The phone call changed everything on the lazy morning. Mohan Chand Sharma grabbed a piece of toast and left home, saying he would be back in the evening.
He never walked in. It was September 19 –– just 10 days after he celebrated his 41st birthday — when 43-year-old Sharma, a Delhi Police inspector, was dead.
He fell to bullets in a gunbattle with suspected members of the Indian Mujahideen at Batla House in southern Delhi.
Sharma’s team stormed into Flat No L-18 at Batla House in Jamia Nagar around 11.15 am. Following the trail of a mobile phone his team had been tracking ever since the multiple bomb blasts in Delhi six days earlier, he was convinced this was where the group, which had carried out the blasts, was holed up.
In the gunbattle that followed, Sharma was grievously wounded, but two of his attackers were shot dead as well.
Sharma’s family hailed from Uttarakhand. But the man himself, affectionately called ‘Bantu’ by family and close friends, was a quintessential Delhi lad, graduating in mathematics from a Delhi college, joining the force in 1989. He was promoted to inspector in 1995.
Teaming up initially with the late Assistant Commissioner of Police Rajbir Singh, he soon acquired a formidable though controversial reputation as an encounter specialist, gunning down around 35 terrorists and 40 gangsters in the course of his 19-year career.
Sharma’ colleagues said his death was a huge blow.
“He had an excellent network of informers,” said a senior police officer who had worked with Sharma closely. “He had this unique ability to gauge a person’s origins from his accent,” he added.
Despite the fact that Sharma had been killed, critics of the police action, including some major political parties, claimed it was a set up and demanded a probe. But with more and more of the evidence unearthed at the flat emerging in the FIRs the police later filed, and Sharma himself being posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra, the debate seems to have been settled in the police’s favour.
“Truth has prevailed. The Ashok Chakra is a slap in the face of those who suspected my son’s valour,” said Narottam Sharma.