Just how diabolical, read here. 71 AKs, 500 grenades, 3.5 tonne RDX were hidden in “safe” places for when ‘riots started’ after serial blasts. Just that Bombay saved India, and failed ISI.
You remember the mayhem just 10 AK rifles caused in Mumbai on 26 November 2008. But do you also remember how many AK rifles were recovered in Mumbai following the serial blasts of 1993? We aren’t even counting the one found with Sanjay Dutt and destroyed by his “friend” Kersi Adjania in his foundry. Adjania, by the way, spent two years in jail in his mid-eighties for destruction of evidence.
Okay, you Googled. Yes, it was 71 AK rifles. What havoc would 71 have wreaked in 1993? Mind you, that in 1993, Mumbai (then Bombay) Police didn’t have a single AK, or any other assault rifle.
Second, do you recall how much RDX was recovered in Mumbai following those blasts? It was 3.5 tonne. Employed well, as you’d trust ISI-trained terrorists to do, this is enough to blow up every high rise in South Bombay, or Bandra-Kurla Complex, India’s financial capital.
Third, how many grenades were recovered? It was a full 500. Nobody in Bombay Police had ever seen a grenade go off.
Fourth, would you know why Bombay Police officers called ISI’s first operation outside Kashmir and Punjab a failure even though it killed 257 persons in the blasts?
To understand the plot, first sequence three sets of events.
The first round of riots broke out on 6 December, 1992, as the Babri Masjid fell in Ayodhya. Angry Muslims hit the streets first, but were quickly overwhelmed by Shiv Sainiks, and the rest by an openly partisan Bombay Police. By the third week of December, uneasy calm returned.
The second round began in the first week of January. A few significant things had happened in the interim.
* A large consignment of arms, ammunition and RDX landed at a place called Dighi on the Konkan coast in the first week of January.
* In the run-up to the second round of riots, the police discovered an intriguing pattern.
Bodies of very poor, Hindu, mathadi (head-load) workers from the Maharashtra hinterland were being found early mornings on pavements where they slept, slit at the throat with a small knife, as if in ritualistic jibah style. These were mostly found around Dongri, a communally sensitive area. The conjecture was: Someone was trying to provoke a second round of riots. That plot succeeded and Bombay burnt again. This time, it was even more one-sided against Muslims.
* Please note that armaments were being delivered at Dighi at the same time and were to be distributed in “sensitive” areas. Dutt got his consignment, for example, on 16 January, when the second round of riots was ebbing. So the weapons coming in from Pakistan and distributed to sensitive places for safe-keeping were not for “self-defence” during those riots. The riots had, by now, ended.
The second consignment landed at Shekhadi in the first week of February. There was peace in Bombay from mid-January. The serial bombings happened on 12 March, five weeks after the second landing at Shekhadi.
The plot to burn all of India
Focus harder on these dates and events.
The mathadis, who are a large, poor but well-knit population, were killed ritually in sensitive areas to provoke fresh riots. Since the Sainiks were now prepared and reinforced by a partisan police, this created greater justification for bombings (by Muslims) in retaliation. These also inspired, for the ISI masterminds, what the Supreme Court later described as the foot-soldiers within the furious and insecure local Muslim population.
It was after this second round of much more one-sided riots that the bombings were planned and weapons pre-stocked in sensitive localities. The plot was simple: The bombings will again unleash killer Hindu hordes, escorted by police. And they will be greeted by AKs and grenades, leading to mayhem India could never imagine. With a few hundred, even thousands butchered by AKs and grenades in Bombay, the fires will spread all over India.
After the Supreme Court order in March 2013, to refresh my memory, I read up our April 1993 stories, and also spoke again to some of the key figures in that investigation.
M.N. Singh, who led the investigation as joint commissioner (crime) then, and who you often see as a sensible TV talking head, recalls what a horror Bombay had saved itself by not coming up to the ISI’s expectations of reviving the cycle of reprisals. While investigating the conspiracy as a reporter in 1993 I had met Singh in his police housing cooperative apartment on Worli Sea Face, and first heard the story of the mathadis with throats slit. One of my key colleagues was sceptical then. So I checked again with Singh’s then boss and Maharashtra DGP, S. Ramamurthy, whom I had known as an Intelligence Bureau veteran. He was more familiar with the methods of the ISI and vouched for the story.
From 1993 to 2008 – the same ISI playbook for Mumbai
And how did his police crack the case within two days?
Alongside the blasts, one band of gangsters had been driving to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) headquarters at Victoria Terminus in a car loaded with AKs and grenades. It was just their luck that the Century Bazar bomb, the biggest of all, went off while they were still crossing Worli. They fled in panic, abandoning the car. This car was found, along with 7 AK rifles and grenades. The police traced its registration to the Memon (Tiger and Yakub) family. The case had been cracked.
And why was the car headed for the BMC headquarters?
Singh tells me the terrorists were headed there to break in to kill as many corporators (many of them from the Sena) as possible. This, eight years before the Parliament attack and 15 years before 26/11. See the common ISI playbook with all three?
The blasts, the massacre of corporators, and then the largescale killings of Hindu reprisal-seekers and policemen, with AKs and grenades already positioned. You get the picture?
Singh has one regret even today. “Arms were delivered to Sanjay Dutt on 16 January. Instead of concealing them, if he had only told his patriotic father, who in turn would have surely informed us, we would have prevented the bombings and saved so many lives.”
You also understand now why Singh and his many colleagues see the bombings of 1993 as an essentially failed operation. It killed many people, but failed in its strategic objective of setting India on fire. I also called Ramamurthy again in 2013. He lives in the same modest (for a former state police chief) personal apartment in the narrow Sohrab Bharucha Road (off Colaba Causeway) where I had met him in late March 1993. The old cop only said: “See, this Bombay Police, good, bad, ugly, whatever you call it, it has cracked every single case of terror attacks so fast. Something works for it.”
Not only was it the ISI’s first major operation in mainland India, it was also the most audacious to date. Much more ambitious than even 26/11. So ambitious and audacious, in fact, that they risked their most important asset in India, Dawood Ibrahim, and his underworld army. The ISI would have known that irrespective of how this ended, they would have to evacuate the whole lot, and find them safe harbour in their own country. Now you know why they pamper and protect Dawood and the Memons the way they do. They were key to their most sinister and brutal conspiracy in India to date. Also, they knew simply too much.
ISI has since been obsessed with targeting Mumbai. In the many rounds of bombings since then, including 26/11, there’s a common pattern: Multiple bombings or attacks, but hit one key point in South Mumbai first, get the government distracted thus, and then have trouble radiate outwards. Even in 26/11, a bomb was left in a taxi timed to go off after a while to cause confusion in an entirely different area. What this tells you is that except the instruments and methods, the ‘masterminds’ work on the same formula for 25 years.
The most dangerous and diabolical of the many lies and half-truths Sanju tells you is that bombings were carried out by Tiger Memon because his office had been burnt in the riots. It is a criminal rewriting of history. The Memons might have had their own grievances but here they were Dawood’s pawns. Who, in turn, was an ISI kingpin.
Dutt was but a bit player in this. His home was a safe place to keep weapons. It could be that he was a gullible man-child, fearful for his family. Never mind also that his father already had three licensed weapons. We have no evidence to doubt his intentions. But that question from M.N. Singh remains: If only he had told his father.
When a Rajkumar Hirani-Vidhu Vinod Chopra film begins by thanking Raj Thackeray, abusing journalists
History, not cinema, definitely not of the cutesy, comedic, hagiographic genre, determines whether Dutt was a victim of the ‘system’ and media, or a beneficiary. It is correct that the TADA trial court acquitted him of terror charges. But it is curious that the CBI chose not to appeal this in the higher court. Do any other terror accused get such benevolence? Never, unless the ‘system’ and the media conspire to help, not target him. His late, Congress minister and MP father begged before everybody for help, even Balasaheb Thackeray.
Stars or star-makers do not send anybody thank-you cards. Nobody sends them to journalists anyway. But to blame journalists for Dutt’s travails is shockingly and arrogantly dishonest.
Reflect now on the state of Indian cinema, on the quality of our popular culture. This was a movie made by two of our most talented and successful filmmakers, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Rajkumar Hirani. It begins by thanking Raj Thackeray in the opening credits. And it ends with Sanjay Dutt (the real one, not Ranbir Kapoor’s Sanju) addressing all journalists with “teri ma ki…”
I presume we are supposed to find it endearing.
This isn’t just a most dishonest Sanjay Dutt biopic as at least one brave critic, Anna Vetticad, called it. It’s a funnily dark, endoscopic peek into the entrails of Bollywood, and shows you exactly what’s rotten there.
ThePrint’s YouTube channel is now active and buzzing. Please subscribe here.