“Shoot Out at Wadala” and The Belief in Reformation

[I invite the readers to note that this is a true story, and names of people are not changed.]
There are some reports in the press about “Shoot out at Wadala,” a much awaited film. Manya Surve, the most dreaded gangster was killed by the Mumbai Police in the first known encounter at Wadala near Dr Ambedkar College.

The movie brings back some old memories and some questions for which I am still seeking answers. And I remember Parsha Katkar.

If you search ‘Manya Surve’ in Wikipedia and look up the paragraph titled ‘Police Crackdown’ you will notice names of some of Manya Surve’s accomplices. And you will notice that Parshuram Katkar is one of them! More popularly known as Parsha Katkar. Parsha was an important member of the ‘Golden Gang’ of which Manya Surve was the boss.

Parsha was employed as an unskilled worker in the factory where I worked as Plant Personnel Manager. He was employed, if my memory supports me right, in 1982 which was soon after the much publicized encounter of Manya Surve. We never did police verification of persons while employing them so nobody was aware of Parsha’s antecedents. But Datta Sawant, the then Gen Secretary of Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, not to be confused with Dr Datta Samant, was aware. Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, you will recall, is the Union launched by Shiv Sena. It was on Datta Sawant’s recommendations that Parsha was employed in the factory.

Parsha maintained a very low profile, never was he involved in any incident which attracted attention. But came 1985 and the rift between Datta Sawant and Dattaji Salvi, the then President of Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, widened and created irreconcilable differences. That led to the ouster of Datta Sawant who was expelled from the Bharatiya Kamgar Sena and Shiv Sena alike.

Datta Sawant formed his union called ‘Mazdoor Kranti Union’ with the blessings of the Congress party, in particular of Govindrao Adik. He challenged his old organization at our factory which led to a strike. But in the agitation that preceded the strike, Parsha Katkar surfaced suddenly. Datta Sawant [as the hearsay goes, and it seems plausible] reminded Parsha Katkar of the favour done and asked him to ‘influence’ workers to go to Datta Sawant. Parsha was also used to hold out veiled threats to members of Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, the rival union of Datta Sawant’s Mazdoor Kranti Union.

A stage came when I had to suspend Parsha pending enquiry. I usually spoke to workers who were facing disciplinary action, and I did speak to Parsha.

He sat wiping his forehead when the suspension order was served. He did not speak a word; he seemingly listened to me, but was clearly not at all attentive and did not answer any of my questions. By now Parsha’s antecedent were known to everybody in the factory. By sheer coincidence, the High Court [or was it the Sessions Court?] passed an order holding him guilty of armed robbery in the case of Duke’s Factory, and looting of milk booth [the Wikipedia story talks of ‘heist of Rs 1.26 lakhs”]. Suddenly he was the most feared man, oh, what a change in a matter of a week or two of the agitation!

He finally got up from his seat, and gathered his thoughts and said, “I really hoped I would be able to start a new life. But it is not going to be so.”

The strike saw two murders of innocent persons, but nobody said Parsha was involved. Parsha remained loyal to his master Datta Sawant who used his image to browbeat workers in submission.
Parsha got married by the time strike ended, for his role in the strike he was dismissed from service. We later learnt that he was a diabetic and the doctors had to amputate his leg, it had become gangrenous. He did not live long after the surgery.

What I remember is the wish of a hardened criminal to begin a new life. Of getting married and starting a family. And I will remember how one’s past catches up sooner or later.

I know that he meant every word spoken before me about starting a new life. No hypocrisy there.
Parsha’s story made me believe that reformation is not adequately explored.