Mumbai, Aug. 16: A Thane don whose mother was sentenced to life imprisonment earlier this month was shot dead in an early morning encounter at Kolhapur yesterday.
Suresh Manchekar, the only major underworld don not to have fled the country, had been operating from Madhya Pradesh after fleeing Maharashtra. Police were hot on his heels for the last six months, launching Operation Crack Gangster to nab him.
Even as they closed the net on the desi don, who has 31 criminal cases registered against him, police systematically eliminated Manchekars sharp-shooters. Twenty-four of his hitmen have been killed in encounters across Maharashtra over the last three years.
On August 5, Manchekars 77-year-old mother, Laxmi Dhanraj was sentenced for the murder of Mumbai builder Mahendra Khanvilkar. Police alleged the conspiracy to kill Khanvilkar was hatched in the presence of Laxmi, who is considered a godmother figure.
Laxmi was also accused of sheltering the accused after they committed the murder and arranging their escape.
But this is not the end of the road for the Manchekar gang. Ravindra Angre, senior police officer with the Thane crime branch, says seven or eight members of the gang that had terrorised Thane, Kalyan, Dombivili, Ullhasnagar and Mumbai, are still active.
Angre, who is credited with some of the most daring and controversial encounters and who shot Manchelkar dead near a hotel in Kolhapur yesterday, says: Many of his sharpshooters are down but a few of them are very active as Manchekar had spread his terror net very deep. He has left behind quite some work for the police force. The clean up exercise is under way now.
Manchekars is a tale straight out of a celluloid thriller. The gangster, who did not ally with dons like Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel, Chhota Rajan and Abu Salem, started out as a pickpocket stalking the alleys of central Mumbai in the early 1980s.
Manchekar was content to shift base from one state to another rather than flee the country as other dons have done.
The 42-year-old committed his first murder in 1986, but entered the big league only after his high-profile killing of a Shiv Sena corporator in 1994.
Manchekar mostly concentrated on extortion from people into real estate and had a long list of victims, around 60-70, Angre said.
He had made Thane his fiefdom. The don reportedly has around 200 goons working under him. Thane police chief Suprakash Chakravarty termed Manchekars death an Independence Day gift to Mumbai.