India Abroad November 29, 2013 A45 COVER STORY
esty is very crucial to the police mak-
ing progress in securing the city?
You are correct that the integrity of a person (in this case the
police) gives a different strength
of character. That strength, that
the person’s character acquires, by
being professional, by being honest, by being straight, gives him a
chance to rise to an occasion,
whenever the occasion comes.
Because he has no skeletons?
It gives you immunity also?
I cite you an example: Had it
been an honest officer in
Customs, in 1993, the landings
that happened in Raigad district
(south of Mumbai), where instead
of gold something else came (the
1993 blasts would not have happened).
That is because of the way the
systems have been maligned
(abused). Naturally for national
security, the integrity of a person who is in charge (or contributes to) national security is very important.
If one were to take a hypothetical situation, facing a middle rank police officer – there is a choice between acting on
a vague terror alert or cracking down on a bar, where some
money may be involved, given that the terror threat could
eventually result in the threat to the policeman’s own life –
26/11 was about policeman getting killed too.
Would today the police still opt to ignore the terror threat
and go after, with efficiency, something which is of financial
Human nature is such that at times you feel that you are
the chosen one, who will probably not be in the line of fire,
until unless you die. You always feel you will die at the
grand old age of hundred.
That perception has to change. That is where police leadership needs to be emphasized.
Even during my daily rounds, my commissioner says we
should tell the people who are guarding, say a synagogue or
a hotel, not to be lax.
If you are there in uniform, the first thing the terrorist
will do is to shoot you.
It is because of your own personal security that you
should be fully alert.
Rajvardhan’s admirable role in holding the terrorists at bay at the Taj in the first 24 hours with Nangre-Patil and a few young policemen not used to terrorism of
this proportion, has been celebrated in the recently-pub-lished The Siege: The Attack on the Taj by investigative
journalists Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark.
The book compellingly profiles the enigma named
David Headley, the double agent who masterminded the
Mumbai attacks, and the impudent manner in which he
was allowed to function by his American handlers.
It details the manner in which the Pakistan-rooted terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba operates. The Siege also vividly, and uncomfortably, draws attention to the paralysis of
the Mumbai police force in those 68 hours.
The existence of a Delhi-based mole for Pakistan’s Inter
Services Intelligence directorate, codenamed Honey Bee,
and the terrorists’ accomplices in Mumbai, the chuhas
(the mice), who provided on-the-ground assistance, are
other startling revelations of The Siege.
Wasn’t it very apparent, shortly after 26/11, especially
when you check out the location of the Jewish Chabad
House (one of the attack points), that even a long-term
Colaba resident like me did not know of its existence, that
there had to have been a David-Headley-kind of figure
who provided such information?
At that point of time it was not so apparent. Apart from
Chabad House the other (targets) were very accessible
and easy to come and go to.
But even entry through Machimar Nagar, where the ten
terrorists landed, was a hard one to figure out?
If you look at the coast (it would be obvious) and by GPS
it is not so difficult to land there.
How would terrorist Ajmal Kasab and his group have
known about it on the ground level?
But (David) Headley had recce-ed it.
But no one knew about Headley at that time. Headley
came up later.
When 26/11 happened, and immediately thereafter,
there were write ups in the Indian media saying there
could be some insider.
But the police said no. I remember (then joint commis-
sioner of police) Rakesh Maria saying no.
I was not part of the investigation. But in any perspective we all went with Mr Maria because he had Kasab. So
there was a person living and talking. Maybe we all went
with him because he had a more authoritative version.
How could the police investigating team at that time
believe the terrorists could get to the very inaccessible,
less-known, Chabad House without additional pre-help?
Because Kasab, at that point of time, said it was only
done by GPS.
He kept insisting?
He never indicated otherwise?
He said we all came by this route. We all landed here.
We were all aware who has to go where.
And he didn’t know about Headley?
At what point for you, speaking not as a police officer,
did you think that there was more to this story?
We had intelligence earlier that
the Taj has been recce-ed. That the
Taj was on the terror list. Anybody, a
tourist, can come and see where the
Taj is and give a photograph.
Anybody can give a photograph of
the Trident to anybody. Right?
What do you think about the exis-
tence of a Honey Bee?
He is talking about a Honey Bee
passing to them a drill manual, and
other things, like how the Indian
But you will find most of these are
already on open Web sites. How you
take a drill and how you do an SOP.
If you go backwards you will find
that, at many other times, ISI-affili-ated spies have been picked up, from
the rest of the country, who have
been found passing this kind of
information to their handlers in the
Pakistan embassy (in Delhi) and
elsewhere. So Honey Bee could be
anybody sitting in the Pakistan
So in your view he may not exist?
I can only speculate. He may exist.
But the issue is — that if he exists, and this information is
with some intelligence agency, they should pass it on.
Because he has potential to be dangerous in the future?
Yes, which we as a general public may not be aware.
Honey Bee, if he exists, seems to be in Delhi. What about
the chuhas? They must be still loose and they must be in
You cannot deny it. There may be somebody who could
be in Bombay. How can you deny it? There is a possibility. You never know.
You are now part of the economic offence wing of the
Mumbai police, as additional commissioner, and no
longer directly in touch with the issues around 26/11. But
as a police officer what are the frustrations that you feel
with the system?
The entire incident, which happened that night, had a
deep impact on me as a human being. For a very long
Personally I went through a psychological trauma.
Secondly, was the feeling of helplessness, at times, for
not being able to save so many lives which, as a policeman, we should have saved.
I am not talking from a high pedestal — that I am
Mahatma Gandhi (a picture of Mahatma Gandhi hangs
on the wall behind him in the British era-police headquarters opposite Crawford Market). I am trying to share
with you my inner feelings. You may feel that I am trying
to be over smart or something.
But there is a sense of frustration, as a policeman,
because you feel that these people are relying on you.
They are looking up at you. And at that critical moment,
if you are not able to save them then that feeling, inside,
of not being able to do your duty — it is there.
Apart from that is a kind of feeling, to be very blunt: ki
tera baap ka ghar hai ki koiee bhi aake, sala, kuch bhi
karke chala jayega (is it your father’s house that anyone
can come, do anything and go away)? You know that kind
of a crude feeling.
Anger with frustration. And a feeling that had we, at
that point of time, had some area weapon, or a grenade,
perhaps then it would not have taken three days for us to
(end the operation).
‘Terror can come in any shape.
We can’t give it a particular name of religion’
Girgaum Chowpatty in Mumbai, minutes after Ajmal Kasab was nabbed
there thanks to heroic Mumbai police officer Tukaram Omble.
U TTAM GHOSH