Botched drug raid at Wadi Bunder leaves Mumbai crime branch red-faced
Top secret raid dubbed 'Operation Sabak' involving 70 cops from the elite Mumbai Crime Branch to catch notorious drug sellers results in just two arrests; more than 20 peddlers escape
For years, Wadi Bunder had been crawling with drug peddlers openly selling drugs to youngsters, unchecked by the local police. But what the police hadn't managed to do in over three years, the Crime Branch hoped to achieve in one night, as it swooped down on the drug racket late on Thursday in one of its biggest operations of the year.
In the net: The ringleader, Infunanya Ginika Minke (left) and one of the drug peddlers, Ique Chikwneni Emaniyal, were arrested
The plan was codenamed Operation Sabak — they were out to teach the drug dealers a lesson, after all — but it ended up being a lesson in humiliation for the Crime Branch after nearly all the culprits escaped their clutches. Ten days of planning and 70 cops from the elite police agency were invested in the hush-hush operation, but for all their efforts, they managed to catch only two men while more than 20 escaped into the darkness. However, the Crime Branch can take some comfort in the fact that the ringleader of the racket was among those arrested.
According to Crime Branch sources, in the past three years, the sale of drugs had touched record highs, thanks to a flourishing drug trade at the Wadi Bunder bridge, run by Africans. Each time the police patrolling team would reach the spot, the drug peddlers would go into hiding, only to return once the cops left the scene.
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Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Atulchandra Kulkarni said, "Customers come in cars and bikes, and the drug peddlers wait on the Wadi Bunder bridge. It is a very quick affair — customers come, buy the product and leave immediately. In the past, we have received several complaints about this nuisance, after which we decided to act on the matter."
The drug peddlers jumped off this bridge onto the tracks near Sandhurst Road station and escaped. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni said they planned Operation Sabak for 10 days. "We did round-the-clock recce of the spot. We learnt that drug peddlers use the lay of the land to escape — either through the railway tracks or by hiding in abandoned buildings."
Inspector Ajay Sawant said, "The drug peddlers operated from every evening till early next morning. Teams from units 1 to 5 of the Crime Branch were involved in the operation. No one else from the police department was informed about this – not the local police, narcotics or the railway cops. It was a highly secret operation."
By Thursday evening, the 70 Crime Branch cops took their positions, once again posing as beggars and locals. Their instructions were to jump into action as soon as they heard 'Freeze!' At 11.30 pm, the operation began. It was completely dark, but they had already identified all escape routes. Or so they thought.
"There were around 25 drug peddlers at the spot and we were very confident of arresting all of them. They saw that we had blocked all the escape routes, but then we saw one of them jump 20 feet from the bridge," said an incredulous cop.
In 2013, mid-day had exposed a cocaine den in Carnac Bunder, very close to where this operation took place (Read the full story)
They thought of calling off the operation: "We were thinking of aborting the operation, as we feared that the drug peddler may have died after the fall on the busy railway tracks. But then we saw the most unexpected thing. When we looked down, we saw the drug peddler get back on his feet and run into the darkness," said an officer.
"One after the other, the drug peddlers started jumping off the bridge onto the railway tracks. We managed to nab two of them on the railway tracks, but the others tried to free them by hurling stones at us," said another officer.
The two men who arrested include the ringleader Infunanya Ginika Minke (37) and one of the drug peddlers Ique Chikwneni Emaniyal (24), both are African nationals. The prime accused, Minke was on bail from a previous arrest last year. They were charged under several sections of the IPC and the Narcotics Act. The cops managed to seize 40 grams cocaine from the arrested accused, along with two mobile phones and an electronic weighing machine and Rs 44,000 in cash.
Joint CP Kulkarni said, "Eight of our men got injured in the operation, some are in hospital. It was very strong message to the drug peddlers. In the future, we will take more stringent actions against drug peddlers in Mumbai."
Local police says
Justifying the side of local police, Additional CP (South Region) Pratap Dighavkar said, "It is not that the local police have not done anything to stop the peddlers. We have carried out several operations. A joint operation was conducted at this place and officers from Dongri police were also injured in the operation. I had personally monitored the operations."
1. The operation was planned for 10 days. Five cops posed as beggars and kept an eye on the drug peddlers at Wadi Bunder bridge.
2. The cops studied the lay of the land and made detailed maps of all the escape routes.
3. On Thursday evening, the 70 cops took position (posing as beggars and locals) at Wadi Bunder bridge, Sandhurst Road station, Masjid station and on the railway tracks as well. They blocked all entry and exit points.
4. The cops were shocked to see the drug peddlers leap 20 feet off the bridge. They were sure jumping from such a height would end in death or serious injuries, but the culprits got back on their feet and ran into the darkness. 5. The cops chased the drug peddlers on the tracks and even fired three rounds at them. 6. One of the culprits caught hold of Inspector Santosh Bagwe, sat on him and hit him on the head with rocks. Bagwe managed to free himself, but the gang ran away. Illustration/Uday Mohite