Pradeep Sharma: People shouldn't judge police on the basis of films
Exclusive: Mumbai's Dirty Harry Pradeep Sharma on his past life as an encounter specialist, his entry into state electoral politics, on the officers who he claims framed him and much more
From shooting gangsters and terrorists dead to donning a politician's topi, Mumbai's ace encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma has come a long way. He is now set to contest the assembly polls from Nalasopara on a Shiv Sena ticket next month. According to Sharma, if there was no retirement age for cops, 'I would have donned khaki till my last breath'. We pin him down for a chat.
Sharma , who joined the Shiv Sena last week, has served the police force for more than 38 years. He took voluntary retirement to try his luck in Maharashtra politics. Though he has made up his mind to be part of state politics, his heart still remains with the police force. He says, politics is another way for him to continue serving the people.
Pradeep Sharma in uniform
From police officer to encounter specialist and now political aspirant, describe your journey...
If a policeman wishes, he can help society to a great extent. If there was no retirement age for police personnel, I would have served in the force till my last breath and would have never joined politics. I still do social service. In fact, I have formed an NGO with the help of friends to help people in need and hold events addressing social issues as well. I recently got an offer from the Shiv Sena to join the party. I don't have any ambition in politics, but I am due to retire in eight-nine months, so I saw this as an opportunity to continue serving the people.
Where do see yourself in the next five years politically?
As I said earlier, I don't have any political ambitions. I just want to stay connected with the people. I want to repay society what it has given me. As I have joined the Shiv Sena, I will try and uphold all responsibilities entrusted to me by Uddhav Thackeray.
Sharma with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray when he was inducted into the party at Matoshree last week
What made you join the police force? And, now politics?
I come from a family of uniformed personnel. Many of my relatives are part of the armed forces and I, too, got passionately drawn to the uniform from an early age. Now, after serving in uniform for 38 years, I will work for my people through politics. By becoming a Member of the Legislative Assembly, I can serve more people. My equation in politics will be 1 per cent politics and 99 per cent social work.
Do you believe that internal politics in the police force is more evil than in actual politics?
The police force has given me everything, it has made me who I am today. I always performed my duty and obeyed my seniors. In fact, seniors were like gods to us. We used to obey them with utmost sincerity. I never came across any dirty politics in the police force. However, there are one or two officers who play politics but they do not define the entire force. If you ask me whether I was ever targeted or did I suffer due to politics in the force, I will only say that I don't blame anyone, I suffered whatever was in my destiny. I was given a new birth by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis when he reinstated me in the force.
Ahead of his first rally in Nalasopara and Virar last week. Pics/Sneha Kharabe and Hanif Patel
Was there ever an instance where you regretted joining the police force?
Not even once in my life have I regretted joining the police force.
You have killed a number of gangsters in encounters so far. Do you regret killing any of them?
I have arrested thousands of criminals while in service, some of them in encounters. It was team work. I never counted the number of encounters or gangsters I killed, this is all a media creation. And, I never regretted killing any of them. An encounter is like an accident, you just have to respond to a situation. Fortunately, I was never at the receiving end of a bullet. I also did my best to save my team members lives from gangsters' bullets.
Comment on the controversy surrounding the Lakhan Bhaiya encounter case...
I was never involved in the encounter, some officers framed me in that. You see, the encounter took place in 2006 and a case was registered in 2010. If there was any fake encounter, the police officers concerned would have registered the offence or at least reported it. If a case is being registered after four years, who knows what happened at the time. If I was involved, then my name should have been in the FIR, but I simply became a target of internal politics. I spent three-and-a-half years in jail for a crime I never committed. I will remember that for the rest of my life. The officer involved is KMM Prasanna, whose command I had never worked under. I was told afterwards that my name was dragged in as some other police officer told him to. But I was pronounced innocent and reinstated. I have forgiven everyone involved.
How did you manage your days inside prison? What have you learnt from time in jail?
The pressure was on me to prove my innocence and I fought for it and the court was on my side. We were all kept separate from the other prisoners as there was threat to our lives, hence I never met other inmates. I spent three-and-a-half years in humiliation.
Do you fear for your life or family now, since you are out of the police force?
I was provided security by Commissioner Satyapal Singh from the day I was out of jail. But, I was fearless then and fearless now.
How do you think your 'tough guy' image will work in these times, when people are looking for 'strong leaders'?
I worked fearlessly in the police department. I had a good image in the police department and everybody believed I would help them when they were in need and will take a stand for them. In politics, too, I will continue to practise this.
If you are elected, what areas will you work in?
I will perform the duty assigned to me by my party. I will give them and the people the best from my side.
What you think qualifies you for electoral politics?
You tell me if I don't have any qualifications. I have always remained connected to society and worked for them.
What do you think is your core voter base? Did you get attracted to politics after seeing how much power politicians have over police?
Till now I have worked selflessly for people, my work is my identity and people love it. And, this love is my strength. I have received praise, honour and fame through the police force, I don't want anything more than that. As I said, I am in politics to repay whatever I have received from people, I am not attracted to any post or power.
Why do you think police in India have such a bad image?
People shouldn't judge police on the basis of films. The real police are very good. Films always show cops reaching the spot after the crime, but in many instances, in which I was also involved, cops reached long before it happened and saved lives.
Describe your family background
I am not comfortable with sharing my family details.
No. of years Pradeep Sharma has served in the police force
No. of years Pradeep Sharma spent in jail in Lakhan Bhaiya encounter case
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