia nexus is beyond of the scope of this article, but it is something that one must dig out for.

I would like to end this stub with the following quote,

"You arrest 'em, You catch 'em, you clean 'em. On second thoughts, forget the arresting part." - Al Capone


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