Editor: Read Chapter XVI here.


‘I can’t believe we didn’t find any useful finger prints!’ the DGP rumbled.

‘Sir, we’ve done our best,’ the Additional DGP who headed the Crime Branch, which in turn controlled the finger print bureau, said. ‘At all three sites, after each explosion, the massive amount of dust, wiped out all prints. And on top of that, after each blast, the masses of rescue workers who turned up have left their prints everywhere. We took a few prints from the main gate at Everglades, but it turned out to be the prints of our own men who went there immediately after the blast.’ Despite everything, the officers permitted themselves small smiles.

‘And what about DNA?’ the DGP asked. He had asked the same question less than twenty-four hours earlier.

‘Sir, we combed through the clothes of those security guards who were taken prisoner at the Garden of Eden, but we didn’t get anything useful. To be honest, we were late in doing so.’

‘Too late! That’s always the case, isn’t it?’

‘Well Sir, after each explosion, the priority has been in assessing the damage and coming to grips with the situation.’

‘I know, I know,’ the DGP almost resting his head on the table, but then straightened himself with an effort.

‘What about the bullet casings? Any leads from that?’ the Commissioner of Police for Mumbai, who also headed the Anti-Terrorist Squad or ATS, asked.

‘They seem to have used different types of pistols and revolvers. Three or four shooters used .45 caliber bullets, and the rest used different types of 9 mm guns. Some of the 9 mm casings could have come from Glocks, either Glock 17s or Glock 19s. The .45 casing in all probability came from good old M1911s.

‘All of these guns are available locally from the underworld,’ the DGP muttered.

‘Rajesh, tell me, does this smell of the Maoists?’ the Commissioner asked.

Rajesh paused for a moment, luxuriating in the fact that the senior-most officers in the State were waiting to hear his views, as he sat with his back to the window which overlooked the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Gateway of India.

‘No sir, in my view, these people are not even remotely similar to the Maoists fighting us in Gadchiroli and elsewhere.’

‘Isn’t it too early to say that?’ the Head of the Crime Branch asked. ‘Suppose a bunch of Maoists from Gadchiroli decided to infiltrate Mumbai and carry out a few attacks. How would they go about it?’

‘Sir, in my view, they wouldn’t want to carry out 26/11 type of attacks causing mass casualties. Ultimately, the Maoists are fighting the State for the hearts and minds of the people. I just don’t see them blowing up a building like Everglades and kill over a hundred civilians. I mean, this is exactly the sort of incident that will kill off even the smallest ounce of attraction the poor might have for them in Mumbai.’

‘The people killed were all rich. Wouldn’t your Maoists feel that killing the rich might endear them to the poor?’

‘No, Sir. Certainly not on this scale.’

‘I think you are making a mistake Rajesh. You are putting yourself in the shoes of the Maoists and telling us what you would do if you were in their place. The Maoists are not necessarily very rational or balanced. I know, I know, you caught Etayya, and I agree that you have a lot of experience dealing with Maoists, but here, you are making a mistake.’ The Police Commissioner gave him an embarrassed smile, as if to compensate for the accusation levelled against him.

Rajesh smiled at the Police Commissioner.

‘Let’s think again,’ the Police Commissioner went on. ‘A bunch of Maoists decide to do something in Mumbai. For too long they have stayed in the jungles, dreaming of attacking the big cities. For every poor man living in a city slum hoping to make it big one day, there are two embittered souls who feel that they are working too hard and not earning enough. The Maoists send a few scouts to Mumbai to set up a base here. Then they recruit more people and together they carry out these attacks to announce their presence. Maybe they will now lie low to consolidate and plan further attacks.’

‘I really won’t mind if they give us a breather, even if they use it to strengthen themselves,’ the DGP confessed with a harsh chuckle.

‘Alternatively, is it possible that a group of communists living in Mumbai decided to launch something exciting in the city, for which they went to the jungles and got assistance from their ideological brethren?’

‘Sir, I would say the second option is more likely. Even then, if the Maoists were to provide training or assistance, they would want something in return. They would want to know precisely what sort of attacks are being planned etc. I don’t think the Maoists would give weapons and training with their eyes closed and not have a finger in the new pie being baked, especially when they have always dreamt of having a city presence.’

‘And the third possibility is that these attacks are neither by any new Maoists or old Maoists.’ The speaker was an IB Officer and as he spoke, many others nodded. ‘We know that the Maoists don’t always use the most sophisticated guns. Definitely not plastic explosives. In all probability, these attacks were carried out by rank outsiders with the assistance of our main enemy.’

Rajesh hesitated for a second, but spoke up. ‘Sir, if it is Pakistan, why bother to bring in the Maoist angle? Other than to weaken India in general, they don’t gain much by claiming that the attackers were Maoists. On the other hand, if the attackers were claimed to be Kashmiri militants or the Indian Mujahideen, they would create a lot more communal disharmony.’

‘I think we are wasting too much time on the motive angle. That will come later. Let’s focus on forensics. If we can identify at least some of the attackers, then we will know who is behind these attacks.’

‘Sir, it seems as if all three attacks involved a group of around ten men’ Rajesh commented.

‘And we have no idea if it was the same group or if each attack was by a different group?’

‘The security guards at the Garden of Eden have been totally useless. They say that they did not look at the faces of the attackers at all. Apparently, they saw three of the men initially, but it was still dark and the attackers wore turbans which partly obscured their faces. After that they never got an opportunity to observe anyone. In all probability, they were too scared to look up. They won’t even give the artist something to get started.’

‘I’m sure each of them would remember at least one face each. Curly hair, straight hair, anything…’

‘Sir, the men wore turbans.’ There was a pregnant silence, followed by, ‘No sir, the artist spent a day with them and got nowhere.’

‘And no one saw anything at Kandivli East?’ DGP asked, the incredulousness in his voice.

‘Yes Sir, right Sir. No one saw a thing.’

‘And at Everglades?’

‘Sir, five of the guards were shot dead. Two of them surrendered. One man managed to hide inside a bin and escape. Two of the men hid inside the B wing which was blown up and they died, crushed under the rubble.’

‘The guards who surrendered didn’t see a thing, is it?’

‘At Everglades, the attackers were all masked sir.’

‘What else do we have to go on? Have we found out where the pamphlets were printed?’

‘No Sir. We haven’t. We are working on it, but we haven’t found out anything’

‘We have a press conference this evening. Do we have anything at all to talk about?’

The officers looked at each other and they shook their heads. At that very moment, the Police Commissioner’s mobile phone rang. He listened intently for a few seconds and smiled.

‘Someone from RAW. They may have something for us,’ he said, without removing the mobile handset from his ear.

‘Yes, this is the Mumbai Police Commissioner speaking. Yes, yes, ah! I see! That’s great. Yes, please find out. Yes, yes, yes.’

The Police Commissioner’s face was glowing.

‘Gentlemen, we may have a breakthrough. Apparently, one or more mercenaries from Russia came to India for something around two months ago. Our people in Moscow are working with the Russian government to find out who came here and what they did when they were here. If these mercenaries did train these attackers, we will be able to get the names of the people they trained, their ideology, background etc. and then it is just a matter of time before we nab them!’

All the officers were electrified! Finally, a breakthrough! The feeling of powerlessness slipped away. Guys, please keep your fingers crossed, Rajesh wanted to tell his fellow officers. There were too many slips between the cup and the lip. In the past two years in Gadchiroli, he had been promised a breakthrough so many times, only to be cheated. The real breakthroughs usually came through when nobody expected it.

On an impulse, Rajesh sent Inspector Makarand a text message asking about Etayya. A few seconds later he got a reply. ‘Etayya being moved to Nagpur jail.’ He wondered if he would ever see Etayya or Gadchiroli again.


Featured Image (Cover): Nisha Joseph

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