Former journalist S Balakrishnan won the bid of gangster Dawood Ibrahim’s hotel in Mumbai on December 9. Now he wants to run a centre for the people of Bhendi Bazaar, where the hotel exists through his voluntary organisation Desh Seva Samiti. Talking to Organiser Sr Correspondent Pramod Kumar over telephone he said he is happy that efforts to thwart from across the border did not succeed and the honour of Bharatmata had been upheld. Excerpts:
- What prompted you to take this decision as it involves big risk?
This was third attempt to auction the property of Dawood. Earlier, people displayed reluctance to take part in this process twice because of fear of the Don. Nobody had turned up during the first auction. I felt very bad that people feared so much from a person sitting in Pakistan. I then requested Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram to put all properties of Dawood in government use, otherwise my NGO is willing to buy some of them at the base price. But I did not get any response from the Government. After many reminders they told me to talk to Chief Secretary of the State. In fact, the Chief Secretary had nothing to do in this matter. Therefore, when the third auction was announced I decided to show that there are people in the country who are not afraid of any Dawood. After all, how can anybody sitting in Pakistan threat the 125 crore people of Bharat.
- What will you do of this property?
I run an NGO called Desh Sewa Samiti for the past 10 years. The whole idea is to serve the nation. This property is at Pakmodia Street in Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai. We already run computer training institutes and centres for gender justice. This is a hotel, but we are not interested in commercial use of it. Here we would run centres for training children and gender justice, etc.
- Didn’t you get threats from the Don?
Yes. Many times. When the news that Desh Seva Samiti is going to take part in the auction flashed on different news channels, I started getting threats from Pakistan. They warned me that I would be commiting suicide if I participated in the auction. Nevertheless, we did not give up to any pressure. On December 9 we took part in the auction and deposited the earnest money also.
- Any threat after winning the bid?
I have come to know that Dawood and his group is very upset over this development. They were not expecting it to happen. The police have given protection. I have full faith in the people of this country. I am doing it to save the honour of Bharatmata, which is very dear to me. She is more than my actual mother. I will not let anybody do any dishonour to Bharatmata.
We have to deposit rest of the amount within one month. I have appealed to the people to contribute. We expect from rupee one to rupees one crore from people. I am willing to give receipt and also income certificate for every contribution. Everything will be transparent so that we can remove the fear from the mind of the people about Dawood and the underworld. This is not the property of Dawood. It is government’s property that I have purchased. Therefore nobody should have any objection.
- You gained courage to take part in the bid. But don’t you think there should be a law in the country to use such properties for public good by the government itself?
Yes, I totally agree with you. If nobody turns up to take part in the bid, the government should take this decision. This is what I had suggested to the UPA government in writing. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has no office in Mumbai. I had suggested the UPA government to give that property to them. But I don’t know what prevented the government from doing it. Through this move I have been able to sensitise millions of people across the country and firmly say that don’t be afraid of the underworld or any other anti-national element. Nobody should be allowed to tamper with the respect of Bharatmata. We do have this type of patriotic feeling, but the problem is that people are not willing to come forward. I am trying to create that vigour in them.
- How will you collect the funds from public for this project?
I have appealed to everybody. We have to raise this fund within 25 days. It is huge amount. But I am optimistic that we will do that.
- If somebody wants to contribute in the fund how he/she can?
People can directly deposit the amount in the following Account: A/c Name: Desh Seva Samiti
Bank: Bharat Co-operative Bank, Chembur Branch, Mumbai
A/c No.: 000412100052409, IFC Code: BCBM0000005
E-mail: [email protected] n