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Maharashtra Minister defends role of police

Meena Menon

NAGPUR: After the Opposition launched a blistering attack on the police top brass in Mumbai and the State on Tuesday in the Assembly, Maharashtra Home Minister Jayant Patil on Wednesday defended the role of the police and lauded their courage in facing terrorists without half the weaponry or training of the National Security Guard (NSG).

Mr. Patil said the charge sheet against the terrorist who was caught, Mohammad Amir Ajmal Iman, would be filed in 60 days and named Ujjwal Nikam as Special Public Prosecutor. A special court will also be set up to try the case, he told the Assembly, while replying to a discussion on the latest terror strike.

The winter session which began here on Monday witnessed a 13-hour long debate on Tuesday, which ended at 1 a.m., on the terror strikes in Mumbai on November 26. Mr. Patil said this was an unprecedented attack and the police response was commendable.

First police response

The terrorists entered the Taj Mahal hotel at 9.43 p.m. that night and the first police response was by 9.57 pm when Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 1) Vishwas Nangre Patil reached there. The police reached the Oberoi 9 minutes after the terrorist attack and by 11.25 p.m. Joint Commissioner Of Police, Crime, Rakesh Maria informed the Director-General Of Police (DGP), the Chief Secretary, the Army and Navy. The request for the NSG was made at 11.30 p.m. and they reached Mumbai by 4.40 a.m., he said to buttress the fact that there was no delay. He said the bomb disposal squad defused two bombs that night and one just before it exploded.

Mr. Patil, the State’s new Home Minister, said the lack of bullet-proof jackets was highly criticised but Hemant Karkare, head of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) was wearing a vest and died despite that. The post-mortem report indicated that Karkare sustained bullet wounds in his neck, above his chest and shoulder. At a close range of ten to twelve feet, a bullet proof-vest cannot guarantee protection, Mr. Patil pointed out, adding that the vests were of standard quality and the State regularly procured them. The Mumbai police had 885 vests, he said, adding that they cannot be 100 per cent bullet-proof in all situations.

However, the Opposition which was not satisfied with Mr. Patil’s reply, threatened to stall the session unless the Mumbai police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor, the Director-General of Police, Maharashtra, A.N. Roy and Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Ms. Chitkala Zutshi were asked to resign.

Members of the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shouted slogans saying “Pakistan murdabad” and demanded the immediate removal of the three top officials on Wednesday.

Even Chief Minister Ashok Chavan’s assurance that a proper inquiry would be conducted was not acceptable to the Opposition.

Mr. Chavan said the government was pro active on this issue and there was no use blaming officials. He said the government had taken serious note of the charges against the police officials and an inquiry was being conducted to fix the responsibility.

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