Has Rakesh Maria tried to salvage his image through Ram Gopal Varma’s film on the 26/11 attack?
Call log records procured under RTI by Vinita Kamte show callous handling of the police control room during 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai by the then joint commissioner, Rakesh Maria. However, Ram Gopal Varma’s movie “The Attacks of 26/11” tries to justify Maria’s inefficiency and boost his image. Was this film sponsored?
Ever since the book “To the Last Bullet” was released on the first anniversary of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, it is widely known that the then joint commissioner of police and now the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) chief, Rakesh Maria who was in-charge of the Mumbai Control Room faltered in communication with the three brightest and high profile police officers who were on Ground Zero. The three officers, the then ATS chief Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner, Mumbai East, Ashok Kamte and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar were killed by terrorists, Ajmal Kasab and Mohammed Ismail in the Cama Hospital episode.
Call log records procured under Right To Information (RTI) by Vinita Kamte, wife of one of the slain officers Ashok Kamte, prove that no heed was paid to the then ATS Chief Hemant Karkare’s vital and crucial orders to the Control Room through his mobile, which, if attended to, may have probably saved their lives. Also, the call log records nullified false and malicious claims of the state home ministry under RR Patil and the Mumbai Police that the three officers “went in a hurry” and that they landed up at the back gate of Cama Hospital, together without the knowledge of the Control Room.
While Maria had come under tremendous flak from the media and public as hard-hitting evidences were published in the book, co-authored by Vinita Kamte and me, the two-member Ram Pradhan Committee report praised him for his role in the Control R
oom. It was very clear that the high-profile committee members had not bothered to even go through the call log records, which Ms Kamte had meticulously gone through. The report aimed at covering the lapse of the Mumbai Police and somehow putting Maria on a pedestal. That was the first attempt to salvage Maria.
Sadly, despite Vinita Kamte’s documentary evidence, the home ministry and Mumbai Police ignored it as a widow’s emotional outburst and one of the lady bureaucrats of Maharashtra’s home ministry publicly stated that Vinita and wives of Hemant Karkare and Vijay Salaskar should now go ahead in life instead of raising their voices.
While the Ram Pradhan Committee report was the first platform to bury the dark side of the Mumbai Police’s management, Ram Gopal Varma seems to have come as the second saviour. Varma was under public ire when he had visited the Taj, escorted by the then chief minister late Vilasrao Deshmukh, the second day after the horrendous 26/11 attack in order to make a film on it. So, when his movie “The Attacks of 26/11” was released in March, I was quite under the impression that it would be a general overview of that horrible night.
However, after watching the movie, I find to my shock that the entire film revolves around the then joint police commissioner (without naming him), a role played by veteran actor Nana Patekar. The film also gives this joint commissioner entire time in the movie for giving his side of the story that appears truncated and in some instances, false, for those who know the facts. It was clear that our book “To the Last Bullet” has had such an impact, that the film opens with the joint police commissioner’s statement saying that there have been allegations against him and hence he would like to present his part of the story.
The first distortion of facts is that he narrates his version in front of a committe
e comprising 10-15 people when the Ram Pradhan Committee had only two-members.
The next scene shows the Mumbai control room, with phones incessantly ringing and constables looking flabbergasted, nervous and asking the joint police commissioner for advice, some by tapping his back. Shockingly, this senior police officer, in-charge of the Control Room, enacted by Patekar, actually confesses that he does not know what is happening and does not know what to do. He also makes a call to Delhi, to reiterate his helplessness. Clearly, this has been portrayed to tell the public that when so many calls came at the same time from outside, it was not possible for him to think with a proper frame of mind. However, it is not rocket science to quickly assess the difference between calls coming from officers and policemen on Ground Zero and those coming from the general public.
In fact, one would have thought that an officer of Maria’s stature, who was also the anchor of the Control Room would be looking out for calls from his police personnel so that he has the right assessment of what’s happening around and provide the necessary man force and ammunition, besides strategy.
(Nana Patekar, in black T-shirt, as joint police commissioner in the film)
The most shocking part of the film is that the Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar who were at the back gate of the Cama Hospital Gate have been shown in poor light. The discrepancy in the facts is brutal and unpardonable. Kamte is shown briefly, excited saying that “we must go inside” when he could never have done that. At the point of time when Kamte came to the back gate, the two terrorists were firing through their AK 47 and hurling grenades from the terrace. Kamte replied back with his AK 47. It was through the 11.24pm call log record that Karkare asked the Control Room to send policemen immediat
ely to cordon off the front gate of the Cama Hospital so that the terrorists do not escape from there.
What was shown in the movie was outrageous, to say the least. Maria tells the Committee members that, because the terrorists would escape from the front gate, he asked his three bright officers who were also his friends to go to the front gate and cordon it off. Totally false! No call log record available with Vinita Kamte cites this. This was again to deceive the public as the 11.24pm call log record by Karkare that went unattended is a major embarrassment to Maria.
The film highlights the Leopold Café, Taj, CST and Cama Hospital episodes through flurry of bullets, blood-soaked scenarios and dying people. It does not speak of valour by other police officers, police inspectors and constables who played a crucial role at different places. The film blacks out the Nariman House episode and the courageous role of the NSG Commandos. The film tries to make new history by distorting controversies surrounding Maria in his role as the Control Room chief.
The ultimate attempt to put him on a high pedestal was at the concluding part of the film. It has two lines which state that the Committee appreciated his role on the night of 26/11 and that he was promoted as chief of Anti-Terrorist Squad, a post which he presently holds.
While the film is brilliantly done with great performances by Nana Patekar and Sandeep Jaiswal, who played the role of Ajmal Kasab, it is unfortunate that a stalwart film producer/director Ram Gopal Varma fell for distortion of facts and did not take pains to do a comprehensive research in order to bring truth to the audience. It almost seems like the film ‘Guru’ where the Ambani family allegedly sponsored to tell the story of Dhirubhai Ambani. Was “The Attacks on 26/11” sponsored too?
Nevertheless, truth cannot die. Vinita Kamte has filed a second appeal with the State Chief Information Commissioner of Maharashtra for discrepancy in two documents provided to her—charge-sheet and South Mumbai call log records. SCIC Ratnakar Gaikwad has ordered the Additional Chief Secretary, Home, to conduct a probe and pin down the police personnel who are responsible for tampering the charge-sheet and call log records. 20th May was the deadline, but it has now been extended.
Watch this space, few weeks hence.
is the consulting editor of Moneylife
, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte”
with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”