Why India was never interested in nabbing Dawood Ibrahim

Much noise has emerged about his arrest without any real success.

 |  6-minute read |   27-05-2016
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Dawood Ibrahim has been away for so long that we think of him as nothing, but a Pakistani smuggler helping terror groups wage a war on India. But he was born in India in 1955, and till 1986, was as much Indian as the rest of us.

He was very much a part of the Mumbai underworld that we Indians admire so much and which Bollywood glorifies frequently. He was also admired and respected by those in the police force and used as a tool to settle scores.

Dawood had great political links. In fact, when he fled to Dubai in 1986, it was due to a tip-off from a senior politician in the Mantralaya (the Maharashtra state government headquarters), or so goes the legend.

He fled to Dubai and flourished there - a city Indians admire despite the fact that many anti-India plots have been hatched there.

The "nab Dawood" whispers probably started only after the 1993 Mumbai blasts. (Incidentally, Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt was also convicted in the same case. Despite that, he continues to be a much-admired personality in the country.)

dawood-bd_052716015358.jpg In 1986, Dawood was such a romanticised figure that most Indians wanted him to get away.

I have used the word "admire" frequently for it shows the reality of how, secretly, we idolise the bad guys. This feeling of ambivalence was neatly summed up by one of my friends who stated, "So great is Dawood that he deserves the Bharat Ratna! But after getting the award, he should promptly be hanged."

In 1986, Dawood was such a romanticised figure that most Indians wanted him to get away. We simply didn’t have the political will to go after him. Those in power, who could have nabbed him, were either in cahoots with him or simply paid off. The people of India were content to hear his tales and lament about how impotent our politicians were. (Politician bashing is one of India's favourite sports.)

Nobody honestly believed that we could nab Dawood. So the underworld don proceeded with great impunity. He lived in a lavish, well-guarded house in Karachi (the Mumbai of Pakistan) and operated his business and funds out of Dubai.

To rub salt in the wounds of Indians, his daughter was married to the son of Javed Miandad, probably the most-hated Pakistani cricketer of all time in India.

And that’s how it went all along. No one really wanted to nab Dawood. Nobody really tried. Nobody cared.

The Dawood chapter also exposes our diffident relationship with Pakistan. Pakistan has always been our weaker little brother, but also a bully who keeps provoking us. We are just too scared to take the first step to rein Islamabad in.

Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, after token opposition, meekly gave in to the demand for the creation of Pakistan without a fight. And then watched helplessly as millions died in the Partition riots.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru listlessly watched as Pakistan grabbed a chunk of Kashmir and, today, we have the Valley only because both Maharaja Hari Singh (the titular head) and Sheikh Abdullah (the popular head) decided to accede to India.

Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri gave Pakistan the upper hand in the Rann of Kutch conflict and the subsequent war ended in a stalemate. In fact, we lost Shastri during the Tashkent peace talks. (How did he die? Was he killed? Nobody seems to care!)

After the 1971 war, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi held a great measure of Pakistani territory and a lot of Pakistani POWs, but gained zero advantage from them. The war itself took place because we couldn’t handle refugees from East Pakistan, and not because we wanted to teach West Pakistan a lesson.

Pakistan still holds some of our peaks captured during the 1999 Kargil War, but somehow nobody wants to talk about them.

rishi-bd_052716020203.jpg The Bollywood film D Day brilliantly captures the sad reality of the "Nab Dawood" situtation.

They have been sending Pakistani-trained terrorists into J&K for more than 20 years at last count, but we have responded meekly at best. We will never wage a war with Pakistan on our own. We will not engage in any hot pursuit.

During the Kargil War, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee refused to even enter Pakistani territory and the Indian Air Force had to take a sharp turn back after bombing sorties for the fear of entering Pakistani airspace. (Even PoK airspace.)

India has never had the stomach for strong "action" (only strong "reactions" and that too only when pushed to the wall). So nabbing Dawood Ibrahim from under Pakistan's nose is too strong an action for Indian authorities (and even the admiring citizens) to stomach.

When the Modi regime took over in 2014, people expected a change. It is true that Dawood’s operations were squeezed out of Dubai and he has been severely marginalised there. However, there are no shortage of smuggling and money laundering joints in the world. In fact, reports are emerging that Dawood may have started a drug smuggling racket via Nepal. And that’s closer to home than Dubai.

US President Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy was: "Speak softly, and carry a big stick."

But then too much noise has emerged from India about nabbing Dawood without any real plans or actions. It’s a case of speaking loudly with a small stick.

After all the loud noise, Pakistani authorities simply removed Dawood from the main city to the outskirts of Karachi, and then to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Now, reports emerge that he is hiding in Afghanistan and that complicates matters further. Afghanistan is a friendly country and there are lawless areas there. So, it is even more difficult to nab Dawood here.

It’s been two years since the new government took over. If we had to nab Dawood, we could have simply done it by now.

In fact, the Bollywood film D Day brilliantly captures the sad reality of the whole situation:

The prime minister doesn’t give "direct" orders, so the RAW chief goes ahead on his own. When the mission goes wrong, his deputy, instead of evacuating the team, orders their liquidation. When Pakistan comes to know of the plot, it plans to kill Dawood instead.

Then India finally gets its act together and saves Dawood. But when the don enters Indian soil, he laughs and says he’s soon going to become a celebrity and have a good time in India because the system won’t be able to nail him and he’ll get away.

Our hero then shoots him point blank in disgust and grandly declares that this is the "new India”. Everything except the last part seems plausible!

In fact D Day already seems to be playing out in real life from the Pakistani viewpoint, at least. There are reports that Dawood may already be dead. He is supposed to have gangrene in his legs, which may have been cut off. There is a conspiracy theory that the Pakistani authorities decided to cut losses and do away with him.

Previously, Dawood was a sitting duck in Karachi. Now he is a mobile target and may already have become a ghost. There is no chance we can catch him now.

But the larger question is who all in the Mumbai Police and Maharashtra government helped him? Who is the senior politician who helped him get away? Isn’t that more important?

No one killed Jessica.

And nobody helped Dawood get away. No one worked with Dawood anyway.

When a nation really wants to do something, there is a good chance it will happen.

When it has no intent, what hope is there? Let’s face it: We never wanted to nab Dawood in the first place.

Writer

Sunil Rajguru Sunil Rajguru @sunilrajguru

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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