Pradeep Sharma (46) had his first brush with fame after killing alleged gangster Subhas Makadwala in the early ’90s. From then on, he was rarely out of the newspapers.
Sharma’s family, originally from Agra, had settled in Dhule and he would have become a teacher like his father, but he landed up joining the police on January 21, 1983, as a sub-inspector. He had as batchmates other policemen who went on to become famous, like Praful Bhosale, Vijay Salaskar, Ravindra Angre and Aslam Momin. All of them were instrumental in breaking the backbone of Mumbai’s underworld.
Sharma’s first posting in Mumbai was at Mahim, from where he was transferred to the Special Branch at Juhu. Rising swiftly, he went on to become a senior inspector at the Crime Intelligence Unit of the Mumbai Crime Branch. It was here that his reputation as an ‘encounter specialist’ was cemented.
It is alleged that Sharma grew close to the Chhota Rajan gang in 1992, when the underworld was at its peak. In 1996, he was transferred to Chandan Chowky.
It was during these postings that Sharma was credited with the killing of alleged gangsters Vinod Matkar, Parvez Siddiqui, Rafiq Dabbawala and Sadik Kalia, and three Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operatives.
In early 2000, O.P. Singh, a Rajan aide and Sharma informer, was killed inside Nashik jail. The hit was allegedly carried out on the orders of Rajan, who thought that Singh was emerging as a parallel power centre in his gang.
Singh’s killing changed the equation. An enraged Sharma allegedly vowed to eliminate Rajan, and in 2004, when he took charge of the Crime Branch’s Kandivli unit, there were allegations that he settled extortion threats received from the Dawood Ibrahim gang.
It was ironic then that in 2004 he received the International Human Rights Award.
The following year, Sharma had two major successes — the arrest of smugglers trying to sneak out sandalwood worth Rs 1 crore to China and a huge arms haul at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust. The arms had been sent from South-East Asia by Rajan for his sharpshooters.
But there was a price to pay. His close informants, Narsaiyaa Mama and Amjad Khan, were killed in retaliation.
The tide turned decisively against him when his name cropped up during the investigation of the custodial death of Khwaja Yunus, a software engineer suspected of having a hand in the 2002 Ghatkopar blast. Sharma was transferred to Amravati.
In 2006, he was posted at the DN Nagar police station, where allegations of Sharma helping the real estate mafia cropped up. He was then transferred to the control room in 2007.
A few months later, he was shifted yet again — this time to Dharavi, where, after two months, Sharma was dismissed on August 30, 2008.