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Corrupt and absolutely opaque

Corrupt and absolutely opaque
The Raigad Police is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Why exactly? The pertinent question that has cropped up is why the Raigad Police did not register a case of murder or accidental death three years ago when a partially burnt body was recovered. This body later turned out to be Sheena Bora’s. At least this is what all the television channels and newspapers are reporting rather frenetically. Ganesh, then a police officer of sorts in Hetawane Village, had found the body on March 23, 2012, in the jungles of Gagode located off the Pan-Khapoli Road in Raigad District. He reported the matter to the nearest police outpost. 

Immediately upon the filing of this first person report a police officer had visited the scene of the crime. A doctor followed and according to the police officer who found the body, “investigation and examination of the scene had started”. A <g data-gr-id="74">panchnama</g> (inquest report) was prepared”. Then the cover up started with full momentum.

This instance of dereliction by Raigad Police takes me back to the serial Mumbai blasts of 1993. The Mumbai blasts have been in the news recently. Moreover, it will always be in the news in the days ahead because a certain Dawood Ibrahim is synonymous with these blasts.  It was Raigad district, which was the gateway to all the deadly and lethal arms, explosives and chemicals that were used in the infamous serial blasts in 1993. The village in question here is <g data-gr-id="80">Mahasla</g>, where fishermen helped smugglers like Dawood, Anees, Tiger Memon, Mohammed Dosa and Mustafa Majnu to unload explosives from dhows and ships in 1993. Entire clans of villages took part in this business of clandestine smuggling. That had been the case ever since smuggling started in Bombay. Noisily and merrily they first rowed out to the ships anchored out in the high sea carrying the “goods”. 

Then, the gold, silver, watches, drugs, textiles, were unloaded. Thereafter the smuggled goods were loaded into their boats. They then return promptly in a time bound manner. In this covert operation, the Raigad Police and Raigad Customs were already paid to keep indoors and not snoop around.
Raigad police, it now appears has been breaking the law with impunity for quite some time. Also, in the present instance the Khar Police Station and its enquiries have been perfunctory at best. 

In 1993, no one holding a position of power in Raigad Police got punished for the three surreptitious landings of arms and explosives. The first landing was on January  9, 1993. Procurement of arms and explosives for all the three landings was the handiwork of Dawood. Mohammed Dosa monitored the actual operation of the first landing. He paid the bribes. However, we were given evidence only against the Customs Collector of Raigad. The role of the Raigad Police was glossed over quite systematically. Tiger Memon oversaw the landings on both February 2 and 3. The bribe amount he spent in 1993 was well over Rupees 20 lakhs. These two noisy landings on two successive days broke the law yet no crime was registered for any investigation by Raigad Police. An Additional Collector of Customs was indicted. Not a single person from Raigad District Police.

The Sheena Bora murder case must not be dealt with in a similar manner. The police outpost of the village <g data-gr-id="70">Hetwane</g> was informed. A police officer arrived, saw the remains and did an inquest (Panchnama). A doctor too arrived and did a so called post-mortem on the spot when the appropriate place for any post mortem is always the mortuary. That was all the action that was taken from a dead body that was chanced upon under extremely suspicious circumstances. It was partially burnt with petrol and hidden in some remote corner of the jungle. 

The dead body was crying homicide. But no alert, no look out notice, no photographs let alone an investigation to establish the identity of the deceased was initiated. The body dugout from the jungle was buried again and summarily forgotten.

The outpost duty cop undertook this task but did he do it on his volition? This lowest functionary in the police hierarchy cannot do such an enormous task on his own. Having been the first to arrive at the spot and having involved a doctor, a witness, he dare not expunge the scene of a crime without a direct order from one of his superiors. Under Standard Operating Procedure, a regular and rigorous inspection of the outpost is mandatory by the Circle Inspector and the Sub-Divisional Police Officer. Even a cursory inspection would have spilled the beans. 

These police officers kept their silence. Why would that be? Sheena was dead and forgotten for three years and more. The Khar Police Station under Mumbai Police has sat over and killed Rahul <g data-gr-id="79">Mukherjea’s</g> complaint of a missing Sheena. Investigators probing the alleged murder have said that suspects Indrani Mukerjea and Sanjeev Khanna placed her body between them on the rear seat of the rented vehicle, as they drove from Mumbai to Raigad to dump it there. The police claim that the duo did not leave the body in the boot fearing nakabandi.The plot thickens every day, but no one is looking at the Raigad Police’s role.

(The author is former Joint Director, CBI. The views expressed are personal)
Shantonu Sen

Shantonu Sen

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