'The city of dreams', 'the home to the world's largest film industry', 'the economic capital of the country', there are only so many ways to define Mumbai. It is one of the world's biggest centers of commerce in terms of financial flow. It also contains important financial institutions of the country, such as the Reserve Bank of India, Bombay Stock Exchange, National Stock Exchange, and headquarters of various Indian and International MNCs.
Image Credits: WION
But beneath all the dazzlement, lies another aspect of Mumbai. The Mumbai Underworld is a reality with dreaded names such as Chota Rajan, Karim Lala, Haji Mastan and the most famous of the lot, Dawood Ibrahim.
Mumbai in the mid and late 90s was a bloody mess. The thugs and the mafias had become too powerful in the city. Everything was held at ransom. Builders, film stars, producers — all had to pay protection money (hafta) to these gangsters. Many people were killed, including the famous 'Cassette King' Gulshan Kumar by the dreaded mafia operating in the city. Producers were blackmailed not only for their money, but to also cast certain heroines in their movies.
Since the 'bad guys' were becoming too powerful in the city, there was a huge political pressure in the city to do something about this. In such a situation, there was a need for 'trigger-happy cops'. This is because conventional policing didn't yield any results. The criminals were caught and sent to remand, but more often than not they got bailed in a very short period of time. Once they were out of the jail, they went about threatening the judges, killing witnesses, thus causing a mass mayhem. Even if these people were arrested, they were/are able to operate their mafia activities from the prison, a prime example being Mukhtar Ansaari.
The police and the governance in such a situation was so exasperated that the only viable option they felt they had was the policy of encounters. Politicians also cooperated to some extent in fixing crime through encounters.
Their deeds were lionised and they were the center of attraction in various Bollywood movie plots where their acts were praised and promoted. The methods used by the 'encounter specialists' came under scrutiny in the late 90s. There were allegations that many of them conducted fake encounters as agents of the underworld.
The Curious Case of Sachin Vaze
Sachin Vaze was one such trigger happy cop in Maharashtra. He joined the force in 1990 and quickly rose through ranks to join the Special Squad of Thane Police. Vaze was part of the team of encounter specialists which included Pradeep Sharma and Daya Naik among others, and is believed to be involved in the killing of around 63 criminals.
In March 2004, Vaze was among the 15 police officials who were suspended from duty for their alleged involvement in custodial death of Khwaja Yunus, a suspect in 2002 Ghatkopar bombing case. Vaze officially resigned from the service in 2007 and joined Shiv Sena a year later. Around this time, Vaze also tried his luck in various other ventures - his very own Marathi social media platform, writing bestseller books, multiple trademarks etc.
Vaze's suspension was revoked last year after 16 years on the pretext of shortage of police staff as Mumbai suffered from Covid-19 crisis. He was posted in the Criminal Intelligence Unit and was given several high profile cases, including the infamous Antilia Bomb Scare.
Antilia Bomb Scare Case
On February 25, 2021 , a green Scorpio was found parked near the residence of Asia's Richest Man, Mukesh Ambani. Upon investigation, the vehicle was found to contain 20 gelatin sticks (with no detonator to trigger them off), several number plates, and a handwritten letter in typical filmy jargon, threatening the Ambanis. Vaze was made the lead investigator of the case. The next few days did yield several new discoveries — two SUVs were used in the crime, a man wearing a PPE kit was spotted near the crime scene from CCTV footage from the day. The vehicle used in the crime belonged to a Thane based business named Mansukh Hiren. Hiren in response said that his car was stolen on February 17, a week before the Antilia case. He had also registered a theft complaint regarding the same. In an utterly bizarre turn of events, Hiren was found dead in Retibunder, Thane on 5th March, right before he could be questioned further about the case.
It was the death of Hiren that raised suspicions on Sachin Vaze. Hiren's wife claimed that Vaze was behind her husband's death. She also claimed that Vaze had known her husband for years and was in possession of the Scorpio for some months now. She also claimed that Vaze asked Mansukh Hiren to get arrested and that Vaze will ensure that he gets bail within a few days.
On March 6, Maharashtra ATS took over the Antilia case and also Hiren's death case. Two days later, NIA took over the Antilia Bomb Scare Case from ATS.
NIA Arrests Vaze
Sachin Vaze was called in for questioning on March 13 by the NIA. After an extensive gruelling by NIA for over 12 hours, he was arrested under Section 286, 465, 473, 506(2), 120(B) of Indian Penal Code and 4(a) (b) (I) of Explosive Substances Act.
Image Credits: Hindustan Times/re-thinkingthefuture.com
The Chaos Continues
The drama in Mumbai continues. Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh was transferred on March 17 to the home guards department. He, on March 20, dropped the biggest revelation when he wrote a letter to CM Uddhav Thackeray alleging that Maharashtra's Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had asked Vaze and other cops to extort a monthly sum of Rs 100 crores from various bars, restaurants and other big fishes in the city. Due to pressure from the opposition BJP under Ex-CM Devendra Fadnavis, and Param Bir Singh's criminal public interest litigation in Bombay High Court, Anil Deshmukh resigned from his post on 5th April.
The drama in the state is still far from being over, with new revelations almost every day. An inept plan to extort India's biggest businessman unravelled the ugly khaki-khadi nexus in Mumbai, which is now threatening the ruling government.
By Uttkarsh Chauhan
Uttkarsh is a first year BA Programme (History and Political Sciences) student at Hindu College, University of Delhi. He has an avid interest in history, mythology and Indian politics.