Manohar Arjun Surve (8 August 1944 – 11 January 1982), popularly known as Manya Surve, was one of the dons who made an impact in the Mumbai underworld. Being a Hindu, he was denied acceptance in the underworld. Enraged, he decided to form his own gang. In just two years, his gang rose to such prominence that Pathans, who ruled the underworld for over two decades, sought his help to eliminate the leader of their arch rival gang, the Konkani speaking Kaskar group. It was headed by Dawood Ibrahim's elder brother, Sabir. Manya was known for his dare devilry and strategic planning. For Manya, it was a clear shot to success. The top gang of the city had come asking him for help and in doing so he would eliminate the other, and therefore become, as he said, "Bambai ka naya baap, Manya Surve." Thus was born the legend of Manya Surve, the first desperado in the Bombay gangland. The first educated Hindu gangster, who hailed from an area called Agar Bazaar in the suburbs of Dadar. Manohar Surve, a young man, fresh out of Kirti College got implicated in a murder that he did not commit and was sentenced to life in Yerwada Jail.
Each and every one involved in Sabir's gruesome murder met with a worse fate. All except Manya Surve. He vanished in the city like a needle in a haystack. Dawood and his boys were unable to trace him. Around the same time, the Bombay Police had decided that enough was enough. They would no longer stand on the side as onlookers. The best in the force were assembled to send out one strong message to the underworld: No more nonsense. And thus was launched Operation Manya Surve. Inspectors Isaque Bagwan and Raja Tambhat were put in charge. Manya Surve's death in 1982 during an encounter with the Maharashtra police became known as the city's first recorded encounter killing. However, the spate of encounter killings only increased in the late 1980s and further rose after the 1993 Mumbai bombings; a total of 622 alleged criminals were killed in police encounters from 1982 to 2004.
Born in 1944 in the Umarga Tahsil of the Osmanabad District in the Marathwada region of the erstwhile Hyderabad State, Surve moved to Mumbai with his mother and stepfather in 1952. He was a BA graduate from Kirti College and got 78% at that time and formed a gang of students during his years there was his best friend Sumesh Desai, through influence of his stepbrother Bhargav Dada. Bhargav was a feared thug from Agar Bazar in Dadar. In 1969, Surve was involved in the murder of a man named Dandekar, along with his step brother and an associate, Manya Podhkar. The trio were soon arrested by Police Inspector E.S. Dabholkar and were subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment.
Imprisonment and escape
While incarcerated at the Yerwada Central Jail in [Pune], Surve developed a fierce rivalry with another gangster, Suhas Bhatkar a.k.a. "Potya Bhai". Annoyed by Surve’s terror tactics, the prison authorities had him transferred to Ratnagiri jail. There, he took part in a hunger strike and lost almost 20 kg, before being shifted to the local civil hospital. Surve utilised this opportunity to successfully evade custody on 14 November 1979, and returned to Mumbai, having served over nine years of his sentence.
After his return to Mumbai, Surve formed a gang and recruited his two trusted lieutenants, Sheikh Munir from Dharavi and Vishnu Patil from Dombivili. They were soon joined by another hood, Uday in March, 1980.
The gang's first robbery took place on 5 April 1980, in which they stole an Ambassador car. The vehicle was later used to loot Rs 5,700 from Laxmi Trading Company near Currey Road. On 15 April, the gang savagely assaulted and almost killed Sheikh Aziz, an enemy of Sheikh Munir, near Kala Killa in the Dharavi slum. On 30 April, they stabbed a police constable when he was escorting gang rival, Vijay Ghadge to a police station in Dadar.
Borrowing the plot from a James Hadley Chase novel which he had read in prison, Surve decided to loot money from the government milk scheme in a bid to gain recognition from the leaders of the Mumbai underworld. The gang with the addition of Dayanand, Parshuram Katkar, and Kishore Sawant stole a car near Badal Bijlee Barkha in Mahim, and went on to execute a heist of Rs 1.26 lakh near Govandi. The stolen vehicle was later found abandoned near National College in Bandra, exactly as penned in the Chase novel.
Another famous robbery undertaken by Manya Surve's gang included Rs 1.6 lakh from Canara Bank’s branch on Sion-Trombay road and Duke and Sons Company at Deonar. Manya Surve's criminal activities was not only confined to heists and robberies. He was also involved in narcotics trafficking, as he saw that the profits derived from it was considerable.
The gang's various successful heists and robberies brought a tremendous amount of heat on Manya Surve and his gang. As a result, the police were put under great pressure and they launched Operation Manya Surve to capture Surve and curb his gang's activities.
On 22 June 1981, Sheikh Munir was picked up from a chemical company near Kalyan. A few days later, Dayanand and Parshuram Katkar were arrested at a lodge in Goregoan. Anticipating his capture, Surve slipped into an aide’s hideout in Bhiwandi on 19 November 1981. When police squads finally broke into the apartment, they recovered a hand grenade, a country-made revolver and some live ammunition.
Surve was finished after systematic police operations led to a breakdown of his gang's activities. After the arrest of his cohort Uday, he was the only remaining member of the gang who was not in prison.
On 11 January 1982, he was coming out of a taxi in the Ambedkar College junction in Wadala. It was believed Mumbai police received a tip off from Dawood Ibrahim that Manya Surve would be arriving at a beauty parlour near the Ambedkar college junction in Wadala. At around 1.30 pm, 18 Crime Branch officers split into three crack teams and waited for him to arrive. After twenty minutes, Surve was spotted coming out of a taxi to pick up his girlfriend, Vidya.
After noticing the squad closed in and took positions, Surve took out his Webley & Scott revolver. However, before he could squeeze the trigger, Surve was mortally wounded by two police officers Raja Tambat and Isaque Bagwan, who fired five bullets into his chest and shoulder.
Surve was dragged from the scene and put on an ambulance. While on the way to KEM Hospital, he kept screaming that the police had not given him a fair chance to defend himself. He succumbed to his injuries a few minutes later. It took more than 30 minutes by the police van to cover 12 minutes distance to KEM Hospital.This encounter was the end of Surve's two year spree of urban crime. Short lived, but in his two years, Manya Surve did such substantial damage to Dawood Ibrahim, which no one has been able to do till date. It is generally believed that it was the underworld don Dawood who tipped off the police about his whereabouts, after finding his position being challenged by Surve.
In popular culture
The life of Manya Surve is the basis for the 2013 Bollywood film Shootout at Wadala, starring John Abraham who portrays Manya Surve, was released on 3 May 2013. The Movie though did not reveal exact life story but portrayed almost everything. The film was a box-office hit by making around Rs. 75 crores ($11 mn).
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