The Woman Who Interviewed Dawood Ibrahim. Not Just Once (2024)

The Woman Who Interviewed Dawood Ibrahim. Not Just Once (1)

Journalist Sheela Bhatt who interviewed Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai in 1988.

New Delhi:

She says she first met fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim when he was a small-time criminal and was "just emerging". She met him multiple times over the years and also interviewed him, both in India and Dubai.

She is seasoned journalist Sheela Bhatt, who sent the interwebs buzzing when she posted a throwback picture last month featuring her and Dawood Ibrahim, India's most wanted.

The picture was taken in 1988 when Ms Bhatt, whose journalism career spans four decades, visited Dubai to interview the don, who is wanted for multiple terror activities in India, including the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts.

It was Ms Bhatt's picture in Chitralekha magazine with Karim Lala, a mafia don of Mumbai in the late 1970s, which got her Dawood's attention.

Dawood called her to help write against the alleged harassment of the girls in a government remand home on Mohammad Ali Road in Mumbai by the men of Karim Lala, she said in the interview.

"Aap Karim Lala ko mil leto ho. Kaise hamari bachiyon ko pareshan karte hain, aap ispe likhye ( You met Karim Lala. You please write about how his men are harassing the girls)," Dawood said over the phone, she told her interviewer.

"Dawood was just an emerging man and his bosses were Marwari, Sindhi, Punjabi," she said, adding in 1981-82 he was "just a criminal".

Shortly after that telephone call, the first interview happened. She went with her husband to meet the don.

"First, they called us at Tanker Street near Jail Road (Mumbai). Then they got us in a car with tinted windows and took us to Pakmodia Street, which I knew," she said.

"Then we met. Me, my husband, Dawood and Chhota Shakeel (Dawood's aide)," she said.

"He was doing the small talk. The only thing he wanted to say was that Karim Lala is a bad man," she said.

A few years after that meeting, Ms Bhatt said she again met the don in a Baroda jail.

At the time, Ms Bhatt was living in Bombay (now Mumbai) and would visit Gujarat to report.

She managed to gain access and visited Baroda jail. To her surprise, she found Dawood playing football in there.

"Dawood said he won't spare Alamzeb ( who used to run Karim Lala's businesses in Mumbai) and I wrote about it. It came true as Alamzeb died sometime after the article was published," she said.

There was no contact for the next 2-3 years, she said.

In 1987, Dawood called again. This time from Dubai, according to her.

After several calls, she got an appointment and flew to Dubai in 1988 to interview him about the drug business but her real worry wasn't meeting Dawood.

"I was more worried about the money spent on ticket (Rs 3,500) than meeting Dawood," she said, adding she "had no fear" and had previously interviewed or met Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Chhota Rajan, Varadarajan Mudaliar, Yusuf Patel, Haji Mastan, Arun Gawli - all dreaded names in the underworld.

Asked if she was sent by someone to interview Dawood, she shot back: "Main No 1 ki reporter hoon ( I am the No 1 reporter)."

On the first day in Dubai, Dawood said no to the interview and said "let's eat".

She came back the next day and he still denied her the interview, but chatted a lot. At one point even tried on Italian suits, asking for her impressions.

"Modelling kar raha tha (He was modelling)," she said.

The interview happened on the third day but she was not allowed to tape it.

"He saw my diary and took it. Then talked about the three murders in which he was involved including Alamzeb's. He said "Agar main usey nahi marta toh who mujhe maar deta. Bolo Sheela ji mujhe usey nahi maarna chahiye tha (If I had not killed him, he would have killed me. You tell me, Sheela ji, should I not have killed him)". I did not say anything., I was just reporting," she said.

The Woman Who Interviewed Dawood Ibrahim. Not Just Once (2)

Sheela Bhatt's diary where she recorded all the phone numbers, gangsters included.

"He had the trust that I will write the things as they are and not twist his words," she told her interviewer.

Recalling her last conversation, she said it was in 2002 when Pervez Musharraf was visiting India.

In that conversation, she gave him the example of Phoolan Devi.

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The Woman Who Interviewed Dawood Ibrahim. Not Just Once (2024)
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