In the past many senior cops resigned from the services and joined politics, hardly anyone is successful in their second career but this trend is not new. Former Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh is now holding ministry in BJP, he too resigned from services in 2014 to join politics. One more Senior Police Inspector in his age of 60s resigns from services and opts for politics and retirement plan. In the ’80s, the cops from the famous “Batch of ’83” cracked the underworld. He ruled the headlines in media and many movies too were made on him. Pradeep Sharma has offered his resignation from the Maharashtra Police and is likely to join politics. He has more than 113 encounters to his name.
This was an era when criminals actually peed in their pants at the sight of khaki uniform. The gangs were eliminated and encountered; Pradeep Sharma was one of the prominent names.
The encounter specialist those days aligned with politicians and senior police officers for their vested interests. Some of the encounter specialists amassed disproportionate assets, while others parked their ill-gotten wealth in philanthropist activities. Pradeep Sharma was recently inducted back in service after few years of suspension. He was suspended for his alleged involvement in fake encounter case of Lakhan Bhaiya. Sharma and 13 other policemen were arrested in the case and later suspended in 2008. In 2013, Pradeep Sharma came back after his acquittal. The then Congress-NCP government was reluctant to induct Sharma back in service, but he was finally taken back after he threatened to join politics. Pradeep Sharma was also known for his network in the underworld. He joined police service in 1983. In the ’90s, he was part of the Mumbai crime branch team, which was given a free hand to end underworld activities from Mumbai. Sharma had also arrested Dawood’s brother Iqbal Kaskar and busted an extortion racket.
Sharma, who was to retire in May 2020, submitted his resignation on July 4 to the director general of police, it is yet to be accepted. In 2014 too, Sharma had tried to secure a party ticket for the assembly polls but failed. Sharma hails from a village in Dhulia. After graduation, he gave the MPSC exams to join the force as a sub-inspector. Sharma, along with his 1983 batchmates Vijay Salaskar, Praful Bhosle, Ravindra Angre, Arun Borude, Aslam Momin and Raju Pillai, formed a formidable team that was responsible for “cleaning up the city of organised crime”. Former DGP Arvind Inamdar trained them. His career has seen several ups and downs. Sharma’s first posting was as sub-inspector at Mahim police station in 1984. He shot dead gangsters Vinod Matkar, Parvez Siddiqu, Rafiq Dabbawala and Sadik Kalia. Sharma also made it to the cover of Time magazine when his team gunned down three suspected LeT terrorists in Goregaon. The gangs were almost decimated by the encounter specialists. The scorecard led with the names of big hits like gangsters Sada Pawle, Amar Naik and others. Arun Gawli, the only gangster from Mumbai who had not escaped India, was so terrified that he decided to join politics.
The Dawood gang actually stopped recruitment of hitmen. Abu Salem went globetrotting and abandoned the perpetration of reckless killings in Mumbai. Ashwin Naik took refuge in an obscure hideout in New Delhi. The encounter specialists became power centres of their own and began calling the shots. Eventually the race for getting the maximum head count created animus within the group, each one accusing other of favoring a particular gang. But that is another story.
These officials known as encounter specialists killed more than 300 gangsters in the late 90s. Bollywood made many movies based on the life of these encounter cops. In later years, however, most of these cops got embroiled in controversies.
Pradeep Sharma was inducted back to service after been arrested for his alleged involvement in the Lakhan Bhaiya fake encounter along with 13 other policemen. Sharma remained suspended till 2013. The then Congress-NCP government was however reluctant to induct Sharma back into the service but later changed their decision after he threatened to the government to join politics. During his tenure in the Thane Police, he arrested Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Iqbal Kaskar and burst ‘D’ Company’s extortion racket.
On August 31, 2008 the Maharashtra government dismissed Pradeep Sharma for involvement and contacts with criminals. Police obtained telephonic interceptions of Sharma’s conversations with criminals and about criminal activities while the Intelligence Bureau provided intelligence implicating Sharma in the activities of the Dawood Ibrahim gang. However, Sharma is amongst several officers of the encounter squad facing official inquiries. Sharma professed his innocence, described his dismissal as wrongful and accused the Chhota Rajan gang of framing him. Police and media sources speculate that the Chhota Rajan may target Sharma and hence he has been granted police protection round-the-clock; although dismissed officers are not entitled to police protection. Several media sources have nicknamed him “Bombay’s Dirty Harry.”
Pradeep Sharma’s family was originally from Agra of Uttar Pradesh before moving to the state of Maharashtra. His father was a professor of English in a degree college in the town of Dhule. Pradeep Sharma was born in the Brahmin family and completed his education from primary to MSc in Dhule, Maharashtra. He joined the State Police Service in 1983 as a sub-inspector. He was first posted to the Mahim police station in Mumbai and was moved to the special branch in Juhu, Mumbai. Rising through the ranks, he went on to head the police stations in other suburbs of Mumbai, and became a senior Inspector in the crime intelligence unit of the Mumbai police. His career spanned 25 years, during which he earned fame for the successful “encounter killings” of as many as 312 criminals, including notorious crime bosses and terrorists belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba. He was one of the most famous officers of the Mumbai Encounter Squad. But then his career took a downward turn when he was entangled in the custodial death of terror suspect Khawaja Yunus in 2003.
In 2016 he was reinstated in the force. After joining as head of Thane crime branch anti-extortion cell, Sharma arrested Dawood’s brother Iqbal Kaskar and busted a major extortion racket. With polls round the corner, he decided to quit…He has met senior leaders of a party. Sharma is likely to contest the upcoming assembly elections on a Shiv Sena or BJP ticket.