Mumbai police officer Rajvardhan reads Indian his- tory, non-fiction, spiritualism, philosophy, in his frustratingly-limited free time. William
Dalrymple. Alex Rutherford. Larry Collins-Dominique
Lapierre. Whatever he can lay his hands on.
Gregory David Roberts’s Shantaram, with its Mumbai
setting, streets away from his home, was an interesting
read. It reminded him of his college days in Delhi and
hanging out at similar, mildly-grubby “joints”.
Late one evening, five years ago, when he heard there had
been a curious round of firing in south Mumbai, at the
Leopold Café, Colaba, the first thing that came to his mind
was Shantaram. And the possibility that a new chapter of a
gangland fight was unfolding at the (then) 121-year-old,
buzzed, boisterous café.
He rushed to the Colaba police station from his home,
and then across the road to Leopold without a gun. His job,
then, as deputy commissioner of police at the Special
Branch 2, did not require him to carry a gun on his person.
He usually kept a revolver in his briefcase.
He reached Leopold probably 20 minutes after three
Pakistani terrorists left the café’s premises to walk up to the
back entrance of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, a
few seconds from the Gateway of India.
On their trail, now much more puzzled over these mysterious gunmen, the gutsy Rajvardhan followed, headed up
the shadowy lane that ran next to the café, past the tailor
shop, the medical store, the Bagdadi restaurant, to the hotel.
Only when he entered the Taj — saw the endless spent
AK-47 cartridges littering the polished marble floor, the
spreading pools of blood and the appalling number of
bodies slumped about — did an odd chill start to scuttle
up his spine.
No, this was not out of Shantaram. This was a terrorist attack.
For the next 24 hours, or so, after he grabbed a revolver
from injured Inspector Dhole, Rajvardhan — who has seen
action, and perhaps more bodies in the worst Naxalite belt
of Maharashtra, at Gadchiroli — fought a battle, shoulder
to shoulder, with his Indian Police Service batch-mate,
Vishwas Nangre Patil (then deputy commissioner of police,
Mumbai, Zone 1) against a band of terrorists.
He deftly dodged near death, but was injured.
Patil, Rajvardhan and a small band of about 10 police-men/Taj security personnel, one of whom died, courageously made the best of a dreadful situation, holding the
fort, steadfastly engaging heavily-armed terrorists with
minimum weapons, preventing them, largely, from continuing their killing spree, till reinforcements arrived.
You knew it was a terrorist attack when you reached the
Taj. Did you not see the cartridges at Leopold?
There were cartridges. But I did not see them.
When I entered the Taj I saw them. I saw the dog (the
Labrador belonging to Taj security) and I saw that if there
is anyone there, they are dead.
Then I realized it is something bigger.
Apart from that, what also made me realize it was something bigger was because if it were gang wars, or somebody
was shooting like this, they would have left by now. Why
was that someone not leaving? But going up and up (
deeper into) the Taj.
Rajvardhan, a daring police officer who fought the terrorists at the Taj Mahal hotel on 26/11,
discusses the attacks and its aftermath with Vaihayasi Pande Daniel in an exclusive interview
‘Terror can come in any shape.
We can’t give it a particular
name of religion’
UT TAM GHOSH