Bad cops are not intelligent fiction, they are living everyday characters. The rot within the police force is documented rather well in our movies and literature as is the nexus between criminals and policemen at all levels. The alleged underworld connections of Mahabole, the ACP who was transferred after Mid Day journalist J Dey was killed, thus, does not come as a surprise.
The association of the underworld and policemen in Mumbai runs deep. That criminals of all shades have been functioning with such impunity, neatly dividing the city into individual operational areas and developing an organisational structure, through the days of Karim Lala, Haji Mastan, Varadarajan Mudaliar to Dawood Ibrahim now is a testimony to the fact.
The first major proof of the direct connection surfaced in mid-1984 when the video recording of a party at a Juhu hotel found its way to the public. The party was organised by a small time underworld operator and nine of his invitees were high ranking police officials. The officials were seen making merry with a number of hardened criminals amid flowing liquor and noisy music.
As the cop-criminal nexus started hitting the headlines, an embarrassed city police chief Julio Ribeiro suspended all nine cops.
The matter was dying out when another cassette, this time an audio recording, started creating a flutter. It contained a long, intimate conversation between two senior inspectors and Varadarajan Mudaliar, the Dharavi don. The former were heard rubbishing their senior officers. The duo was suspended and a probe ordered.
The khaki had started gathering taint. It had become clear that policemen hobnobbing with criminals were not just the beat constables; they included the middle and the top of the rungs too. There were talks of cops’ illicit bounties and flashy lifestyle.
A senior inspector of Matunga police station always offered his official seat whenever Mudaliar visited the police station. It was a deep association. The Dharavi don was rumoured to have distributed more than 300 black and white television sets among the police personnel during the marriage of the inspector’s daughter.
The Dirty Harrys of the Mumbai police in the 90s – the encounter specialists with the licence to kill and cleanse the city of criminals – provided another dimension to the nexus. Between 1993 and 2003, 600 criminals were eliminated in extra-judicial killings. As the city was heaving a sigh of relief, there were rumours of the underworld dons settling personal disputes through the new heroes in town.
“Most of the encounter killings are supari killings, carried out at the behest of one gang against another for monetary considerations,” said a former senior official recently.
Most of the heroes in the extra-judicial killing are branded villains now. The larger-than-life duo of Daya Nayak and Pradeep Sharma is busy fighting allegations of indiscriminate murder and accumulation of wealth vastly disproportionate to their sources of earning.
But the crackdown on encounter cops has in no way obstructed the cop-criminal nexus from going strong. Fugitive dons Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel are believed to have developed a network of friendships across several police stations. It ensures them a good work environment in the city.
A recorded conversation between Chhota Shakeel and a senior officer of the Mumbai Police surfaced in January this year. An officer of the DCP rank was heard pleading with Shakeel to spare a builder from extortion.
Not long ago, a group of officers, including a deputy commissioner of police and an ACP were found partying with known underworld characters like DK Rao and Farid Tanasha — he is dead — at an elite Gymkhana in Chembur. Both were suspended after the photographs of their cosy bonding made it to newspapers.
Close to 20 police officers have been dismissed from service over two decades for links with the underworld, and several suspended. But these numbers do not quite reflect the extent of the rot within.
The police force has its share of clean officers too. But the smear on the khaki is too strong to be wiped clean by a few good men.