Movies have given ample space to show the relationship between policemen and informers. In reel life, they are often seen speaking in hushed tones in dark alleys, or signalling quickly and there is often some humour thrown in. In real life, informers can swindle cops to bag the prize money or cops can goof up on following their tip-off.
In one instance, hoping to grab a “prized catch”, and get appreciation after a mega press conference announcing the “arrest of a terrorist”, a senior officer from the Maharashtra Police assured to “take care” of an informant provided he delivers on his promise.
The deal was struck with the informer, who was paid a few lakhs for “valuable information” he would share and for the task he was going to undertake on behalf of the police. The informant set out on his mission.
He travelled to eastern Maharashtra, where he was supposed to get in touch with a contact who would lead him to a ‘clergyman’ allegedly indoctrinating local youth and brainwashing them to join the Islamic State or IS, referred as Daesh by the western world. Just when the officer was thinking he had set the wheels in motion, a midnight call woke him up. On the other side of the line was a junior officer from an adjoining state informing him that he had detained a man who was giving his reference and claiming to be on a ‘covert operation’ assigned to him.
The Maharashtra-cadre officer asked his junior counterpart to hand over the phone to the person. It was the informant who had promised a “prized catch”. The informant pleaded with the officer to intervene and bail him out. The officer asked his junior counterpart to let his informant go but before disconnecting, the curious officer inquired if there were more people detained by the other officer along with this informant.
“This informant was trailing a clergyman who was brainwashing locals, have you got him?” the officer is said to have inquired. “The person he was chasing was my informer, sir,” came the reply.
While the informant might have parted with a few lakh rupees, it is still not clear if the two informers had hatched a plan and “fooled” the two policemen from different states or it was a genuine mix-up.
Informers’ tips are not limited to the underworld. With terror attacks becoming a growing reality, information on terror modules, sleeper cells and terrorists has become important.
But the newly posted police officer, out to prove himself, can be vulnerable to the smart informer who takes cops on a wild goose chase. The Maharashtra Police has many such tales.
In almost a similar case, an informer promised some information on terrorists – three men from a Pakistan-based organisation making their way to Mumbai to carry out an attack, and holed up in another state. The police officer, serving a sensitive post, persuaded the informant to get more leads. Owing to the input being “very sensitive”, the officer decided to leave nothing to chance, and a team of police officers was sent to follow the informant. Just like the previous instance, in this case too, this informant got detained by the local police.
On detention, the informer asked the local cops to phone the senior officer from Maharashtra Police. He identified the informer as his source and asked his counterpart to let him go but he too inquired if there were more arrests. In this case too, the officer on the other end of the call said he had arrested the informer based on information given by his khabri.