Mumbai, July 6: Appealing aromas waft from quaint roadside food stalls that sprout magically at dusk in Dongri during Ramazan, drawing diners from across religions.
On Sunday, Dongri was a mausoleum, waiting to bury Dawood Ibrahim’s beloved younger sister in fear and silence.
Haseena Parkar, 56, handler of Dawood’s legal and illegal businesses, infamous as “the Lady Don of Dongri”, had died of a heart attack in the early hours today. The rest of the day had been a hushed whisper here.
Haseena leaves behind two daughters and a son — her eldest son Danish was killed in a road accident.
While police put up barricades to keep revellers and food adventurers out of Dongri and adjoining Nagpada, D-Company loyalists kept Dongri stilled. Enthusiastic outsiders, reporters and camera-folk who weaved their way in were watched or warned away.
Lady Don — Haseena Apa (sister) to the Dimtimkar locality of Dongri — had continued to live here even after Dawood and his family fled India after the 1993 Bombay blasts.
She had been inducted into D-Company just two years before, when her husband and Dawood aide Ismail Parkar was shot dead in Dongri by gangster Arun Gawli’s men.
She had learnt the ropes quickly. Such was her writ that she just walked into a massive apartment building in the area one day, threw out all the occupants within half an hour and took it for herself — just because she fancied it.
“None of the occupants or owners even whimpered a complaint. She continued to occupy the entire seventh floor in the landmark Gordon House till her death. Her gang members and Dawood loyalists guarded the building,” a police source said.
Known to be involved in almost every shady business in the area, Haseena’s business was what the police here call “care-taking” of a special kind.
“She had her finger in every illegal pie she fancied, got them facilitated and took hefty cuts, all in the name of Dawood. She took care of his flock and those who swore by her and had a Robin Hood-type reputation among some. They were her security system and cushion,” a police source said.
Haseena kept her interactions with Dawood to a minimum to reduce the possibility of intelligence interceptions. They kept in touch through a strong network of messengers. He apparently sent her Rs 2 crore as a sort of maintenance every month.
A week before her death, Haseena, diabetic and suffering from runaway blood pressure and sugar levels, had received a call from her brother who was worried about her, a top police source said.
Around 2.30am, Haseena complained of chest discomfort and was rushed to Dongri’s 80-bed super-speciality Habib Hospital, which looks deceptively rundown on the outside.
Some of Mumbai’s top physicians are attached to this little-known hospital but despite their best efforts, Haseena died of cardiac arrest around an hour later.
“Dawood’s men kept giving him a blow-by-blow account from the time she was rushed to the hospital till she was declared dead,” the police source said.
“Our interceptions reveal that he was speaking from somewhere in the UAE and was very distressed by the news. At one point, there was even chatter of his coming to her funeral. But later they decided he would watch her funeral through video-streaming via Skype.”
The police say they cannot stop anyone if they videograph the funeral, due around 5am on Monday.
Haseena’s family will bury her at the Marine Line graveyard after a nightlong vigil at Mastan Talao, a local park, “to enable people to pay their last respects”, a police source quoted her family as saying.
Mumbai crime branch officers say Dawood had left back around 54 benami properties for Haseena to manage.
“She managed his extortion business, acquired overseas rights to Bollywood films, ran hawala rackets, meddled in Mumbai’s famous cable wars, and settled disputes in return for hefty fees,” the source said. “But of late, her health issues had become a hurdle for her to physically run the operations. Dawood’s brother Iqbal Kaskar, who returned to India a few years ago, has been helping her and is expected to take over from her.”
In 1982, Dawood had donated Rs 5,000 to Mumbai’s Bada Kabrastan trust to book burial places for all his family members, including himself, at the graveyard at Chandanwadi in the Marine Lines.
“Even today, maintenance money is paid regularly to the Kabrastan authorities to maintain the burial place. It is here that Dawood’s mother Ameena Bi, father Ibrahim, brother Sabeer and brother-in-law Ismail Parkar have been buried. It is here that Haseena will be buried too,” said the source.