File photo of former Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria.
Mumbai: As Mumbai's police commissioner Rakesh Maria had for the last few weeks delivered headline making updates on investigations in the complex Sheena Bora murder case. On Monday evening, Mr Maria's abrupt transfer made headlines.
But Rakesh Maria was not made famous by the Sheena Bora case or his controversial transfer. He has long been celebrated as Mumbai's super-cop, leading key investigations and cracking some of the city's toughest cases.
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Rakesh Maria got national fame after he investigated and cracked the 1993 serial blasts case. 12 simultaneous explosions rocked the city killing over 350 people and Mr Maria, then Deputy Commissioner of Police, Traffic, led a team of more than 150 policemen in a massive probe. In interviews he has described how he found the key to an abandoned scooter packed with explosives in the house of the Memon family, solving the case. Tiger Memon, the key accused, is absconding since. His brother, Yakub, was hanged this year in Nagpur on July 30.
Rakesh Maria interrogated Ajmal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist captured after the 26/11 attack in Mumbai that killed 166 people. Mr Maria's knowledge of Urdu helped him get the most out of Kasab. Using mental games on a highly indoctrinated terrorist, Mr Maria got him to admit not only his role, but that of his controllers in Pakistan. Kasab was convicted and hanged in 2012.
The 2008 murder of television executive Neeraj Grover, was cracked with one cryptic, but loaded statement that Rakesh Maria made to Kannada actress, Maria Susairaj. When Susairaj asked, "Sir, do you have any suspects?," the cop looked into her eyes and said, "You Madam, are my suspect number 1." Susiraj and her boyfriend Jerome Mathew were convicted in Grover's murder; the man for homicide, the woman for destroying evidence.
In his role as chief of Mumbai's Anti-Terror Squad or ATS, Rakesh Maria uncovered the network of the Indian Mujahideen and its sleeper cells of homegrown terrorists who had planted bombs in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Mumbai and others. He almost arrested Yasin Bhatkal but missed him by a whisker. Bhatkal was later arrested in Nepal.
Mr Maria, who reportedly wrote IPS or Indian Police Service five times in the application form for the civil service examinations - which asks candidates to record which service they would prefer - has earned a reputation as a tough cop who deploys unique methods of investigation which are non-violent, but force the accused to give in. One of the methods reportedly is feeding people oily and spicy food or jalebis and then not giving them water till they confess.
Mr Maria has fascinated Bollywood and film makers have based many screen cops on him. Actor Anupam Kher's policeman turn in 'A Wednesday' drew inspiration from Rakesh Maria. In Anurag Kashyap's controversial and critically acclaimed film 'Black Friday' - which is based on the 1993 blasts - actor Kay Kay Menon played Mr Maria.
That is not Rakesh Maria's only connection with Bollywood. Maria hails from a film family which owns their own production house Kala Niketan and his father, Vijay Madia, had come to Mumbai from Punjab to become an actor. He went on to become a film producer and oversaw the making of films like Kaajal and Neelkamal.
But Bandra boy, Rakesh Maria, was not inclined towards Bollywood. An avid sportsman, he was a basketball champion and played for St Xavier's College in Mumbai. He set up the Mumbai Police's Basketball team as well and encouraged the constabulary to play sports.
As a 22-year-old in 1979, he represented his state Maharashtra in Karate at the National Games.
Rakesh Maria is also known in Mumbai circles for his huge collection of ghazals and qawalis by Indian and Pakistani artistes. He is also a voracious reader and since his teens idolised Claude Lebel from Frederick Forsyth's thriller novel, 'The Day of the Jackal'.