Karim Lala Biography: Grandson, Cause of Death, Wife, Family

Karim Lala Biography:

BornAbdul Karim Sher Khan
Kunar Province, Emirate of Afghanistan (present-day Afghanistan)
Died19 February 2002 (aged 90–91)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
Other namesBade Baba
OccupationSmuggling, narcotics, extortion, contract killing, illegal gambling, forced property evictions[

Karim Lala was infamous as one of the top 3 “mafia dons of Mumbai” in India for more than 2 decades from the sixties to the early eighties. Mastan Mirza aka Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudaliar being the other two big mafia dons.

Karim Lala Biography

Karim Lala born was born as Abdul Karim Sher Khan, in Shegal District of Kunar province of Afghanistan. Karim Lala was born in 1911. Karim Lala arrived in the Mumbai from Peshawar sometime between the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Karim Lala was a Pashto speaking Pathan (Pashtun) who came with his extended family from Kunar, Afghanistan to Mumbai (then Bombay) in the 1920s. His family settled in one of the most densely populated and impoverished Muslim ghetto of Bhendi Bazaar in south Mumbai.

Beginning as an ordinary worker in the Mumbai docks, Karim Lala later joined a gang of Pathans who worked as illegal recovery agents for Marwari and Gujarati money lenders, landlords and businessmen.

For over two decades, Karim Lala was the leader of the “Pathan Gang” that operated from impoverished and crime infested Muslim ghettos of South Mumbai like Dongri, Nagpada, Bhendi Bazaar and Mohammad Ali Road.

The Pathan Gang operated in illegal gambling (satta) and liquor , illegal money recovery, illegal land evictions, kidnapping, protection racket (hafta), contract killing (supari), distribution of narcotics and counterfeit currency.

Soon Karim Lala became chief of the “Pathan Gang” which became notorious for contract killings, forced evictions from property, kidnapping and extortion. The gang operated many “carrom clubs” that were a facade for illegal moneylending, gambling and betting rackets.

From the seventies, Karim Lala agreed to have a deal with the other two ganglords, Haji Mastan and Varadarajan (Varada bhai) to divide Mumbai amongst themselves so that they could freely run their criminal activities without any conflict between each other.

During his peak, Lala frequently invited many personalities from Bollywood (Hindi film industry) to his daawats (parties) and Eid celebrations. Many characters from Bollywood movies closely resemble Karim Lala and his mannerisms and accent.

Karim Lala remained friendly with his other counterparts- Haji Mastan and Varadarajan. Karim Lala was also close to Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. In 1980, Lala unsuccessfully tried to mediate peace between his nephew, Samad Khan and his rivals, Shabir Ibrahim Kaskar and Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar.

Due to failing health in the late seventies, Karim Lala gradually transferred the leadership of the Pathan gang to his nephew, Samad Khan and then managed his hotel and transport business.

The 1973 movie, Zanjeer, the writer duo, Salim–Javed created a Pathan character called “Sher Khan” (played by actor Pran) whose mannerisms resembled Karim Lala.

Widely considered to be the inspiration for the magnanimous crime lord Abdel Khader Khan in the 2003 bestselling novel Shantaram, Karim shares personal and behavioral similarities with the fictional mafia don.

Karim Lala Wife, Grandson:

Karim Lala had married to two women and had one daughter from each wife. He raised his grandson as his son.

Karim Lala Cause of Death:

Karim Lala died due to heart attack on 20 February 2002. Karim Lala was over 90 at the time.

Karim Lala Interesting facts:

  • Karim Lala was Described as a almost 7 feet tall Pashtun, in Hussain Zaidi’s book Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of Mumbai Mafia.
  • Karim Lala opened a gambling den in South Bombay. Huge profits turned him as moneylender to most customers who came to gamble. Thus, Karim Khan was renamed Karim Lala.
  • Over the 1950s and 60s, Lala expanded his business to extortion, liquor dens, forced eviction of tenants, smuggling gold and hashish among other illegal activities.
  • Karim Lala also offered his services to ‘solve disputes’ between different parties for an amount.
  • Around the 1970s, Karim Lala came to an arrangement with two other dreaded gangsters – Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudaliar.
  • Varadarajan, who hailed from Tamil Nadu, sold hooch liquor, opened gambling dens and stole dock cargo with Haji Mastan’s help, reigned supreme in areas like Dharavi and Sion-Koliwada.
  • Karim Lala, meanwhile, operated in areas of south Bombay like Pydhoni, Nagpada, Kamathipura and Nagpada.
  • Karim Lala owned three legitimate businesses. Karim had two hotels – Al Karim Hotel and New India Hotel – and also owned a travel and passport agency called New India Tours and Travels.
  • Karim Lala political power reportedly increased in the 1960s after he started the Khudai Khidmatgar. He also started Paktoonistan Jigar-e-hind that helped Pathans with employment.
  • Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut’s claim that former prime minister Indira Gandhi used to meet Karim Lala. His meeting point was at Pydhonie in South Mumbai has the Congress fuming.