Anurag Kashyap’s recent offering Gangs of Wasseypur, a film about revenge and inter- gang rivalry, is a dramatised account of what is said to have occurred in the 1980s in Wasseypur, a small town in Jharkhand that was earlier a part of Bengal and later Bihar.
In the pre-Independence era, the town was set up by the British as a colony of labourers. It is reportedly named after Wassey Saheb, a former ‘sheriff’ of the area. Located in Dhanbad district, also known as India’s coal capital, the town is Muslim-dominated, with a population of around 200,000.
Dhanbad, along with 20 other districts in Jharkhand, receives funds from the Backward Regions Grant Fund Programme. The Government in 2006 named Dhanbad one of the country’s ‘250 most backward districts’.
After Independence, a coal mafia started operating here. But it was in the 1980s, when two scrap mafia gangs got involved in a bloody rivalry, that the town earned its notoriety. The two gangs were led by Fahim Khan and Shabir Alam. Khan’s father, believed to be a feared man in the area, ran a taxi at Dhanbad railway station. Khan grew up to become a scrap dealer, but his business was challenged by Alam. As the sordid little saga goes, the two gangs also fought over extortion money from contractors engaged in coal lifting and railway tenders.
Their rivalry led to many deaths. But the frequency of the fights came down after Khan and Alam were jailed around eight years ago. Khan, accused in at least 56 cases, is serving a life sentence for a double murder. Alam, jailed in a murder case, recently got out on bail.
In Anurag Kashyap’s film, Nawazuddin Siddique’s character Faizal Khan is believed to have been modelled on Fahim Khan.