Mumbai’s ‘encounter specialist’ Pradeep Sharma has been one of the main reasons that the government has been able to unshackle the hold that underworld criminals have in the commercial capital. Expert at hunting and gunning down criminals and terrorists, Sharma’s figure stands at 113 encounter targets. Needless to say, this brave officer, who has consistently been a threat to the infamous Mumbai underworld, has won a flurry of accolades from the media and commoners alike.
However, fame did not absolve him of being targetted by other law enforcing authorities.
In 2007, Sharma was accused of carrying out a “fake encounter”, following which he had to spend nine years in exile. While the hearing was going on, he could not wear his uniform. It was only recently that Sharma returned to his job, after the court declared him to be innocent. And within a month into active service again, the police officer has already nabbed the “most-wanted” underworld kingpin Dawood Ibrahim’s brother, Iqbal Kaskar, in an extortion case.
The 1983-Batch Encounter Specialist
Originally hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Sharma’s father was a teacher who moved to Mumbai with his family. It was here that Sharma completed his education and cleared the Mumbai Police Service Commission examination. Trained under the senior officer Arvind Inamdar at the Nashik Police Training Academy, the 1983-batch saw the induction of not only one but several other “encounter specialists” like Shivaji Kolekar, Praful Bhonsle and Vijay Salaskar into Mumbai Police.
Sharma earned his first honours when serving at the Mahim Police Station after which he was promoted to the Special Branch.
The Journey From A Cop To An “Encounter Specialist”
The 1990’s was a notorious period in Mumbai’s history. Tortuous gang wars and extortion cases became the norm of the day. The situation was so bad that even great businessmen were petrified of purchasing even an expensive looking car or closing a business deal for fear of the mafia. In such a terrorised situation, the then state home minister Gopinath Munde ordered a crackdown on these underworld gangs. It was then that Pradeep Sharma came onto the scene.
Sharma first made headlines when he killed the dreaded mafia don Vinod Matkar. Not just him, the “encounter specialist” also eliminated gangsters like Rafiq Dabbawala, Parvez Siddiqui and Sadiq Kalia apart from three Lashkar-e-Taiba militants.
The Nine-Year-Long Exile
Pradeep Sharma was the prime accused in the Lakhan Bhaiya encounter case. Ram Narayan Gupta, alias Lakhan Bhaiya, was allegedly one of the closest aide of underworld don Chhota Rajan. Lakhan was killed in an encounter on November 11, 2006. His brother accused Sharma’s team of abducting him from Navi Mumbai and later killing him in a staged encounter. This accusation saw Sharma transferred from Special Branch to Mumbai Police Control Room and then to Dharavi Police Station, before being suspended from active service.
This was not the first time Sharma had been accused of fake encounters. Earlier he was accused of carrying out encounters at the behest of Dawood Ibrahim.
In 2013, however, Sharma was acquitted, though 13 other policemen were given life imprisonment by a Mumbai Sessions court.
The Arrest Of Iqbal Kaskar
According to sources, an eminent businessman from Thane had been receiving extortion calls from Kaskar since quite a few days. Following this, the businessman registered a case with the Thane Police Anti-Extortion Cell. Freshly back in job, the responsibility of cracking the case fell on Pradeep Sharma. Soon he, along with his team of officers, nabbed Kaskar from his sister Haseena Parkar’s residence.
Reports suggest that Kaskar lived in Dubai till 2003, after which he tried to return to India. Upon his arrival at the airport, he was arrested. Kaskar was also wanted for a murder case apart from an extortion case. However, due to the lack of any evidence, Kaskar was released by the court.
Sharma Inspired Many Bollywood Flicks
Once haunted by the underworld, the Bollywood film industry has often portrayed characters inspired by Pradeep Sharma. In fact, it is said that Nana Patekar’s character in Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘Ab Tak Chhappan’ was inspired by Sharma.