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Let Me Say It Now

Nominated | Book Awards 2021 | English Non-fiction

Let Me Say It Now

Full Title: Let Me Say it Now

Author: Rakesh Maria
Publisher: Westland

Award Category: English Non-fiction
About the Book: 

Son, I think you have made a mistake. You have written IPS five times.’

‘No, sir, it’s not a mistake,’ I said. ‘It is deliberate. Sir, give me IPS or nothing.’

Rakesh Maria’s entry into the elite Indian Police Service and rise to the coveted post of Mumbai’s Police Commissioner is a gripping and inspiring story.

One of India’s best-known police officers, Maria’s life is the stuff police legends are made of. Time and again his bosses and various political masters took him off his regular postings to detect serious crimes. But he successfully steered challenging and monumental investigations -- the 1993 serial blasts and the audacious 26/11 terror attack being two such instances. His work confined him to the Urbs Prima in Indis for the better part of his career. It constantly kept him under the spotlight, attracting the ire of many and resulting in some deeply distressing moments. But Maria persisted and led from the front, wherever his duty took him.

Just when he was about to complete his tenure as Commissioner, the sensational Sheena Bora murder case came to light. As usual, Rakesh Maria ensured that no stone was left unturned to unravel the roles of the influential accused. Just then, he was abruptly transferred on promotion. The treatment meted out to one of Mumbai’s top cops created a huge controversy. Several explanations were offered; guesses hazarded. However, Maria held his silence, as always. He was not new to controversies. They dogged him as they do all public servants who choose to act rather than take the easy way out, seeking shelter under rules of hierarchy and office.

In Let Me Say It Now, Maria breaks his silence for the first time, letting the reader into his side of the stories built around him. It is the chronicle of a conscientious and steadfast cop who found himself in the midst of sensitive cases and created benchmarks in complicated investigations. The book is also an unusually frank and penetrating look into the criminal justice system and the socio-political set-up it operates in.


Excerpt: 

Extract from Let Me Say it Now -- Rakesh Maria
Enter the World of International Terror

As per the diabolical design, well before noon, the ‘harbingers of death’ began driving out of the Al Husseini building, one by one, on journeys of annihilation and destruction. Out rolled five scooter bombs, five car bombs, two motorcycles bearing men armed with hand grenades, one Maruti van that carried men with hand grenades and guns, and three men carrying suitcase bombs.
It was my duty to ensure that each one of them was tracked and brought to face trial…
During the course of the investigation, it transpired that Baba Musa Chauhan of Chauhan Motor Training School had stored and distributed the smuggled weapons for Anees Ibrahim. When Baba Chauhan was questioned, he stated that he was a peripheral participant, but Hanif and Sameer know more about it. And who were Hanif and Samir? None other than Hanif Kadawala, the owner of ‘Tawaa’ – a famous eatery in Bandra, and Samir Hingora, the President of the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA). Together they ran a company called Magnum Videos and produced films …
So Hanif and Samir were called in for questioning. They were wealthy businessmen with a battery of good lawyers at their disposal and not easy nuts to crack. …Then for some inexplicable reason, Hanif and Samir decided to squeal on a friend….
‘Aap bade logon ko pakadtey nahi kya?’ (You don’t catch the high and mighty, do you?) they taunted me.
‘Who is that?’
‘Sanju Baba,’ came the answer.
‘Sanju who?’
‘Sanjay Dutt, the hero.’
‘Sanjay Dutt? How is he involved?’ I couldn’t believe what I had heard.
And a new angle emerged. They said that it was Baba Chauhan who had brought the car with the weapons to them at Anees Ibrahim’s bidding. Samir had merely piloted it to Sanjay Dutt’s bungalow where the weapons were offloaded. After a few days, Baba Chauhan had sent another vehicle, a Maruti 1000. This time it was Hanif who had piloted it to the Dutt bungalow. Sanjay Dutt had retained some weapons and returned the rest. And what was the destination of the weapons from there? They said they did not know.
....
I immediately sent a team for Zaibunnisa again. This time I was seething with anger and furious with her lies and the theatrics she had enacted to mislead me. The moment she came before me, I got up in fury and would have given her a resounding slap, had she not immediately begged my forgiveness and confessed that Abu Salem had indeed left the weapons with her. She gave me his address in Andheri. ‘
‘If I don’t get him, you had better watch out,’ I threatened her. ‘Sir, the minute you permitted me to leave, I phoned Abu Salem right from the PCO outside the police station,’ she confessed, holding her ears. ‘I told him that because of him, the police had come to my house. He said he was going to make a run for it and also asked me to make a quick exit.’
What a terrible mistake I had committed! I had believed this woman who was adept at lying and let her pull a fast one on me! Instead of sympathising and commiserating with her, if only I had initially slapped her, the saga of the Bombay underworld would have been so different. Immediately on receiving Zaibunnisa’s alert call, Abu Salem had taken to his heels. He took the first available flight to Delhi and thereafter escaped to Nepal and from there to Dubai to evolve into and emerge as Anees Ibrahim’s chief extortionist. Had I seen through Zaibunnisa’s crocodile tears, Abu Salem would have been cooling his heels in prison and not be the menace he proved to be for Bombay businessmen, filmwallahs and builders right through the mid-90s till his arrest in Lisbon, Portugal by the Interpol on 20 September 2002. Such are the twists and turns of fate!
On 19 April 1993, the flight was to arrive around 2 a.m. People had gathered in hundreds outside the Sahar Airport, International terminal. Sanjay’s family was there accompanied by their film fraternity, as were hundreds of political supporters of Sunil Dutt all set to show solidarity, and of course, the media. My strategy hinged on the arrest to be swift and quick and without providing the hordes gathered outside an opportunity to dramatise it. I was in my civvies, waiting with the team on the aerobridge where it meets the aircraft. Sanjay Dutt, a first class passenger, was the first to disembark out of the aircraft door. As he did, I put my hand round his shoulder and drew him aside. I did not know him. So I introduced myself, ‘I am DCP Rakesh Maria. Where are your boarding pass and passport? Give them to me.’
He looked at me dazed and in a state of shock and meekly handed over the passport and boarding pass without a word. I gave them to one of my officers who left to collect his bags. I walked Sanjay Dutt down the steps, from the aerobridge ladder near the aircraft door, on to the tarmac. As per the plan, two vehicles were waiting for us there: my official Ambassador car and a Crime Branch jeep. I sat in my car, next to the driver and Sanjay Dutt was made to sit behind between two constables.
Coming out of the Santacruz Domestic Airport, we brought Sanjay straight to the Crime Branch in the CP’s office at Crawford Market. He was taken to a room with an attached toilet that I had already identified earlier in the day. It was manned by carefully selected handpicked guards. Nobody except me was to speak to him. If he wanted to use the toilet, he was to keep its door ajar. Smoking too was prohibited.
‘Will you tell me the truth or do you want me to tell you your story?’ I asked him.
‘Sir, maine kuchch nahi kiya!’ He was sitting on a chair, looking at me with soulful eyes and whining: Sir, I have not done anything!
The tension and stress of the last few days caught up with me.
I could not bear the lie and couldn’t help but plant a tight slap on his cheek. He tilted backwards, his legs going up in mid-air and I swiftly held him by his mane of long, gold-tinted hair. Looking literally down upon him into his horrified and scared eyes I said, ‘I am asking you like a gentleman, you answer like one.’
‘Sir, can I talk to you in private?’ He asked in a quavering voice, looking up at me in a frozen stare, broken and shaken. This was much shorter and quicker than I had expected! I sent the officers out and, then Sanjay Dutt told me everything, crying like a child. He corroborated all that Hanif, Samir and the others had said.
‘So, the weapons are in your house?’ I asked him. ‘Come and show me where they are.’
He fell sobbing at my feet and said, ‘Sir, I have destroyed them.’ Then he catalogued in detail how, after the news report had appeared in The Daily, he had tasked his friends to go to his house, take out the weapons and destroy them. I immediately sent teams to pick up his friends Yusuf Nullwala, Ajay Marwah, Kersi Adjania and Rusi Mulla who had aided and abetted Sanjay in destroying the weapons.
After he had finished, he fervently pleaded, ‘Please don’t tell my father any of this.’
‘I cannot hide anything. I must tell the truth. It’s time you stood up to face the consequences of the mistakes that you have made. Grow up and own up! Tell your father what you have done,’ I said to him as he still kept pleading with me not to tell his father.


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