Mumbai mess

Had it been a Bollywood thriller, one might have enjoyed it. But it’s not. The recovery of an explosives-laden SUV near business tycoon Mukesh Ambani’s house and the mysterious death of businessman Mansukh Hiran have opened a can of worms, showing both the Mumbai Police and the Maharashtra Government in a poor light. Under fire from the Centre as well as the BJP, the Shiv Sena-led dispensation has replaced the Mumbai Police Commissioner. The new chief has been candid enough to admit that the credibility of the police has taken a hit due to some black sheep. In the SUV case being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the focus is on a controversial cop, Sachin Waze. He has gained notoriety over the years as an encounter specialist, having allegedly eliminated 60-odd suspected criminals. Waze was suspended in 2004 over his role in the custodial death of 2002 Ghatkopar blast suspect Khwaja Yunus and resigned in 2007, but he was reinstated after 13 years by the Uddhav Thackeray government in 2020. The ruling Shiv Sena is finding itself cornered after BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis claimed that in 2018, when he was the CM, he had rejected a demand by Uddhav to bring Waze back into the police ranks.

The murky goings-on have laid bare the nexus between politicians and tainted police officers. There is no denying that political patronage emboldened trigger-happy Waze to have a free run. The high-profile case has predictably sparked a tug of war between the Centre and the state. With former allies Shiv Sena and the BJP at loggerheads, the Centre has been quick to entrust the probe to the NIA. Hiran’s death is being investigated by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad.

Central and state agencies need to work in close coordination, not at cross purposes, and get to the bottom of the matter at the earliest. It would be a pity if political one-upmanship were to influence the probe and prevent the whole truth from being revealed. It’s a scary thought, but what we know so far might be just the tip of the iceberg.

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