Rude Awakening: The Sanjay Dutt Case Revealed The Depth Of Bollywood’s Mafia Connections

Tasked with investigating the 1993 Mumbai bombings that killed 257 people and injured more than 1,400, Rakesh Maria, aged just 12 years at the IPS and two years in the city as Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) cracked the case in less than 12 hours thanks to some fortunate circumstances.

One of the biggest surprises was the involvement of rising Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, who had hidden some of the smuggled weapons in his bungalow along with the explosives that caused the chaos.

“The discovery of Sanjay Dutt’s involvement in the blast plot came as a real shock and revelation,” writes Maria, who later rose to become the Mumbai police commissioner, in his autobiography Let Me Say It Now (Westland).

“Are you sure?” asked MN Singh, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), in disbelief when briefed on the development. Singh had asked Maria to investigate the case along with Police Commissioner AS Samra.

“Yes sir, for sure. And I have the whole chain except Dutt,” Maria replied.

That was on the morning of March 15, 1993, three days after the explosions, and Dutt was shooting a film in Mauritius at the time, ironically titled ‘Aatish’ (Fire).

During the investigation, it had emerged that on January 16, 1993, Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Anees ordered two of his henchmen, Hanif and Samir, to drive an armed van to Dutt’s bungalow in Bandra.

The actor kept three AK-56 rifles, 25 hand grenades, a 9mm pistol and some cartridges for himself, put them in a duffel bag and carried them inside.

“Where is the bag?” asked MN Singh.

“Lying in his house, in his bedroom, I think. If I leave, I can get it back,” Maria replied.

“If we act before he returns, he will be alerted and able to flee. As soon as he’s back, we’ll pick him up. Let’s maintain secrecy. Nobody should know. Do you know when he’ll be back?” Samra said when informed.

But the very next day, an English tabloid yelled, “Sanjay has an AK-56.”

A few days later, Dutt called Samra to say he was returning to India and it fell to Maria to arrest him at the airport.

The flight arrived around 2 a.m. on April 19, 1993. Dutt, a first class passenger, got off first.

“He looked at me dazed and shocked and without a word handed me his passport and boarding pass,” writes Maria. Dutt was taken straight to the Criminal Investigation Department at the Crawford Market Police Office.

“He was taken to a room with an attached toilet that I identified earlier in the day,” writes Maria. “It was manned by carefully chosen, hand-picked guards. No one should speak to him but me; No one was allowed to enter the room without my permission. If he wanted to use the toilet, he should keep the door open. Smoking was also banned,” he added.

MN Singh had instructed him to be at his office at 9.30am and Dutt was to be brought before him.

Maria continues: “At 8 p.m. sharp, I went with handpicked officers to the room where Sanjay Dutt was staying. No one had spoken to him all night or answered his questions. With no family support and no soul to show sympathy for him, Sanjay Dutt looked utterly lost and broken. If I had allowed him to meet his family, he would have been a completely different man.”

Maria began by asking Dutt, “Are you going to tell me the truth, or do you want me to tell you your story?”

“Sir, maine kuchh nahin kiya!” He sat in a chair, looked at me with soulful eyes, and whimpered, “Sir, I haven’t done anything.”

Looking back on that day, Maria writes: “The tension and stress of the last few days have caught up with me. I couldn’t take the lie and couldn’t help but slap him hard on the cheek. He leaned back, his legs lifted into the air, and I grabbed him quickly by his mane of long, golden hair. I literally looked down at him into his horrified and scared eyes and said “I ask you like a gentleman, you answer like one”.

“Sir, can I speak to you privately?” he asked in a shaky voice, staring at me frozen, broken and shaken. This was much shorter and quicker than I expected! I sent the officers out and then Sanjay Dutt told me everything and cried like a child. He confirmed everything Hanif, Samir and the others had said.

“So the guns are in your house,” I asked him. “Come and show me where they are.”

“He fell at my feet sobbing and said, ‘Sir, I destroyed them. He then cataloged in detail how, after the news report appeared in The Daily, he had his friends go to his house, get out the guns and destroy them. I immediately sent teams to pick up his friends Yusuf Nullwala, Ajay Marwah, Kersi Adjania and Rusi Mulla who had helped Sanjay destroy the weapons and assisted him.

“After he was done, he fervently pleaded, ‘Please don’t tell my father.’

“I can’t hide anything. I have to tell the truth It’s time you stood up to face the consequences of your mistakes. Grow up and own! Tell your father what you did,” Maria told him while Dutt was still pleading not to tell his father.

Meanwhile MN Singh had arrived. Dutt was produced and asked to speak for himself. He repeated the entire sequence of events. MN Singh was pleased and relieved that we had not been shown up the garden path.

That afternoon, Dutt was brought before the court, which handed him into police custody.

Later that evening Sunil Dutt visited Maria accompanied by Rajendra Kumar, Mahesh Bhatt, Yash Johar and Baldev Khosa. “Despite my Bollywood heritage, I didn’t know any of them,” writes Maria.

When the older Dutt continued to protest his son’s innocence, Sanjay was called in.

“As soon as he entered, he saw his father and immediately burst into tears. He touched his father’s feet and said, “Sorry! Please forgive me. Mere se gilti ho gayi.’ I made a mistake, he admitted. Then he told his follies,” writes Maria.

He continues: “Sunil Dutt was stunned by this admission of guilt. Throughout this engagement, my eyes were glued to Sunil Dutt. The expression on his face is difficult to describe.

“The blood just drained from his face. It was as if the impact of the confession had knocked every breath out of his lungs. The disbelief of what he had just heard left him speechless and utterly stunned. The scale and severity of Sanjay’s actions shook the foundations of his faith and trust. He was a broken man – his reputation, stature and reputation were riddled and drained.”

While Dutt was in police custody, “he was an emotional wreck,” writes Maria. “I had instructed the guards to make sure he didn’t hurt himself. He kept asking the guards to let him talk to me. Whenever I had time, I would ask him to be brought to me.”

Maria continues, “My hectic and overloaded work schedule didn’t leave me time to listen to his outpourings of his trials and tribulations.

“But given his emotional state, I didn’t want him to harm himself. Imagine the clamor raised about police brutality and its third degree application to an “innocent” movie hero, if that happened. So I asked him to be brought to my place late at night after all my important work was done.

“Then it would all be about his troubled past, addictions, attachment to his mother, how her death had affected him and how he used to miss her, and also his affairs of the heart! He would cry incessantly and I would comfort him and advise him to have courage, learn from his mistakes, face life and the consequences of his actions.”

Some of the things Sanjay Dutt told Maria gave him an understanding of the connection between Bollywood and the underworld, “particularly the incursions that the organized crime syndicates had made into the tinsel world.” After completing his detention, Dutt was transferred to Arthur Road Jail and, as Maria puts it, “I breathed a sigh of relief”.

(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at [email protected])

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