The name ‘Rakesh Maria’ evokes two responses- I am reminded of Kay Kay Menon’s marvellous portrayal of the famed cop in Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday, and Ganapati Bappa Maria rings in my ears, God knows from where! (the autobiography confirms that he was indeed cheered like that early on in his career in Akola).
For a police officer who was being groomed for specialization in Traffic when bomb blasts hit Mumbai in 1993, Maria became the first officer to hold every single post in Crime branch-DCP (Detection), Additional and Joint Commissioner (Crime) and finally the CP, as well key positions in Mumbai North-west , Railways and the ATS. If in 1993, he was plucked out of Traffic to lead the investigation into the blasts, on 26/11/2008, he was stationed in the Control Room for sixty hours straight when Kasab & Co. hissed fire on the streets outside. He was either in the ring or on the ringside whenever bomb blasts rocked the metropolis in 2002-03, in 2006-07 or in 2011.
Maria, the 1981-batch officer, was officially posted in Mumbai for the first time in late 80s to keep Vardha out. He witnessed the war for supremacy between Dawood and Rajan, battled with mafia threats on builders and Bollywood biggies, dealt with Amar Naik-Arun Gawli-Omi Bhardwaj and finally bowed out as the CP after being unfairly targeted in the Sheena Bora Murder Case. From Matkas, to cricket betting /fixing, Girangaon and underworld hits, to anti-India Jihad- Rakesh Maria’s career coincided with whatever went wrong with the Mahanagar, and the memoirs provide a wonderful recounting of events.
Rakesh was an out-and-out Bandra boy, son of a pahadi housewife and a Punjabi musician, Vijay Madia, who established Kalaniketan banner and produced films like Kaajal and Neel Kamal. Talking of privileged childhoods, Rakesh, recalls sitting in Meena Kumari’s lap during the making of Kaajal (1966) while she offered him chocolates, and hosting many film and musical legends at their home in the growing-up years.
Rakesh was a huge buff of Louis L’Amour’s Westerns and Oliver Strange’s cop books. Marshall Lawless used to be a huge influence, whereas lesser mortals tend to scoff at youngsters getting inspired by Shool, Sehar and Gangajal to get into law enforcement! He decided to take the UPSC exam while in the third year at St.Xavier’s because his mind was completely set on joining the IPS. He was a sports-minded kid, and displayed notable skill in cricket, basketball, karate and football. Rakesh represented Maharashtra in karate at the National Games in 1979.Ex-Air Chief Pratap C.Lal was on his interview board, and was quite intrigued to note that Maria had mentioned IPS in his service choices from numbers one to five. He ended up scoring 235 marks out of 250, and got what he craved for- IPS, Home Cadre.
The legendary investigation of 1993 Blasts led to 189 arrests, although Dawood, Anees Ibrahim and Tiger Memon remained outside the reach of Mumbai Police. Rakesh also investigated the 2002-03 blasts, when five bombs had exploded in Mumbai within 8 months, including at the Zaveri Bazar (36 dead) and Gateway of India parking (18 dead ) by Gujarat Muslim Revenge Force. GMRF used to send mocking and threatening emails just before the blasts, daring the Police to stop them if they could. Although Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal could not be nabbed, Ashrat Ansari, Hanif Sayed and Fahima Sayed were caught and convicted.
In 2003, an email, which contained a terror alert at a prominent place of worship in Mumbai, was allegedly sent from his own email id. The episode saw Maria being shunted out to the Protection of Civil Rights branch. The Charge-sheet levelling four charges was issued –
- The email- which was later found to have been sent by an inspector, using Maria’s Id.
- That his wife had declared Rupees 5 Cr undisclosed income in VDIS- a charge which was found to have no substance by the Income Tax.
- That he supposedly helped Sanjay Dutt, in lieu of his father’s friendship with Sunil Dutt- the charge was found to have no merit, but I suspect it was Amarjeet Singh Samra, the then CP, who had gone easy on the errant star kid.
- That he staged Dawood aide, Zahoor Markanda’s fake encounter at the behest of rival gangs- but Maria was posted in Railways when it happened!
Needless to say, the Charge-sheet was dropped after two years of snail-paced investigations. Rakesh Maria marched on unscathed.
Rakesh Maria talks about match- fixing and Tehelka’s sting (2003) on him in great detail. He mentions how he was tipped about the Napier ODI on Feb 16, 1995 between India and New Zealand, where India was supposed to lose by 4 wickets, and they did. A South African player had taken fancy for a bar dancer who came to know about imminent fixing in the Titan Cup final. She was Maria’s khabri, and duly informed him. Her tip matched the final result! Appearing before the Chandrachud Commission, Maria is said to have confessed to all this and a lot more, but explained lack of action by the Mumbai Police by arguing that there were bigger fishes to fry, and MPCB/ATS could not be bothered with mere gambling and fixing. In IPL 2013, the Pakistani Umpire Asad Rauf, Vindu Dara, Gurunath Meiyappan, Sanjay and Pawan Jaipur of Motison Jewellers were finally nabbed by the ATS. Later Delhi Police also picked Sreesanth, Ankit chavhan and Ajit Chandila on charges of match-fixing.
Rakesh also investigated the 2008 serial blasts carried out by Indian Mujahideen in Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Ahmedabad Hyderabad and Bangalore, and arrested 22 educated jihadis, and even paraded them before the media and committee of eminent citizens. He later investigated 26/11, Pune German Bakery blasts, Mumbai 13/7/2011 blasts that killed 26 people and low intensity explosion at Pune’s Jungli Maharaj road.
On 26/11, Maria was asked by the CP Hasan Gafoor to take charge of the Control Room and direct operations from there. In that high adrenaline situation, it must have been pretty tough for a man-of-action like Maria to remain holed up, even as the whole Force was out there on streets, battling the jihadis. Ashok Kamte’s wife later accused Maria of sending Kamte to Cama Hospital, whereas the CP had asked him to take position at the Trident. In his book Maria has given quite a detailed account of 26-28 November, and his hair-raising description of what happened in the Rang Bhavan Lane on the fateful night of 26th would give any thriller a run for its money. Maria has also revealed how Kasab carried a passport in the name of Samir Dinesh Chaudhari, a Bangalore resident, studying in some Hyderabad college. Maria spent a lot of time with Kasab while being involved with the investigation, and pointed out that the jihadis had worn ‘kalaiva’ round their wrists to convince the world that they were in fact Hindus.
Maria has also taken media to task, saying that their mindless overeager coverage aided terrorists, who were in direct touch with their handlers. He also mentions how the Army Columns refused to cooperate and take orders, and did not show any flexibility in deployment. Their case was that they were there only for cordoning, and only of the Taj at that. The inordinate delay in the arrival of NSG MARCOS has also been discussed. The CRPF teams refused to man the cleaned up areas, for reasons unknown. The operational preparedness of India was in mess in November 2008, where forces were content to remain in their silos, intel was clueless and there was no coordination or sense of purpose within the security forces.
Rakesh Maria writes almost nothing about Balasaheb, and barely mentions Sharad Pawar. Vilasrao Deshmukh is hardly mentioned, RR Patil and Manohar Joshi seldom make appearance. Fadnavis gets some footage but only because of the unpleasantness of the Sheena Bora Case. Therein lies the secret to Maria’s success in public service- he did not make a huge show of his access to and proximity with power circles, but benefitted from them nevertheless, as became clear when he superseded many seniors including Ahmed Javed and Vijay Kamble to be appointed the Mumbai CP.
Maria also delves into the Yakub Memon hanging in 2015, and the bandobast around it to keep it from becoming an embarrassing rallying point for radical elements. Maria discusses how and why he met Lalit Modi in London, and raises some curious questions about the Sheena Bora case. While he was wrongly accused by the media of being close to the Mukherjeas, it was the then Joint CP, Deven Bharti, who had been informed by Peter of Sheena’s disappearance, long before the news had broken. Bharti had taken no action. And it was Ahmed Javed, who replaced Maria as the CP and who Maria had earlier superseded, who was a family friend of the infamous couple. Yet Rakesh Maria was unceremoniously removed from the post of Mumbai Police Commissioner.
I do not place much faith in autobiographies, but this one is written well, and serves to bring various acts of terror, Shakti Mills Case, Sheena Bora Case, Kidney racket, Matkas gangs, Arun Gawli arrest, Maria Susiraj case and many others in proper perspective.
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