THE PEOPLE’S COM­MIS SIONER

Rakesh Maria, one of Mum­bai Po­lice’s most loved of­fi­cers, beats se­niors to the top job

India Today - - PROFILE - By Gay­a­tri Ja­yara­man

Have you read Sher­lock Holmes?” asks ACP San­jay Kadam of the Anti Ter­ror­ism Squad, an old as­so­ciate of Mum­bai’s new Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice ( CP) Rakesh Maria. “That is him.”

In 1994, CBI de­tained one Dr Jalis An­sari. Un­able to crack the man who would come to be known as “Dr Bomb of Bom­bay”, the agency called a young crime branch of­fi­cer who was earn­ing a name for sharp­ness. DCP Rakesh Maria ar­rived and within half an hour, he had An­sari con­fess to over 60 blasts at gur­d­waras and po­lice sta­tions be­tween 1989 and 1994. And con­trary to Suketu Me­hta’s por­trayal in Max­i­mum City, Maria did not lay a hand on him. “You can’t break hard­ened crim­i­nals with a fist. Maria is Holmes. Even as the crim­i­nal talks of his first step, he has al­ready seen his tenth,” Kadam ex­plains.

Maria, a fan of Holmes and a vo­ra­cious reader, has mas­tered the moves of many fic­tional crim­i­nals, from Ra’s al Ghul to James Bond su­pervil­lains; from au­thors Jef­frey Archer to Ed McBain. A po­lice­man of the street, he built his net­work by mak­ing him­self ac­ces­si­ble; ev­ery con­sta­ble, it is said, has his num­ber and can call him even at 2 in the morn­ing. In fact, he some­times leaves his cell phone with his staff. He is known for play­ing vol­ley­ball with con­sta­bles in the yard. Maria has cul­ti­vated an aura “of quiet strength” that Anu­pam Kher says he adopted for his char­ac­ter in A Wed­nes­day. “In Maria’s pres­ence, you be­lieve all will be well,” says Kher.

Maria sub­scribes to the be­lief that po­lice must have an ap­proach­able, non-threat­en­ing yet dom­i­nant pres-

ence on the street. His fo­cus ar­eas, he an­nounced af­ter tak­ing over as po­lice com­mis­sioner on Fe­bru­ary 15—he has called his ap­point­ment a dream-cometrue for a boy who played foot­ball bare­foot in Ban­dra—would be on crime on the street and safety of women. He has got to work in earnest, abol­ish­ing vis­it­ing hours and declar­ing po­lice avail­able at all times.

No won­der roses keep ar­riv­ing at CP’S of­fice in Craw­ford Mar­ket, a bou­quet ev­ery three min­utes, some of them 48 stems thick with the Govern­ment of In­dia em­blem on the card, oth­ers hum­ble ger­beras, to fete his ap­point­ment. Each is scanned by a con­sta­ble be­fore it is let through. “CP sa­hab” is not in his of­fice but the queue out­side is no less than when he holds “dur­bar”. As he walks in, his six-feet-plus frame un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally bur­dened by the full re­galia of the uni­form, his face is flushed from at­tend­ing back-to-back meet­ings in Mantralaya, deal­ing with the con­tro­ver­sies over his ap­point­ment. His pre­de­ces­sor Satya­pal Singh, who has joined BJP, is not around for the han­dover. Javed Ahmed and Vi­jay Kam­ble, the two se­nior of­fi­cers he su­per­seded, are threat­en­ing to re­sign. He has not even had time to sit down with his of­fi­cers for a pri­mary brief­ing.

In Mum­bai, the com­mis­sioner of po­lice is the king, says po­lice his­to­rian Deepak Rao. “The com­mon man may not know who is the chief min­is­ter but ev­ery­one knows who the CP is. Dur­ing a street brawl, no one says, ‘I will go to a min­is­ter’ but ‘I will go to the CP’.” It has been so since the time of Charles For­jett, the first po­lice com­mis­sioner in 1857. In 2014, the post couldn’t have gone to a more-loved po­lice­man than the 1981batch IPS of­fi­cer. His batch­mate Meeran Bor­wankar, ADG ( Pris­ons), Ma­ha­rash­tra, is all praise. “Rakesh, as all of us know, is an ace in­ves­ti­ga­tor and in­ter­roga­tor. He is very pas­sion­ate about his job. Po­lice of­fi­cers and staff love him. He leads from the front, he al­ways has.”

It is a rep­u­ta­tion that Maria has built since his days as DCP (Traf­fic) in the 1990s. In 1993, he was as­signed to the se­rial blasts case by CP A.S. Samra—he got the case as much for his rep­u­ta­tion as a sharp in­ves­ti­ga­tor as for the fact that the bombs had been planted in aban­doned ve­hi­cles. He demon­strated his sharp­ness and ei­de­tic mem­ory later, when, as com­mis­sioner of Rail­ways, he listed names of 18 ac­cused in the se­rial blasts case at a press con­fer­ence with­out re­fer­ring to a scrap of paper.

Maria can al­ways be ex­pected to ex­ceed his brief. He got San­jay Dutt to con­fess his crimes to his dis­be­liev­ing fa­ther Sunil Dutt; he pro­nounced star­let Maria Su­sairaj a sus­pect even as she came in to re­quest a probe into the dis­ap­pear­ance of her lover Neeraj Grover; he in­tro­duced psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing for of­fi­cers hold­ing key posts; he cracked blasts cases while des­ig­nated to han­dle traf­fic, and as Anti Ter­ror­ism Squad chief, he probed the ur­ban in­ter­est in largely ru­ral Nax­al­ism.

Born Rakesh Mau­rya into a fam­ily that owns Kala Nike­tan Pro­duc­tions, the 58-year-old is an afi­cionado of Hin­dus­tani clas­si­cal as well as western coun­try mu­sic and has a reg­gae collection that would be the envy of any hip­ster. He is an avid bas­ket­ball player and also rep­re­sents Mum­bai Po­lice in state foot­ball tour­na­ments. Maria is fa­ther to sons Ku­nal and Kr­ish and hus­band to Preeti, a home­maker.

Maria is po­lit­i­cally neu­tral and that, sources say, is why he was cho­sen over Javed Ahmed and Vi­jay Kam­ble, who were Congress’s choices. But he has his de­trac­tors. Suketu Me­hta por­trayed him as “the tor­men­tor” Ajay Lal in Max­i­mum City; IB claimed that Mirza Hi­mayat Baig was wrongly held by his crime branch in Ger­man Bak­ery blasts’ case; and Vinita Kamte blamed him for the death of her hus­band ACP Ashok Kamte in the 26/11 at­tack. But his loy­al­ists in the force stand by him. His in­ter­ro­ga­tion meth­ods, they in­sist, are “nat­u­ral for any­one in his po­si­tion in the crime branch”. On Kamte’s charge, they de­fend him as be­ing a vic­tim of then CP Hasan Gafoor’s lack of or­gan­i­sa­tion and it’s whis­pered that the fi­nal Prad­han Com­mit­tee re­port ex­on­er­ates him of blame. The facts noth­with­stand­ing, the leg­end of Rakesh Maria has growth larger than his self. And for his sup­port­ers, all that mat­ters is that the CP is in his chair and all is well.

Fol­low the writer on Twit­ter @SellingVi­o­lets

ADILJAIN/ VERVE

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.