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The Rediff Interview/Mumbai Police Commissioner R S Sharma
September 16, 2003
Mumbai Police Commissioner Ranjit S Sharma is perhaps the city's most troubled personality. After successfully serving in many departments including the Special Protection Group (which provides security to prime ministers) in the early 1990s, his current assignment is hardly enviable.
Since he assumed office in January, Mumbai has been under constant threat, face to face with terror. After the Mumbai blasts, not just Sharma, but the Maharashtra government itself has come under tremendous pressure to arrest the terrorists.
To make matters worse, Sharma's police force is divided after embarrassing revelations in the stamps scandal, where police officers have been accused of being in cahoots with the main accused.
In spite of such adverse circumstances, Sharma has produced results. The Mumbai police's Crime Branch has busted 'cells,' which planned and executed the blasts. The police commissioner tells Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt that the Mumbai police should be complimented for its investigation.
The Mumbai Blasts
The serial blasts last December, then in January, March, July and the last two blasts in August -- we have been able to detect all the blasts so far. I am proud of my boys to have done it.
I had very categorically mentioned that Lashkar-e-Tayiba, which is Pakistan-based, and SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) joined hands and perpetrated these blasts. The Padgha (village near Thane) module was one and Kurla (a suburb in Mumbai) module was another. The two were totally different.
No. In normal terrorist activities there is always a cut-off point. But at the top, directions were coming from the same people. Blasts are all well-planned operations. Still, we were able to have a breakthrough. We could arrest people.
We have recovered 250 cases of bombs, rifles, 9 imported pistols. We recovered a big cache of arms. A very good job was done by my Crime Branch team.
In Padgha village, in front of the television camera, 250 bomb cases were recovered. That is why they were taken aback.
I don't have to go there and tell them "you trust us." Mumbai is facing violence. Someone is harbouring foreigners here. Men from Pakistan who came here were harboured by someone for the last six months. Whether he trusts the police or does not is not a matter for the police to decide.
Two dead bodies are lying here. No one has claimed it because they are Pakistanis. We believe they must have stayed in Padgha.
The Mumbai police will not go to Pakistan to get these kind of weapons and 250 hand bombs. It's for them to decide.
So it's better if they (the residents of Padgha) start trusting (the investigations) and people in general become more alert. Everyone has to be alert because the enemy's face is not known.
Somebody who is coming from Pakistan should not be sheltered if they really want to stop bomb blasts in Mumbai. In a city of one-and-a-half-crore which is the financial capital of the country, 20,000 staff from the Mumbai police are not enough.
Anybody can travel in any bus and leave a small bag in any corner and get down. So everybody has to be alert and everybody should join hands to fight terrorism. It's not a question of trusting or not trusting the police. We are not discussing trust in the police, we are taking on terrorism.
Many former city police commissioners have criticised the working of the police. Many critics have questioned the identity of the accused.
What credibility! It is a rare investigation. In just four days people who planted the bombs were detected. People should praise the Mumbai police sky high. I am getting so many calls from abroad. My officers have done an excellent job.
They were selected because they could pass off as the commuting public of Mumbai while planting bombs. They could mingle very well with crowds. They could communicate because they were educated. They could interact well.
Some of them are engineers who help manufacture bombs. Amongst those arrested, there is one doctor who is a forensic expert. Terrorists are motivating the educated lot.
They are motivated to do something for their religion. "We are doing it for religion," the accused told us.
Design: Uday Kuckian
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