Sometime during 1986, Police Inspector Shalini Sharma and actor Shilpa Shetty played volleyball together. “Somewhere, our fate lines have been similar. We both went to London and achieved something,” she quips.
While Shetty returned from London with TV show glory and a restaurateur husband, Sharma (40) came back from the same city last week, with hostage negotiation training from New Scotland Yard, and was named core member of the hostage negotiating team that Mumbai Police will announce soon.
Sharma, who went there on scholarship, is the third Indian police officer to do this, after State Intelligence Department Commissioner, K L Prasad and Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic), Sanjay Barve.
The mother of two has come a long way from cruising around on her Bullet during her stint in the traffic police in the early ’90s — they called her “Kiran Bedi of Thane” back then. Her recent achievements include interrogating lone surviving 26/11 terrorist, Ajmal Amir Kasab, and handling the extradition of gangsters, Abu Salem and Gurpreet Singh Bhullar.
Asked if her knowledge of Punjabi helped name her as one of Kasab’s interrogators, Sharma laughs: “Well, I have some interrogation skills too”. The 1990 batch Indian Police Service officer is now with the Crime Branch’s Central Intelligence Unit, where she handles the liaison desk for Interpol-related work.
Sharma says the need for a hostage negotiator was seen in the aftermath of 26/11 — members of the Rotary Club met State DGP, AN Roy and city police commissioner, D Sivanandhan. Rotary Club members Harshad Mehta and Naina Mehta paid for the scholarship that helped send Sharma for the Scotland Yard training.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), Himanshu Roy, who picked her over numerous candidates, says Sharma has the qualities of a good negotiator. “She will be the core member of the hostage negotiating team,” he says.
Sharma, once captain of the Pune University team, even attended selection camps for the Indian volleyball team. Now, her passions are detection and interrogation, with a newfound interest in cyber forensics and cyber fraud – she collected a diploma in cyber law somewhere along the way.
About the shootout at Andheri, where a Customs officer shot dead a 14-year-old girl after taking her hostage, Sharma says: “I don’t know how the outcome may have differed if I was involved… I may have dealt with the situation a little differently.”