Mumbai: Headless Special Branch loses its edge

The attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni and the ruckus at the BCCI headquarters may have been prevented had the Special Branch been proactive in its intelligence gathering; the department hasn’t had an Addl CP for last 3 months

The haunting shadows of the events that shocked the city recently are enough to say that Mumbai police’s intelligence-gathering unit has lost its edge.

The office of Crime Branch in Mumbai. The Special Branch, which is responsible for intelligence gathering, does not have an additional commissioner of police. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
The office of Crime Branch in Mumbai. The Special Branch, which is responsible for intelligence gathering, does not have an additional commissioner of police. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

The three recent incidents — paint attack by Sena activists on Sudheendra Kulkarni, protest at BCCI’s office and mismanagement during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit at Indu Mills — proves that the Special Branch needs to pull up its socks to deal with the prevailing unrest.

Also Read: Shiv Sena's ink attack and protests fail to stop Kasuri's book launch in Mumbai

The department is currently functioning without a head. The post of additional commissioner of police for this branch has been lying vacant for last three months. During Modi’s recent visit to Indu Mills for the bhoomi-pujan ceremony of Dr Ambedkar Memorial, many people from Nagpur had reached the venue.

The police wasn’t prepared to tackle the crowd, as only bureaucrats and politicians were scheduled to attend the event. The PM reached the venue before time and the event was conducted peacefully. However, as soon as the dignitaries left, the place was flooded with people, who had come to see the 12-acre mill area.

Clueless cops
“The police had not anticipated such a crowd and there was no word from the Special Branch about it. The State Intelligence Department (SID) also did not inform about anything,” said a police officer from Shivaji Park police station.

Wrong timing
Sena’s recent stand against Pakistan had led to two shocking incidents in the last week, which could have been avoided. Be it the attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni or the gherao at BCCI office, these episodes come as a warning to the police department.

For Pakistan former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book launch, the cops were busy building a security net around the venue — Nehru Centre in Worli. But the Sena men caught the cops off guard and attacked Kulkarni, the organiser of the event, near his home in Sion.

In another incident, the clueless police department provided complete security to Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Shaharyar Khan and head of the PCB’s executive committee Najam Sethi, who had arrived in Mumbai for bilateral talks.

Read Story: Shiv Sainiks storm BCCI office, protest against PCB chief Shahryar Khan

However, the department didn’t cover the BCCI headquarters, where the talks were due to be held. Taking advantage of the situation, the protestors gheraoed BCCI president Shashank Manohar and shouted anti-Pak slogans.

Sources in Mumbai Police said that C H Wakade, who was the additional commissioner of police, Special Branch, was transferred a while ago and no one heads the department now.

Neglected
The additional charge of the Special Branch was given to Pratap Dighavkar, additional commissioner of police, South Region. Dighavkar was away in the US for a training programme and has just returned to the city. “This clearly shows how an important branch has been neglected by the police,” said a police inspector.

While addressing the media, Ahmad Javed, commissioner of police, agreed that the important branch should have a dedicated staff. The post of Addl CP of Special Branch is also considered as punishment posting and people leave it as soon as they get an opportunity.

In the past, during Balasaheb Thackeray’s funeral procession, the Special Branch played a crucial role, as the police were well informed and had proper bandobast.

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