MUMBAI: Abdul Qader Bawla was one of the richest Muslim businessman from Mumbai in early 20th century, whose murder in 1925 at Malabar Hill created sensation. This was the earliest murder in the crime history of Mumbai, in which fire arms were used for the first time to commit a murder.
Abdul Qader Bawla belonged to a famous Memon Muslim family and did a lot of charity. A Masjid in Mumbai’s Parel area stands in his memory.
On January 12th 1925, at around 7-30 pm, when there was still twilight and people were walking on the streets of Hanging Garden at the top of Malabar Hill, Abdul Qader Bawla was travelling in his car from Gibbs Road at Kemps Corner towards Hanging Garden. Along with his driver, cleaner, his manager Mathew and a beautiful woman friend Mumtaz Begum was also in the car.
Suddenly another car, a red Maxwell, in which 5 to 6 armed men were travelling deliberately bumped into Bawla’s car due to which occupants began shouting & abusing. When both car stopped, those shouting men jumped out from their car & surrounded Bawla’s car. A couple of them even mounted on the foot-boards on either sides. They were hired killers and gangsters armed with pistols, knife and kukri.
They first tried to snatch away the woman Mumtaz Begum from the car, who cried and resisted. Abdul Qader Bawla tried to protect her from kidnappers and gangsters. One of the gangster slashed the face of Mumtaz Begum with a kukri, which resulted in a deep wound.
The intention was clear that they wanted to disfigure that beautiful woman. Another person fired more than one round from his pistol at Abdul Qader bawla, which wounded him seriouously. The injuries were so grievous that in a very short time, Bawla was dead.
Fortunately for them, another car drove down from behind in which three British Military Officers were travelling. Lt Saegrat, Lt Bately, Lt Stephen immediately ran to rescue those surrounded by gangsters. Lt Saegrat was also fired at by desperadoes when he pounced upon them.
Although he was injured in the firing, he overpowered all the gangsters along with his colleague military officers and with the help of another British Military officer Col. Vickery, who also reached the spot. Mumtaz Begum was rescued and bid to disfigure and kidnap her was foiled. She was escorted by British officers in their own car. They handed over the criminals to the police.
The woman, Mumtaz Begum, was a court dancer of Maharaja of Indore for 10 years. She told the police that she was fed up with her life in the princely Harem. She succeeded to flee away from the gilded cage.
After staying at Delhi, Napur and other places, she found shelter at Abdul Qader Bawla’s home. She wanted to marry him.
From the evidences of the case, it transpired that a conspiracy was hatched to avenge this slur on the dignity of Darbar and to reclaim, if possible or to teach the beautiful rebel a fierce lesson. The trial of killers of Bawla also evoked sensation in those days.
Abdul Qader Bawla had a licensed pistol but at the time of murder it was evident that he did not have it with him. Evidence proved that all shots fired in the incident were from the pistols of fugitive and not from Bawla’s pistol.
The court sentenced 3 main accused, Shafi Ahmed Nabi Ahmed, Pushpsheel Balwant Rao Ponde and Sham Rao Revji Dighe to death, another 3 for life sentence.
It is interesting to note that Bar. Mohammed Ali Jinnah stood as Defence Lawyer of Sardar Anand Rao Ganga Ram Phanse, who was convicted for abetment and conspiracy. Bawla murder case and trial is one of the most important crime cases in the history of Bombay.