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Five things you should know about Mumbai top cop Rakesh Maria

Sheena murder mystery Updated: Sep 19, 2015 11:01 IST
HT Correspondent
Rakesh Maria

File photo of Mumbai's former police commissioner Rakesh Maria. (HT file photo)

The sudden promotion of former Mumbai Police commissioner Rakesh Maria as the director general of police (DGP), Home Guards, created a considerable flutter in the media.

The transfer on Tuesday to a nondescript and unchallenging post came even as Maria, who is famous for his investigations into the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts and the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, was leading the investigations into the Sheena Bora murder case which has gripped the nation for weeks now.

Here is a lowdown on five things that you must know about the top cop:

He always wanted to be a cop

Maria is the son of a film producer and his life has inspired more than one Bollywood blockbuster.

When the martial arts enthusiast took the civil services exam, his three options were "IS, IPS, IPS". The 58-year-old always knew he wanted to be a policeman, saying he picked the Indian Police Service "for the dignity and discipline of the force".

Maria started his career in 1981 as an assistant superintendent of police in Akola, and is still grateful to all the constables who took him around at night patrols and taught him tricks of the trade.

Read | Maharashtra govt's timing on Rakesh Maria’s transfer baffles all

Led probe into 1993 serial blasts

Maria, who made his mark as a traffic cop, came into the limelight for his investigative skills when he led a team and cracked the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case. It is said he solved the case within 24 hours.

The soft-spoken policeman cultivated his own set of informers and learnt the by-lanes of Mumbai like the back of his hand for the case.

"He is soft until the time he talks. Then I have seen the toughest criminal crack," a police officer who spent nearly 15 years with him told Hindustan Times.

He is also known for getting actor Sanjay Dutt to confess to his underworld links and is no stranger to controversy.

Interrogated Kasab

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2015/7/30Kasab1.jpg

Ajmal Kasab

Maria led the 26/11 Mumbai attacks investigations and was the first police officer to interrogate Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving Pakistani militant of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Maria was in charge of the police control room on the fateful night from where the entire counter-operation was monitored.

The acclaimed book The Siege by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark on the 26/11 attacks documents Kasab's interrogation by Maria.

An excerpt:

Ajmal was put in a plastic chair, a handcuff on his left wrist. If a room could smell of coercion, Salaskar's did. Maria, towering above the prisoner and flanked by the uniformed constables, began talking in Ajmal's mother tongue, Punjabi. It was also the language of Maria's father, who had migrated to Bombay in the 1950s.

Maria asked if Ajmal knew where he was. In his grubby beige and white T-shirt, a wrist and an arm bandaged, he looked a pathetic sight. He really was the most ordinary-looking mass murderer Maria had ever seen. Sallow and greasy, he reminded the cop of the kid manning the deep-fat fryer at the sweet seller's in Zaveri Bazaar.

Sources say even his rivals admire his investigative skills. "You have no choice, but to give the devil his due," said an IPS officer. "He gets his work done, and one can do nothing but admire."

Setbacks, controversies

In 2003, he made a contentious comment during a sting operation by a media outlet in connection with a cricket betting scandal. Though Maria escaped unscathed, more trouble was headed his way.

On another instance, a fake terror alert for a prominent place of worship in Mumbai was allegedly sent from his email account, leading to Maria being shifted to the low-profile Protection of Civil Rights division.

Another controversy surfaced when slain officer Ashok Kamte's wife blamed him for mishandling the security response during the 26/11 attack on Mumbai.

Earlier this year a controversy broke out after Maria admitted that he indeed had met the former IPL boss Lalit Modi, who is being probed in India for alleged financial irregularities.

This came soon after a media expose revealed that Keith Vaz, the British MP of Indian origin, used external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s name to pressure Britain’s top immigration official to grant travel papers to Modi.

During the London meeting, Modi reportedly sought the help of Mumbai police in view of “threat” to his life by the underworld in London, Maria clarified adding that he had told the home minister about the same.

Top cop in Bollywood

Maria has been portrayed in two prominent Bollywood films.

Maria's investigation of the 1993 Mumbai blasts inspired filmmaker Anurag Kashyap to make a groundbreaking film, Black Friday, based on investigative journalist S Hussain Zaidi's book by the same name. Actor Kay Kay Menon plays Maria in the film.

Nana Patekar portrayed Maria in Ram Gopal Varma's The Attacks of 26/11.

(The information presented here has been compiled from news reports published earlier by Hindustan Times and other media publications)

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