26 May 2024 09:00 AM


Vappala Balachandran | 13 NOVEMBER, 2015

Mumbai Police Demoralised As Delhi Listens To Chhota Rajan, Transfers Case To CBI

CBI headquarters in Delhi turned into a fortress before Chhota Rajan’s arrival

MUMBAI: Debates on the visual and print media soon after the Bharatiya Janata party’s humiliating defeat in Bihar elections listed several reasons for their failure, prominent being the leadership’s imperious management style, derisive attitude towards political opponents and egocentric projection of Prime Minister’s international fame. An added criticism was the deterioration of security within India and neighbourhood through needless muscle flexing by our immodest national security management.

I wanted to highlight only one instance of a unilateral New Delhi decision which had totally demoralized the Maharashtra police of which I was a proud member in my initial 17 years of service. Till November 3 it was presumed that gangster Chhota Rajan would be brought to Mumbai after his arrest in Bali on October 25. It was Mumbai Crime Branch’s revised “Red Corner Notice” which had resulted in his arrest as he was wanted in 75 serious crimes in Maharashtra. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had publicly assured that Rajan would be brought to Mumbai and the Commissioner of Police would be speaking to the press.

This decision was suddenly reversed by some unseen hand(s) by the time the Don reached New Delhi in royal style in a special Gulfstream III aircraft. His security reminded us of the fabled protection arrangements of Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein with long convoys and body doubles. The mighty Indian security system was so scared of Dawood’s sharp shooters that they had to perform these theatrics. In that process the underworld status of Rajan soared high. On November 5 Maharashtra government was forced to hand over all cases against Rajan to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and to announce that he would be kept in Delhi.

The Mumbai public who had suffered Rajan gang’s excesses were clueless why the sudden change had occurred. Media speculated that a high official from the Union Home Ministry had spoken to the Chief Minister. From then on we heard parrot like repetitions from State officials that “United Nations Transnational Crime Treaty” necessitated handing over all such cases to a federal police. I have studied the 2004 UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and Protocols. There is no such clause. So which “Treaty” are we talking about?

The public would not be wrong in concluding that this was done to help Rajan. In that process the reputation of Mumbai Police nose-dived.

Visuals from Bali had shown a hassled Rajan in fetters complaining that he did not “trust” Mumbai Police. Some sensationalist TV debaters had alleged that Mumbai Police had deliberately surprised a retired intelligence chief on July 11, 2005 while he was meeting Chotta Rajan’s key henchman in New Delhi for an anti-Dawood operation. No question was asked why that chief could not hide sensitive meetings through long established intelligence tradecraft and why he should have met a wanted criminal in a public place.

Could Mumbai police be blamed if they were on the trail of absconding gangsters? Were Rajan’s henchmen exempted from Indian penal laws just because they were “patriotic”? Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s mollifying remarks on November 10 after the Bihar defeat that there was “no lack of trust” in Mumbai police came too late.

Also, can the CBI do better than any state police? Not many people know that in 1992 the CBI was in possession of Pakistan’s extensive subversive plans when they were investigating a 1992 terror case. These were strikingly similar to the March 1993 serial Mumbsi blasts. A landmark Supreme Court judgment 2001(1) Crimes 115(SC) gives details. Yet they did not share details with Bombay Police who would have otherwise prepared themselves at least psychologically when 13 serial bombs hit the city on March 12, 1993.

On 12 December 1991 Lal Singh, a Khalistani terrorist reached Bombay through Colombo under a fictitious passport as Mohammed Iqbal along with an ISI asset Mohammed Shariff who traveled as Manzoor Ahmed. One Col. Hafiz-ur-Rehman from the ISI was their controlling officer. They then went in different directions all over India for over 6 months, meeting co-conspirators, storing arms and explosives and hiring safe houses.

On 1 July 1992 Lal Singh visited Madras with an Indian accomplice for organizing a “recce” of the Madras Stock Exchange building which they wanted to blow up. Their conspiracy could not succeed as Lal Singh was arrested on July 16, 1992 at Dadar railway station by the Bombay Police on suspicion. He would have been released had the Gujarat Police not intervened as they suspected his identity. His interrogation revealed 2 safe houses in Ahmedabad where 35 AK-47 rifles, 14 pistols, 4 rocket launchers, remote controlled bombs and huge quantity of explosives were stored. On 4 August 1992 the Gujarat police handed over the case to the CBI in view of its national importance. Mohammed Sharif was arrested only on 18 June 1993 from Gorakhpur.

However the CBI did not reveal Lal Singh’s plans of blowing up the Madras Stock Exchange to Bombay Police, who after Dawood’s serial Bombay blasts on March 12, 1993 which included Bombay Stock Exchange also, blamed LTTE even as on March 14, 1993. Would the Bombay Police have suspected the LTTE in March 1993 had they been privy to Lal Singh’s plans of bombing Madras Stock exchange the previous year?

This raises another question- Why was the CBI, which took over Lal Singh’s investigation in August 1992, unable to detect a brewing parallel conspiracy to cause serious blasts in March next year in Bombay after Lal Singh had spilled the beans since both were planned by Pakistan on a similar modus operandi?

It is commonly understood that the March 1993 serial Mumbai blasts were planned by Dawood who was upset by the Post Babri Masjid demolition riots in Bombay during December 1992--- January 1993. This writer however strongly believes that the ISI would have planned such blasts on parallel tracks much earlier, one using Lal Singh and the second by Dawood for similar targets for which prolonged advance planning was required. It would not have been possible for ISI to train Dawood’s men within a short time available between December 1992 and 12 March 1993 when the serial bombing took place. While the Bombay conspiracy worked, the other by Lal Singh aborted through chance good work done by the Bombay/Gujarat Police.