Excerpt: Rakesh Maria's tell-all book narrates sensational cases including 26/11 attacks, Sheena Bora murder case

Rakesh Maria

Mumbai's former Commissioner of Police, Rakesh Maria, reveals his version of the sequence of events in crucial cases such as the 1993 blasts, the 26/11 Mumbai attacks as well as the Sheena Bora murder case when he was transferred on promotion during an ongoing investigation.

While Maria had kept mum on the happenings within the department during his tenure as a police officer, his tell-all book, Let Me Say It Now, breaks his silence on several controversies that were part of his career. 

The following text is an excerpt from this book describing the movements of the terrorists before the Mumbai attacks and has been reproduced here with permission.

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The city of Porbandar in Gujarat has a few things to be proud of. There is the Porbandar Stone, a yellowish-white limestone known in Gujarati as makhanio patthar (butter-stone) from which many a beautiful buildings in Mumbai are crafted. The Cama Hospital, designed in Medieval Gothic style by Khan Bahadoor Muncherjee Cowasjee Murzban, is one.

In its fabled mythical past, Porbandar is Sudamapuri €" the city of Lord Krishna's impecunious childhood friend Sudama €" his mate from Guru Sandipani's ashram. He could manage just a handful of beaten rice to carry for Krishna when he went to see him in Dwarka €" Krishna's City of Gold, one of the seven sacred cities and another port on the long Gujarat coastline. How Krishna relishes the humble dish, how the joy makes Sudama forget seeking help to overcome his poverty, the way he returns empty-handed and the sweet surprise that awaits him there, is the story that Indian saints have been deciphering for ages. The simple inhabitants of Porbandar celebrate the divine friendship with a temple dedicated to Sudama, only second of its kind. The other is in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, where the Sandipani ashram is said to have been located.

In recent history, Porbandar is the birthplace of the Mahatma, the icon of peace, harmony, nonviolence and secularism, who, when in doubt and sorrow, turned to Krishna's celestial song, the Bhagavad Gita.

But, perhaps the least known feature of the all-weather port city is its maritime heritage, vouched for by the surrounding archaeological excavations dating back to the Indus-Saraswati civilisation. The navigational skills of Gujarati seafarers rarely gets due recognition, but live on in the intrepid spirit of its fishermen. Manmade boundaries mean nothing to this hardy folk, forced by the rising marine pollution to venture deeper into the high seas. Every year, several cases of 'India-Pakistan Maritime Trespassing' are reported. The violators are fishermen from both the countries, mostly operating along Gujarat and the neighbouring province of Sindh in Pakistan.

Hundreds of fishing boats are registered by their owners in Porbandar. The men operating them are aware of the ever-present danger of arrests and the distinct possibility of languishing in Pakistani jails. The boat-owners initiate negotiations for their return which may take years to fructify. Till then, the wives toil hard to make ends meet, supported only by a small daily compensation from the State. It is amazing how, despite this threat, these seamen continue to brave the turbulent waters to eke out a living with prayers on their lips and the Tricolour hoisted high on the masts.

On 25 November 2008, boat-owner Vinod Masani had cause to worry. His mechanised fishing boat M.V. Maa had returned to the Porbandar Jetty, but there was no sign of the other boat, M.V. Kuber. Both had sailed out together on 14 November. Tandel (Captain) Amarchand Solanki was leading Kuber's crew of four other khalasis: Ramesh Nagji Solanki, Natthu Nanu Harpati, Balwant Prabhu Harpati and Mukesh Ambu Harpati. Mukesh was a last-minute replacement of a regular crew member whose son had suddenly taken ill. Kuber and Maa had been together for a week before getting separated by a storm on the high seas. The last time the two Tandels had spoken to each other was on their walkie-talkies on 20 November at 10:30 in the night. Manish Lodhari, the secretary of the National Fishworkers' Forum made enquiries with the Pakistani authorities in Karachi who said that they had not captured any Indian boat during the relevant period. Little did Lodhari and Masani know that Kuber was heading towards Mumbai, with Tandel Solanki at its helm, but with his crew replaced by ten merciless fidayeens carrying lethal weapons to attack Mumbai. To teach India, Israel and the West a lesson for their alleged atrocities on Muslims. Little did they know that the crude wooden trawler and its poor unsuspecting crew had been struck by a terrible man-made calamity on 23 November around noon.

Our boat, the Al-Husseini reached the border between India and Pakistan near Jakhau around 12 noon. We spotted an Indian fishing boat in the waters and decided to seize it. Usman asked us to enter the engine room and told us that the minute our boat received a jolt, we should rush out of the engine room and jump into the Indian boat. We entered the engine room and Usman stood on the deck. He picked up a broken engine strap and began waving it. The captain of the Indian fishing boat thought that we were in trouble and needed help. He steered his boat towards us to touch the Al-Husseini. As soon as we received the jolt, all of us rushed out and jumped into the Indian boat. The five crew members were terrified. We immediately tied their hands and feet. 'Who is the Tandel?' we asked. The Tandel came forward. He said his name was Amarchand Solanki. We taped the mouths of the rest with sticking plaster and forcibly pushed them onto the Al-Husseini.

'Do you have enough diesel to last till Mumbai?' Abu Ismail asked Amarchand. He said that he had 700 litres in the tank and some more in barrels and added that although he did not know the way to Mumbai, the diesel would not suffice till there.

Some diesel barrels and oil cans were immediately transferred from the Al-Husseini to Kuber. We also loaded some other stuff that we needed for the attack €" haversacks, the rubber dinghy, her engine, and some provisions. We also shifted some excess stuff from the Kuber to Al-Husseini. Then the Al-Husseini turned back to Karachi with the four captured Indians and we proceeded towards Mumbai.

Ismail started the satellite phone and began conveying our progress to our Lashkar-e-Taiba trainers in Karachi. With the help of the Tandel, we began our journey to Mumbai and kept checking the track with the help of the GPS.

Then Abu Ismail created three groups. The first had Abu Ismail himself, Nasir and I. The second had Javed, Hafiz Arshad, and Nazir Ahmed. And the third, Fahadullah, Abdul Rehman and Abu Soheb. Each group was supposed to take turns and keep a two-hour vigil. In the interim, Imran Babar cooked with the help of the Tandel.

Abu Ismail and Javed would be at the helm intermittently. Travelling thus, the Kuber came to a distance of five nautical miles off the Mumbai coast. We could see the hazy outlines of Mumbai's skyscrapers.

We had come close to Mumbai without any obstacle and now we had to just enter the city. We were thrilled at the very thought of entering Mumbai to kill people and teach India a lesson; also to America and Israel for harassing Muslims. I contacted Abu Hamza in Karachi and informed him that we were nearing Mumbai. He was very happy. 'Allah will help you in your task,' he said. 'What should we do with the Tandel?' I asked Hamza.

'We have eaten the four goats. Now you decide what you want to do with the goat in your possession,' he said. So I understood that the four captives who had been transferred to the Al-Husseini had been slaughtered.

Rakesh Maria's Let Me Say It Now has been published by Westland Publications

Also See: Sheena Bora case: Former Mumbai top cop Rakesh Maria claims successor Ahmad Javed knew accused Indrani, Peter Mukerjea socially

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