dialdfordon.pngFormer Delhi Commissioner of Police Neeraj Kumar’s book — DIAL D FOR DON : Inside Stories of CBI Missions — is highly absorbing for its forthright narrative which puts one on the edge of a seat. Needless to say it involves painstaking investigation in the cloak and dagger game which is real with all the concomitant dangers. There have been several instances where the author has been caught in tricky situations along with his team in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) where he was on deputation for nine years and established some enviable benchmarks.
Kumar provides an account of the country’s underworld particularly in Mumbai ranging from organised crime to match fixing along with the blood letting and mayhem of terrorism. He has tried to put matters in perspective without undermining its deleterious impact on society. Being his first book the author’s personality comes across as being a pragmatic and a dogged sleuth leading to convictions in court. There have been moments when he has wondered if he has taken a wrong decision which might bring a bad name to the CBI, acknowledged as the premier investigating agency in the country. Ultimately his steadfast approach and quiet confidence paid rich dividends.
Raja Vijay Karan, former Director of CBI as well as Commissioner of Delhi Police, draws pointed attention to Kumar’s remarkable memory with “”no notes, no documents and no background papers”” which has held him in good stead. In his foreword, he refers to Kumar’s narration which brings out though mutedly the anxiety that he had to face due to personal jealousies of fellow officers in the CBI and the police. “”It is a shame that we human beings are such imperfect entities, capable of spite, deceit and needless oneupmanship.”” Further, India still continues to pay a heavy price for the communal riots that occur frequently in the country. Pakistan is always there to exploit this faultline in our country both to to give this country a bad name and inveigle the minority community into terrorism against India,”” observed Karan.
A book of this kind is uncommon as one has hardly come across real time painstaking investigations on transnational terrorism which has never been the forte of the CBI. Nevertheless the agency had taken up the challenge and come up trumps despite the handicaps. Subsequently there was a felt need to constitute the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to exclusively probe terrorism in its entirety. The book has been devoted to the investigations connected among others with the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai along with Mumbai’s shady and dangerous under world. The topics range from — Gifts from the Gulf, The rise and fall of Aftab Ansari, Operation Desert Safari: the story of an anti-kidnap, Dial D for Don: My Conversations with Dawood Ibrahim, Devil Wears Khadi, Our Man in Dubai: the CBI versus the ISI and Between 22 yards: Tracing of ‘MK’ the pioneer of match fixing in cricket.
“”Operation Desert Safari”” is the tantalising story of an anti-kidnap operation pertaining to an Abu Dhabi based entrepreneur Thekkat Siddique ready to venture into uncharted territory. He arrived in Delhi on 11 March 2001 at the invitation of one Vijay Rathore whom he had never met. Vijay had repeatedly spoken to Thekkat on the telephone and through emails inviting him to Delhi for business negotiations. Hailing from Calicut, Thekkat had moved to Abu Dhabi more than two decades back. As it turned out a Dubai based gangster had received news of Thekkat’s ‘boundless riches”” and plotted to have him kidnapped during his visit to India. He was received at the airport by one of Vijay’s PAs and taken to a well appointed bungalow in South Delhi. Once inside the house Vijay was conspicuous by his absence. Instead Thekkat was confronted by unkempt men who roughed him up.
The captive was informed he would have to pay a ransom of $ two million if he wanted to be set free. Thekkat realised his mistake of not checking the antecedents of his host in Delhi. He was made to speak to his wife in Abu Dhabi and notify her about his abduction. On the following day on March 12, Thekkat’s family members met India’s then ambassador in Abu Dhabi K C Singh seeking his help. The Ambassador took a written complaint from the victim’s wife and faxed it promptly to R K Raghavan, the then Director of CBI. Kumar was not sure how to respond especially as the CBI’s capabilities in tackling a live kidnap situation had never been tested. The option was to take up the case in the Economic Offences wing of which the author was the Joint Director. At this stage the CBI had three divisions: Anti Corruption Division, the Economic Offences Wing and the Special Crimes Division.
A hostage situation requiring search and rescue operations was unheard of in the CBI. Volunteering to investigate such a case was “”sticking one’s neck a bit too far.”” Kumar took it up as a challenge and did not want to disappoint the Ambassador who had reposed faith in him. To cut a long story short Kumar worried endlessly for the man being held hostage by transnational criminals. His perseverance and resoluteness paid. His highly dedicated team facilitated Thekkat’s rescue along with the Special Cell of Delhi police. All the surviving accused in the case were awarded life sentences. Kumar found operation Desert Safari easily one of the most thrilling and satisfying experiences of his professional life.
In Dial D for Don, the author drew attention that before moving to CBI on deputation he was DCP, Crime Branch in the national capital where he became aware of the movement of gangsters acting at the behest of the dreaded Dawood Ibrahim in securing arms and ammunition in large quantities for creating chaos in the western metropolis of Mumbai. Two names that figured often were Ahmed Mansoor from the Jama Masjid area in Delhi. Mansoor had grown up with Dawood and knew a lot about his formative years and his later life as well. Dawood’s father was a constable in the police and extremely strict with his seven children. The family lived in a small room in a crowded chawl. Dawood knew there was no future for him in these environs.
Mansoor also told police about Dawood’s lavish lifestyle in Dubai, his fondness for mujras (soirees musicale) and women along with keen interest in cricket and Bollywood and how his word was the law in Mumbai. Most disputes involving real estate, monetary matters, release dates of films by different producers, casting of film stars etc were decided in his ‘court’ in Dubai. Kumar and the Don had three long conversations on 10 June, 20 June and 22 June 1994. “”What Dawood wanted to convey to me was that Tiger Memon had approached him ostensibly in connection with his dispute with Haji Ahmed. Tiger had tricked some of his aides into thinking that he was part of the overall controversy behind sending consignments of weapons and explosives. Dawood was kept in the picture when the conspiracy was hatched. “”D”” continues to be safely hiding in Pakistan with no chance of India getting him back.
Pakistan, despite being given Dawood’s place of hiding, routinely denies his presence in the neighbouring country. Giving up Dawood is a difficult demand for Pakistan to comply resulting in ISI losing its credibility in engaging Indians for terrorist activities in the future. Willy nilly but happily destiny brought Kumar to be part of four major inquiries/investigations into match fixing malpractices in cricket. “”I was exposed to the rot that has set in the game once played by lords and royals on sunny afternoons. It was common for batsmen to ‘walk’ even when declared not out if the batsman knew he had nicked the ball and had been caught behind. If given out even when he was not, the batsman would still walk.”” A few rotten eggs have muddied the waters and given the game a bad name,”” emphasises Kumar.
He acknowledged he needed hard facts to beef up the stories in this book and while researching the author had to reconnect with police officers at all levels in Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Gujarat and the CBI. The book has some explosive details and nerve tingling suspense. Overall a must read book.
|Book||:||DIAL D FOR DON Â — Inside Stories of CBI Missions|
(T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator.)