Rakesh Maria, who last served as Director General of Home Guards and Civil Defence, was Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) in 1993, when he was tasked with cracking the Mumbai serial blast case. He explains how he detected the heinous crime in his memoirs, Let Me Say It Now. In the chapter, The Mother of All Serial Blasts, the former IPS Officer outlines the events of March 12, the bomb explosions in various neighbourhoods of the city and how one phone call from Dr Jaychand Mandot on the morning of March 14 led him to Tiger Memon’s house, one of the key accused in the blast case. Here’s an edited excerpt...
THE MOTHER OF ALL SERIAL BLASTS
Come, let’s go to Worli!’ I told the team. We hopped into our vehicles and zoomed to Worli police station, reaching it around 10.30 p.m. Two young officers began giving me the details. They had just finished their probation period and this was their first posting. One was Detection Officer Dinesh Kadam and the other was Dhananjay Daund, Beat Officer. What I learnt was shocking. The weapons found in the Maruti van were no ordinary country-made kattas and choppers. There were seven AK-56 assault rifles, 14 magazines, pistols, four hand grenades and a timer detonator pencil. Also seized were a tasbih or misbah which is a rosary used by Muslims and also some Zamzam holy water. The surmise was that some underworld goons must have abandoned their car, fearing nakabandis that we had erected all over the city post the blasts.
I immediately issued instructions to ascertain the name in which the car was registered. Being in the Traffic Department did help, for despite the hour, the name could be traced and it turned out to be one Rubina Suleiman Memon from Al Husseini building in Mahim.
‘Let’s go! Back to Mahim!’ I said to my team and asked both, Kadam and Daund, to accompany us. Their enthusiasm and desire to do something was infectious. I needed these qualities in my team. By the time all of us reached Mahim Traffic chowki, it was midnight. Mahim had been one of the police stations under me when I was DCP, Zone-IV. During the riots, I had to do a lot of legwork in Mahim when a number of old contacts had got revived and some new ones were developed. So when I got to know the name of the owner of the Maruti van, I sent for one of the informants.
‘Who is this Memon from Al Husseini building?’ I asked him.
‘Tiger Memon, sir. He has a flat there.’
‘Tiger Memon?’ I had heard this name for the first time. ‘Who is he?’
‘He is a smuggler, sir. Underworld, sir.’
I instinctively decided to go to Tiger Memon’s flat for questioning. When we reached the flat we found it locked. So I called panchas (independent witnesses) and broke open the flat in their presence. We entered the flat and began our search. Overseeing the procedure, I was standing in the passage, where stood a refrigerator. Tired, I rested my arm on it and something metallic clanked under my elbow. I picked it up and it turned out to be a Bajaj scooter key. The number on the key was 449.
A lock clicked open in my brain as I inspected the key. I called out to Dangle and instructed him, ‘Take this key to Matunga police station and see if it is of the scooter that was towed from Naigaon Cross Road.’ The panchanama was underway in Tiger Memon’s house, but I had many things to do, like drawing more officers and men to form my detection squad. So I came to the Senior Inspector’s chamber at Mahim police station. In about forty minutes, I received a call. It was an excited Dangle at the other end and he was almost screaming. ‘Sir, the key has matched! The key has matched!’
The first two pieces of the jigsaw had locked neatly! I rushed back to the Mahim Traffic chowki and again sent for the informant. ‘Give me more details of this Tiger,’ I said. He told me that Tiger Memon was an extremely dangerous man. ‘He assaults even Customs officers, sir!’ he said. He could not give me Tiger’s whereabouts but instead gave me details of his manager. He was one Asgar Yusuf Mukadam.
I immediately despatched Nadgauda and Kirdant to get Mukadam. In the meantime, I got to know that the search in Tiger’s flat had yielded substantial cash and valuables from the tijori (safe), like gold ornaments, diamonds and high-end watches.
Around 3 or 3.30 in the morning, Asgar Mukadam was brought before me. Two elderly couples were with him. One were his parents and the other his aunt and uncle, who had adopted him. I began questioning him in their presence.
‘Bahut kamina insan hai,’ he said describing Tiger Memon as an extremely mean person. ‘Doesn’t pay salary and gives filthy abuses. I left his job because of that.’
As I searched his face for signs of deceit, he began avoiding eye contact. I gave Kadam a signal. Kadam put a hand on Mukadam’s shoulder with a firm grip. The first to wince were the aunt and the uncle. ‘Saab, yeh bahut masoom hai. Isne kuchh nahin kiya,’ the couple pleaded.
‘The very fact that I reached you means I know something. If you don’t tell me the truth, I will take action against your uncle and aunt for harbouring a criminal like you,’ I told him and it worked. His immediate response was, ‘Sir, I want to talk to you alone.’
I ordered everyone to leave. He sat down and started singing like a canary. He gave me the entire story, the conspiracy, the training abroad, the selection of targets and the filling of vehicles with explosives. He further told me that Memon was sure that riots would erupt after the blasts. He had given 5,000 rupees to each one of the saboteurs with specific instructions to leave the city and go to Nepal by different routes. From Nepal they would be taken to Dubai, he had promised. So, all had fled Bombay except Mukadam because someone in his family was unwell.
It was now around 5 in the morning. I thought I should wait till 6 am to break the news to the CP and the Joint CP.
(Excerpted from Let Me Say It Now by Rakesh Maria, published by Westland, February 2020)
Name: Let Me Say It Now
Author: Rakesh Maria
Price: Rs 899