Why is the police and intelligence apparatus in Mumbai not being held accountable for their brazen inefficiency before and after the Mumbai terror attacks?

Gajanan Khergamker Mumbai

Within a week of the terror attack, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) (Zone 1) Vishwas Nangre Patil, distributed CDs containing edited footage of the operation inside Hotel Taj. The footage was played across all TV channels, projecting Patil as a hero as almost every shot had Patil in the frame, running from one corner to another or taking cover to fire at terrorists. He went on to give interviews to the press, talking about how he kept the terrorists engaged for six hours before reinforcements were brought in.

In the next few days Ratan Tata expressed displeasure over the conduct of the police. He is said to have spoken to the Maharashtra Director General of Police (DGP) and Mumbai Commissioner of Police (CP), objecting to the manner in which the DCP publicised the footage. Tata pointed out that the footage, captured by the hotel's CCTV cameras, was given to the police to help in their investigations, and not for publicity.

Patil's action didn't go down well with his seniors and other officers who were part of the operation. While both the CP and the DGP have taken strong objection to Patil's conduct, the department is tightlipped as it has turned out to be a major embarrassment for the force.

facts convoluted: For days on end, the Mumbai police complained that had they been provided with better fire-arms, they would have been able to resist the terrorists better. Apparently, they fought terrorists armed with AK-47s only with .303 pistols and lathis, they said. They also went on to rue the fact that their bullet-proof vests were inadequate and sub-standard in quality and that had they been provided with better quality bullet-proof vests, Hemant Karkare and others who died in the attacks would have survived.

What hasn't quite been revealed is the fact that Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) Chief Hemant Karkare was actually carrying an AK-47 when shot by the terrorists hiding behind a tree. The terrorists snatched the AK-47 from his body while dumping it before taking over the vehicle. Now, doesn't that sound, unglamorous? Also, sharpshooter and encounter specialist, Inspector Vijay Salaskar always bragged about never wearing a bullet-proof vest in encounters. It also isn't clear whether he wore one in his last assignment.

Constable Arun Jadhav injured in the attack on Karkare, Salaskar and Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Ashok Kamte played dead on the back-seat of the police vehicle that had been hijacked by two terrorists as they drove from Cama Hospital all the way from Metro where they fired at the media and others before abandoning it at the Mantralaya when a tyre burst and they were forced to take another vehicle. Arun Jadhav has been giving bytes to the media and is tired of their incessant questions but isn't probed by the department for his inability to stop the terrorists as they drove past, killing innocents all along. He merely played dead, injured in just one hand, while they drove all the way till Mantralaya, a few kilometres away from where they hijacked it before abandoning it for another.

The local media launched a series of debates on the quality of the vests provided to the police in comparison to those provided to other personnel insisting the police had always been short-changed. Somehow, everyone missed the point that an Avtomat Kalashnikov Obrazets 1947 (AK-47) uses 7.62 x 39 rounds of ammunition that penetrates most bullet-proof vests directly from 200 metres. One of the first true assault rifles, which, owing to its durability, low production cost and ease of use, remains the most widely used assault rifle in the world, the AK-47 fires 600 rounds per minute. At a whopping speed of 10 rounds per second, an AK-47 causes maximum damage - direct and collateral - as compared to pistols, revolvers and other normal weaponry that the city police carry.

Accidental Firing: In a striking lapse of security, following the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus-CST (VT) attack, one city policeman at the same site fired a round - reportedly by mistake - sparking of a series of rumours and fears of a repeat attack among terror-stricken citizens. Considering this and a series of occurrences in the past when local policemen have ‘accidentally' fired through their rifles shooting themselves, their colleagues, innocent by-standers, it doesn't make sense arming them with a weapon that could sprinkle 600 rounds in a single minute. A mistake through a weapon of such strength could lead to a huge casualty.

When the inflatable dinghy with the 10 terrorists in tow arrived first at the shores of Badhwar Park that lies on the western coast of Mumbai, the local fishermen attempted to question them and, on failing to receive any credible information, even approached the local police to apprise them of the incident. The local police merely shrugged off the matter and refused to take cognisance. The 10 went on to let loose ripples of terror with their dastardly attacks on Hotel Taj, Hotel Oberoi, Nariman House, CST and two taxi blasts in the city. Not a single inquiry has been initiated against the police who didn't act in time, despite citizens' intervention, leading to the carnage.

The terror strikes have exposed, besides huge gaps in security for locals, the impotence of a city police force which simply refuses to take the blame. While the home minister and the chief minister resigned taking moral responsibility, none in the police force - at the state level or the city - have even offered to resign when the actual responsibility of the city's security actually rests squarely on them.

Tracing the CST Mayhem: Resident of Faridkot in Chipaalpura taluka of Ukhad zilla in Punjab (Pakistan), Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman aka Kasab is currently India's most hated man and with good reason too. He is the only surviving terrorist of the 10 who launched a terrifying blitzkrieg on India's financial capital targeting especially foreigners and innocent citizens during the three-day blood-bath Mumbai witnessed last month.

It was dark at about 8 pm on the night of November 26 when Mohammed Ajmal and Mohammad Ismail Khan reached the Mumbai coast at Budhwar Park in south Mumbai. They then took at taxi to CST. The idea was simple: They wanted to create a panic situation following an attack on the crowded railway station in order to divert attention from their comrades who would be striking Taj Hotel, Oberoi Towers and Nariman House to cause maximum damage possible.

At about 9.55 pm, when the two terrorists reached platform number 13, a mainline area for long-distance trains, the firing started. Four ticket counters' glass panes which were shattered in the firing, have been replaced by wooden panels. There are distinct bullet marks outside the offices of the head ticket collector and senior station manager. It's here that assistant chief ticket inspector, SK Sharma, fell to the terrorists' bullets.

A heavy spray of bullets downed railway police inspector Shashank Shinde. And even as stalls began to pull down their shutters, newspaper vendor Chandulal Kashinath Tandel was gunned down in the firing. The attackers went on to fire at ticket counters 14, 15, 16, 17, 39 and 40 before moving on to fire inside the police station. The duo then went on to proceed towards the local train platforms.

Motorman With Nerves: Even as the railway police and local police stood befuddled at the onslaught of terror that struck them, motorman on duty, OM Palli, who was hiding behind the door of the station master's office, noticed a train coming in on platform no 4 and realised that if the passengers got off the train, the terrorists would spray them with bullets.He hurtled up to the announcer Vishnu Zende and alerted him. "I told the announcer to say that the passengers in the train should not alight," he says. After that, he stayed put in his hiding spot. In a quick phone call to his wife that night, he said: "If I am alive, I will talk to you."

Atop the local line, from a bridge over platform number one, the terrorists fled to Cama Hospital. On their way, while crossing the bridge, they used a human shield. The attack at CST left 58 people dead, including one railway police official, one home guard and three other employees. Near Cama Hospital, the duo hid behind a tree only to emerge and attack ATS Chief Hemant Karkare, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and ACP Ashok Kamte who were on their way to Cama Hospital, just a 10-minute drive from CST station, to check on another injured officer Sadanand Date.

While Salaskar was at the wheel, Kamte was in the front seat and Karkare in the second row with the four constables, including Jadhav, at the back seat. "The two terrorists then came up to our vehicle and pulled out Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar's bodies and threw them on the road. Thinking that we (constables) were also dead, the terrorists then got into the car and started driving towards Metro junction," recalls injured constable Arun Jadhav.

The terrorists fired three rounds at journalists and police vans standing at Metro junction before speeding away towards Vidhan Bhawan in south Mumbai, where again they fired some rounds. "The terrorists then started driving from Vidhan Bhawan when the car' tyre burst. They then got off the car and ran towards another vehicle," recalled Jadhav. He then got in touch with the police control room and informed them about the death of Karkare, Kamte, Salaskar and the three constables.Mohammed Ajmal and Mohammad Ismail were apprehended at Marine Drive where Ismail was killed and Ajmal captured alive.

Second Slip: If things weren't bad enough, in an appalling exposure of breach in security, a good eight days later, the smell of a rotting mutton dish inside a lunchbox in one of several hundred bags stored at CST led to the eventual discovery of 7.5 kg of RDX in a tin box, later termed a "defective" explosive device by investigators. Constable Gajanan Shedge, who, along with a fellow constable, first found the small backpack with a "suspicious" package, felt, "The bag was quite heavy." On opening it, they found a locked tin box with an electrical circuit and quickly informed their superiors. Incidentally, the bags from among over 400 lying in the room for eight days had not been sanitised properly before people were allowed to come in to look for articles they left behind in the melee.Had the 7.5 kg of RDX burst at a crowded CST, the damage that would be caused is anyone's guess. Even after the evident lapse in security that led to the terror strikes in the city, sluggish follow-up operations could have taken unimaginable toll.

‘Unglamorous' Victim: Among the four terror venues in the city, it was the CST which received the least publicity in comparison to the more glamorous Taj and Oberoi Hotel where foreigners were particularly targeted and Nariman House where a resident Israeli Rabbi family was taken hostage. The World Heritage Site registers thousands of footfalls at the time when the attacks occurred. Had the strike occurred on schedule - during peak hour - as planned by the terrorists, the toll would have been much higher than the 58 who finally fell to terrorist bullets at CST.

The delay in the attack on CST followed by the failure of the RDX-laden explosive device, despite it going unnoticed for eight full days following the attack, could only be attributed to divine intervention. The less said about intelligence and Mumbai police initiative, the better!