Vappala Balachandran, former special secretary with the cabinet secretariat, has revealed that a 1994 plan to help South African intelligence nab Dawood Ibrahim was tossed around for discussions at various levels before it eventually ended up on a heap of similarly pending files and was forgotten.
On September 20, 1994, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court issued a notice to Mahajbeen Dawood Hassan, wife of Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, asking why it should not attach Dawood’s and his brother Anees’s properties at Pakmodia Street in Mumbai. But despite several such threats, and repeated promises, no government has come up with a concrete plan to bring India’s most wanted man back following the 1993 serial blasts.
In intelligence circles, Dawood is denoted as ‘a man who knows too much’. Not surprising, then, that governments have failed to smash his operations in Mumbai, let alone his multi-billion empire abroad.
Two months after the TADA court’s notice, Balachandran flew to Pretoria to meet his counterparts in South African intelligence, primarily to discuss Nelson Mandela’s visit to India in January 1995.
“At that time, the South African intelligence was still segregated. The apartheid regime’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) was in place,” Balchandran told Hindustan Times. Balachandran, who had several meeting with NIS officials, was given an exhaustive presentation on a mandrax smuggling racket Dawood Ibrahim and his gang ran across Africa.
“They said that the entire African continent was used by him, with local help, as a destination and a transit point for Europe and America,” said Balachandran, who was shown a list of 18 passports that Dawood used under different names and nationalities to visit the region.
“Since South Africa’s security and intelligence was undergoing a major overhaul, they wanted our help to nab Dawood with any advance information,” said Balachandran. But his operational plan, which was sent to the the P V Narasimha Rao government, was tossed around for a while before being ignored and then forgotten.
“The South African offer,” Balachandran said, “was the first solid proposal of cooperation from a foreign country that had suffered the effects of Dawood’s operations.” Since then, a proposal to capture Dawood has become an annual ritual among our politicians, he added.
This was not the first time the government had refrained from taking concrete steps to capture Dawood. Eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani had revealed earlier that Dawood, in a telephone conversation with him, had offered to surrender in 1994 on the condition that he be kept under house arrest and not be tortured. Jethmalani had communicated this to the Maharashtra government but nothing came of it.
Ajay Sahni, executive director at the Institute for Conflict Management, said, “None of the governments have been serious or given priority to get [Dawood] back. In fact, a certain group of political elites has never wanted any action to be taken."