A Punjabi as the Mumbai Police Commissioner is not a rarity, but what is rare is the impeccable record Rakesh Maria holds. Even his detractors hold the same view that Maria’s appointment may be broiled in speckled provincial, caste and communal politics, but his candidacy can’t be questioned.
Technically speaking, Rakish Maria, the 1981 Batch IPS Officer had two other contenders, who were senior to him, service wise. They were Vijay Kamble, ADG (State Highway Traffic) and Javed Ahmed, ADG (Law and Order). Both of them felt disappointed, sidelined, have expressed their disappointment publicly and proceeded on leave.
Of course, to curtail the controversy, there were some other choices before the Government. But these were less contentious candidates like the only lady contender, ADG (Prisons) Meeran Borwankar and Thane Police Commissioner K.P. Raghuvanshi. Ms.Borwankar, the first woman as the head the Mumbai’s Crime Branch, is known for her capability and organisation skills, but she lacked seniority. K. P. Raghuvanshi is a tough, no-nonce cop, no doubt, but reportedly Muslims have reservations about him.
The question of Marathi priority, of course, came in between. It is reported that State BJP leader Vinod Tawde, who is also the leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, has shown his displeasure , the way Vijay Kamble, a Marathi IPS officer, was ignored in spite of his seniority. The Dalit card was also played. Ramdas Athawale, the Republican Party of India (RPI) leader had reportedly said that that Kamble was ignored because he was Dalit!
In fact, Vijay Kamble was a chosen candidate by none other than the Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, a Dalit himself and reportedly he even lobbied with senior Congress leaders in Delhi. The insiders told that Shinde is presently not in good terms with the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and purportedly CM has a major role in deciding Mumbai Police Commissioner’s post. Also NCP was not in favour of him. That’s why, Kamble, was not considered, despite being a Maharastrian.
Then, there was the communal card. Congress was in favour of the Muslim contender Javed Ahmed. In the election year, the party probably tried to give a message to the ‘Minority’ voters!
The CM, personally, though quite convinced by Maria’s candidacy, reportedly towed the party line. Also, the CM has good rapport with the State Director-General of Police Sanjeev Dayal. It is already known in the State Police circle that Dayal himself was not in favourable term with Maria. As the post of Mumbai Police Commissioner is selected with due consultation with the seniors in the Police hierarchy, he could have also influenced the decision.
But NCP was staunchly in support of Maria. And if political speculations have to be believed, in selecting Mumbai’s Police Commissioner, NCP has the upper hand. Not only that NCP’s R.R.Patil is the State Home Minister, there is a tacit understanding between the two parties in this regard, for many years now!
The post of Commissioner of Police in Mumbai is equivalent to Additional DGP rank.
So, just a day ahead of the announcement of name, Mr. Ahmed was promoted to the DGP rank, even though the vacancy already existed for quite some time, thus putting him out of race for the Mumbai’s top cop’s post.
The Politics of Policing in Maharashtra
The politicization of Maharashtra Police is always a matter of concern.
Ever since the notorious Telgi Scam relating forged Stamp Papers came in to the light in 2003, the alleged politico-police-criminal nexus became a hot topic of discussion.
Eight high rank police officers, including former Mumbai Police Commissioner R S Sharma, former Joint Commissioner (Crime) Shridhar Vagal and former Deputy Commissioner (Crime) Pradeep Sawant (later discharged by Bombay High Court), were arrested in the fake stamp-paper case between June 2003 and January 2004.
The celebrated top cop Julio Ribeiro, who was the Commissioner of Mumbai Police between 1982 and 1985, took personal initiative in probing the Police-Politician nexus and reportedly submitted a report in 2004, to the Maharashtra Home Minister, the same, R.R.Patil. Nothing much was heard about the report thereafter. Not much has done either by the Maharashtra Government on the proposed Police Reforms, so far.
Around the same time, the present DGP Sanjeev Dayal, who was then the Joint Commissioner (Administration) of Mumbai Police, had tried to introduce some sort of non-partial selection process for the lower rank Constables in Mumbai Police.
It is said that, in the process he simply overlooked the recommendations of a senior State politician for selecting a large number of his candidates. It is well speculated that, as a result, from the key metropolis Police set up he was shifted to an unceremonial posting in the Naxalite infested area of Maharashtra, Gadchiroli!
After Satyapal Singh resigned, it was for a fortnight, Mumbai was without a Police Commissioner! Congress-NCP tussle over the top post was rumoured about the delay in the appointment.
Though Satyapal Singh was a NCP choice, he was reportedly close to BJP also. People say, Singh has maintained good relationship with the RSS, which started from his days as the Nagpur Police Commissioner. For some reasons, he had also refused to lead the SIT formed by the order of Gujarat HC to examine the controversial Ishrat Jahan encounter case. Now he has joined BJP.
Political Party’s say in postings of Mumbai and Maharashtra Police can even be traced in the nineties, during BJP-Shiv Sena regime. But it became a decisive feature only when Congress-NCP coalition came to power, thereafter.
Observers say that the process got an unofficial Stamp, only during 1999, when Vilasrao Desmukh was the Chief Minister. Since then, it’s always speculated that, there is an unwritten understanding between Congress and NCP.
Though there is no substantial proof about it, the tacit understanding is that, NCP would decide on the posts of the Police Commissioners of Mumbai, Thane and Pune, plus the key post of Crime Branch Chief. While The Congress would decide on the posy of State DGP and the Anti-Corruption Bureau Head!
During 2011, the unwritten code was reportedly violated, when Congress selected Arup Patnaik as Mumbai’s Police Commissioner. Everyone knows how Patnaik had to leave ungraciously, after the Azad Maidan episode! He was replaced by obvious NCP choice, Satyapal Singh.
In the election year, the tussle became a bit longer, but, NCP was not ready to backtrack at any cost.
A Bandra Boy
Whatever may be the politics, there is not a single doubt raised over Rakesh Maria’s ability and track record. NCP or Congress, none of the parties was able to lessen his candidature. In fact, Maria has his support in almost all the parties, including BJP, Shiv Sena or even MNS.
Maria is very much a Mumbaite. After getting the news of his selection on Saturday night, he became emotional.
“I am glad that a Bandra boy, who used to play football on the streets, wearing chappals, has reached the top level. It is like a dream come true,” he told at the press conference, after his selection.
Rakesh Maria’s father came to Mumbai, in the days after the partition. Like many fellow Punjabis Rakesh’s father too wanted to be an actor in Mumbai’s tinsel town. While Dharmendra, Manoj Kumar or Sunil Dutt made it big as heroes, the senior Maria had to be satisfied the other way. Rakesh’s father, Late Vijay Madia had become a major Bollywood financer and producer .He had produced many big budget yesteryears Hindi films like Kaajal and Neelkaml. The family occupied the big Madia Bungalow facing the sea at Bandra.
Rakesh acquired from his father his passion for Ghazals and Qawwalis! Those who know him well have seen his huge collection of Ghazals and Qawwalis, albums both from the Indian and Pakistani artists.
From his childhood days he had seen writers, poets, singers visiting their Bungalow. Mehdi Hasan and Ghulam Ali both were known to the family and Rakesh Maria has friends like Urdu poets from Pakistan Qateel Shifai and from Mumbai big names like Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Ali Sardar Jafri was among family friends.
Actor Anupam Kher has a long association with Rakesh Maria , who admittedly inspired his role as Prakash Rathore in ‘A Wednesday’ .
Also, Maria’s character was portrayed by Kay Kay Menon in Anurag Kashyap’s highly acclaimed film ‘Black Friday’. The role of Rakesh Maria was also played by Nana Patekar in Ram Gopal Varma’s film ‘The Attacks of 26/11’.
Once, in the trail of an IM centred investigation Maria arrived at an eastern UP town, where he came to know that a big Sufi Qawwal was attending a nightlong Jalsa at a Dargah. Despite palpable security risks, he himself attended the nightlong Qawwali session and came to the local Police headquarters ,next morning, dot in time!
In fact, his knowledge of Punjabi and Urdu helped him a lot as an investigator, specially as the Chief of Anti-Terrorist Squad, Maharashtra.
He was the chief interrogator of Ajmal Kasab, the sole terrorist survivor of 26/11 Mumbai attack.
He said that it was a very unusual case, in his entire career.
Ajmal Kasab was from a village in the Okara District of Punjab, in Pakistan. Maria used his knowledge of Urdu and Punjabi colloquial to build an emotional rapport with Kasab to extract as much information from him, as possible.
“Here I have the custody of an accused who is giving me evidence after evidence, but I can’t do anything about collecting it because they are lying across the border in another country,” he said.
Maria was a well-known Basketball and Cricket player at the College level. Also he represented Maharashtra in the 1979 National Games in Karate.
After graduating from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai , he applied for the common entrance test of UPSC. While listing his options (IAS/IFS/IPS etc.) in order of preference, he listed IPS five times! And there was no looking back, thereafter.
Incidentally, while appearing for the UPSC final interview in Delhi, Rakesh had no familiarity with or close relative in the city. He stayed in Delhi, at the house of known Urdu poet and Film writer Niaz Haider ,a family friend, whom he considered as his uncle.
As the 1981 batch of the Indian Police Service cadre, his first posting was as Assistant Superintendent of Police Khamgao (rural Maharashtra)in Buldana, and then in Akola, in the interiors of Maharashtra. He came to Mumbai in 1986.
Maria’s first posting in Mumbai was as the Deputy Commissioner of Matunga, where he replaced YC Pawar. Pawar was known for ending the infamous empire of Don Varadarajan Mudaliar in the early ’80s.
Maria Became the Deputy Commissioner Police (Traffic) in 1993.As the Deputy Commissioner Police (Traffic) in 1993, and cracked the Bombay serial blasts case, and later moved to DCP (Crime) , the first ever D.C.P in Mumbai Crime Branch and then the Joint Commissioner, Crime.
Maria has worked in almost in every vital policing area. He is most knowledgeable about Mumbai’s crime scenario and the underworld. He was also posted at Raigad and well acquainted with the vital coastal security. And in an era of highly organised cross border terrorism, there is no one in Mumbai Police, as competent and astute as Maria.
Allegations Against Maria
In 2009 serious allegations were made against Maria by Vinita Kamte, the slain Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte’s wife.
In her book, To The Last Bullet, Vinita has leveled charges against Maria who was holding the Mumbai Police Control Room, from where the entire counter-operation was monitored and executed on 26/11.Vinita alleged that Maria did not send additional forces to the Cama Hospital when the Pak terrorists were active there. From 11.20 pm to 12.07 am, that night Vinita alleged that Karkare, Kamte, Salaskar and the others were left defenceless against heavy firing.
Maria felt almost defenceless against such an emotive issue. Even Maharashtra Government was initially reluctant to defend Maria, an officer with formidable reputation, not wan wanting to hart the sentiments of a Martyr’s wife. He just said that the facts would absolve him.
“You don’t defend him and you don’t let him defend himself!” commented a Mumbai Crime Branch senior.
Maria even got ready his resignation letter in disgust.
Thrice he appeared before and had replied to all these allegations in detail before the Pradhan Committee.
He was confident of his facts and told that Vinita Kamte had been selective in quoting.
Mumbai Police Officers later told that Vinita Kamte most possibly expressed her emotional outbursts and anger by writing the book. She might have got solace by attacking Maria, but it had also damaged the police force. The highly sensitive Police Control Room logbook came in public purview, just because of an RTI!
According to records, more forces were sent to the Cama Hospital than the Taj Mahal hotel or Chabad House. Even Vinita had accepted the fact: “I am not denying that forces were sent. If they sent 200 people, where were they?”
The additional forces were actually ordered to go to the Cama Hospital by Maria. According to police records around 150 policemen should have been there before 11.50 pm. Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar were killed around 12.07 am. But again it was not a normal situation. Why Police reached late must have some explanation, not related to Maria.
The Ram Pradhan Committee was too critical on the role of the then Mumbai Commissioner of Police Hasan Gafoor and said that he had flouted the Standard Operating Practice by saddling Joint Commissioner Rakesh Maria with the charge of the Police Control Room.
SOP lays down that the Joint CP (Law and Order) will head the Crisis Management Command and be in charge of all control rooms.
Joint CP (Crime) would work in close association with Joint CP (Anti-Terrorism Squad).
The Committee however “noted with appreciation the role played by Maria,Jt. CP (Crime) in the Control Room in handling a very serious crisis situation extending over three days.”
An Officer and A Gentleman!
“In a democratic set-up, everyone has the right to ask questions and get answers. However, once you get the answers, you should not go about trying to prove them wrong,” responded Maria without any malice or anger.
Acquaintances say that Maria is not sugar coated in his words. He is somehow blunt and straightforward. He has not made many friends in the profession, rather more enemies, but he has always earned the respect of his juniors. As a boss and investigator he stands by his juniors at any cost.
Officers who have worked with Maria say that he knows even the minor underworld players in the city . They recall that sometimes when their memory betrays them, Maria often comes up with long elapsed names and cases no matter how dated they are!
There may be questions and controversies, but no one disagrees on the lone point that Mumbai Police’s leadership is in the ablest hand.
By Deep Basu
Image Source : Rakesh Maria