BIRTHDAYS are always heart-warming. For fifty-something-old Ashwin Naik, an infamous Mafia don of the Mumbai underworld, his last was an occasion for his best buddies to reaffirm their unwavering faith in his companionship. To show their love and affection towards him, eight friends of Naik’s surprised him with a lovely gift — Rs. 35 lakh in cash, counted and handed over right in his office in Chinchpokli at central Mumbai — on his birthday last year. The evening’s high point came when; overcome with their love, Ashwin Naik took a group pic with these friends and the pile of cash.
The party would have passed off as a private affair but for a series of pictures, clicked by one of the eight generous friends. ABI (Akela Bureau of Investigation) has now obtained these telltale pictures. The friends are an assorted bunch of three police constables, three builders, a contractor of the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB), and a licensed operator of a government-owned ration shop. They all belong to Kalyan, a township in Thane district to the east of Mumbai. The birthday present was given and received at Naik’s office at Chinchpokli.
The three constables are Babasaheb Yadav, Anant Kadam alias Gotya, who are currently attached with Kolsewadi police station at Kalyan (East), and Constable Chaudhary, who is currently on long sick leave due to health problems. Also in the picture are ration-shop licensee Mukesh Bhanushali and MSEB contractor Shyam Shelke. Shelke holds a “Police Mitra” identity card.
Sources credit Shelke with taking a lead in organising the novel gift. He, too, appears to be popular with the police. In 2011, Kolsewadi police registered an FIR against him under section 353 of IPC, for allegedly preventing a government officer from doing his work. He was arrested and bailed. Although the case continues, Shelke freely frequents the said police station (while wearing, sources say, a licensed gun), and is warmly received by the police there, in particular with Constable Janardan Sanap, who is incharge of passport verification and “Secret Department”.
Among the most successful contractors with the MSEB despite a poor track record of delivery, Shelke is said to have deep links with the underworld. There is overwhelming evidence that Sanap extorts Rs. 1,000-2,000 on per passport verification. In emergency cases, the figure goes up to Rs.10, 000. On occasions such as weddings, birthday parties, and Ganapati and Durga poojas, he extorts Rs. 1,000-5,000 for allow the use of loudspeaker. He never issues receipt to applicants. Sanap’s colleagues say he has told them he gives a cut to his superior Senior Police Inspector.
There is every bit the possibility that these policemen, builders, Shelke and the ration shape licensee are extorting money on Naik’s behalf.
Who is Ashwin Naik ?
Ashwin Naik, an electronics engineer by qualification, took charge of his gang in the 1990s after Mumbai Police killed his brother, Amar Naik alias Ravan, who led it until then. Naik has spent 10 years in prison in 18 cases of murder, extortion and criminal assault, among others, across India. He was first arrested by West Bengal Police at the Bangladesh border in 1999. In jail, Naik was accused of plotting to kill his wife Neeta Naik, a Shiv Sena Corporator, who he suspected of having an affair with her police bodyguard Laxman Zimman. Naik suffered paralysis in prison and now uses a wheelchair.
In 2010, DCP (Special Branch -1) V N Salve; Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Prakash Wani; Senior Police Inspector (Chembur) Ramesh Khakale; Assistant Police Inspector (Anti Extortion Cell) Nivrutti Kolhatkar; and Police Constable Rajendra Ghorpade — all from Mumbai Police —were suspended for attending a “freedom party” on Christmas Day in 2009 to celebrate the release of a few shooters of Bangkok-based underworld don, Chhota Rajan.
An NCP leader named Paulson Joseph, who is accused of being a gangster for Chhota Rajan, was arrested for hosting that party at the upscale Chembur Gymkhana. Close aides of Rajan — D. K. Rao, Farid Tanasha and Sunil Poddar — who had just then been released, were the toast of the evening. Rajan’s wife Sujata Nikhalje alias Nani was the chief guest.
Joseph is still in prison while Rao is out and is said to have emerged as Rajan’s right-hand man. Tanasha was shot dead in what said to be inter-gang rivalry.
The suspension orders of the police officers were subsequently withdrawn and they went back to work.
When contacted, Shyam Shelke said, “We never met Ashwin Naik. Handover matter to crime branch.”
“Meet me personally.”, said Babasaheb Yadav.