The 1993 serial blasts not only affected the socio-economic and community fabric of the city — it brought about a paradigm shift in the law and order scenario as well.
It was just when the police had equipped itself to face the challenges of a more vicious underworld, flush with drug money and automatic weapons, that the blasts upset their whole game plan. It suddenly exposed the force with a challenge it had never faced before — terrorism, sponsored from across the border, executed with the help of underworld foot soldiers.
“Suddenly, the meek-looking underworld, or a particular faction of it, metamorphosed into a colossal enemy,” said former assistant commissioner of police (ACP), crime, Shankar Kamble. He added that the use of RDX in the blasts, which was a foreign concept to policemen then, suddenly brought home a danger that was never comprehended. “We had earlier faced the Punjab terrorism menace in the city. But the blasts were different,” Kamble revealed.
He said the police were burdened with another problem soon after the blasts. There was a vertical split in the Dawood gang along communal lines, with Chhota Rajan parting ways and forming his own outfit to rival the former. “While on one hand, the advent of terrorism gave us a new challenge, the gang rivalry required separate attention,” Kamble added.
Former ACP Suresh Wali-Shetty, one of the key investigators of the 1993 serial blasts case, said the division of gangs also had its repercussions felt on the informant network and force as well. “Even the police force got divided on gang lines. While bloody street fights erupted between the rivals, the divided force started picking up targets based on gang loyalty,” he added.
However, the police began hammering the underworld, or a particular faction, as the blast investigations exposed its ties with the cross border spy agencies. The blasts, both Wali-Shetty and Kamble agreed, heralded in a new era of Centre-state agency co-ordination in intelligence sharing and gathering. “We procured many new gadgets and weapons and began preparing ourselves in counter terrorism methods,” he said.
The shift in attention had its pitfalls too. “Our IPS officers became obsessed with terrorism, or countering the same, and, as a result, other crimes were neglected and shot up,” he said.
Kamble said the police today are too dependent on “electronic surveillance”.