IT’S BEEN seven months since Mumbai Police anointed Shashikala “Baby” Patankar as the city’s drug queen, and over a month since she walked out of jail. But the tag still sticks.
“I know what the police are up to. They send young men with packets of drugs to my house to confirm that ‘maal’ is sold here. Then they catch the men and make them say I sold them drugs,” claims the 55-year-old Worli slumlord at her one-room, 10×10 ft home in Siddharth Nagar.
After weeks of being cooped indoors, Patankar appears to have found her voice after forensic reports concluded that the 112-kg stash of mephedrone seized from her suspected lover and now-sacked police constable Dharmaraj Kalokhe was actually food additive ajinomoto.
From raging against police for not testing the powder before her arrest to accusing them of stealing her belongings, Patankar spoke to The Indian Express, acknowledging her relationship with Kalokhe but denying her role in cases registered in Satara and Mumbai for alleged peddling mephedrone.
“I had cash and gold jewellery worth more than Rs 3 crore in my cupboard in stacks of Rs 20, Rs 50 and Rs 500,” she said. “But the police only officially showed recovery of Rs 3 lakh and a pair of gold earrings. They didn’t conduct a panchanama of the rest. I had bills for all my purchases, but the police took them away,” she alleged.
The money, according to her, was earned building and selling slums in Worli since 1985. Over the years, Patankar said, she made enough to build a bungalow in Lonavala for her children and grandchildren, and three cars for a tours business.
“Maine patra laaya, do bamboo thoka aur ghar banaya. (I brought sheets of tin, drove in two bamboo sticks and built a house) That’s how I began selling slums,” she said.
Her own ground floor home atop the hilly slum looks out to a vista of tin roofs and blue tarpaulin, and the under-construction towers beyond. She can point out each home she bought and sold, declaring, “I have carved homes into this hill.” Claiming to be unlettered, she says the lure of an apartment was never strong enough. “Apna jhopda zindabad,” she said.
Born Shashikala Mazgaonkar, Patankar harboured a dislike for policemen after her brothers were arrested in a murder case. One got a life term, the other was acquitted. But depressed after alleged assault in police custody, the latter set himself on fire after his release.
She fit her homes with CCTV cameras seven years ago. These cameras, she claimed, captured the police planting narcotics in her home before the December 2014 arrest of her brother Arjun Mazgaonkar and daughter-in-law Sarika for selling mephedrone.
“When the police saw their actions had been captured, they pulled out the wiring and took away the cameras and recorder,” she said. The house bears empty sockets or little holes in the walls of each room where she claims the cameras used to be.
Patankar was released on bail by the Bombay High Court on September 9, a week after Satara Police filed its nearly 300-page chargesheet against her, Kalokhe, her sons Girish and Satish and her alleged mephedrone supplier Gyan Samuel.
Justice Abhay M Thipsay expressed surprise in his bail order that Patankar had been previously denied bail by the City Civil and Sessions Court. “There is nothing to show the connection of the applicant (Patankar) with the substance (mephedrone),” he noted.
A report from the Pune Forensic Science Laboratory that the substance seized from Kalokhe’s cupboard in Marine Drive Police Station was ajinomoto was enough for the court to free her. “Just because she allegedly possessed the substance in 2014 when mephedrone was not even a scheduled substance under the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances act, does not mean that it can be applied retrospectively,” said her lawyer, Advocate N N Gavankar.
However, the chargesheet also seeks to tighten the noose through FIRs lodged in 2014 and 2015 at three police stations in Mumbai and Vasai, where youngsters caught with mephedrone reportedly told police that they purchased the contraband from a woman named Baby — a nickname earned by virtue of having five older brothers.
Claiming that Kalokhe originally tried to frame her, she said the former constable had been eyeing her gold. Motioning to the floor-to-ceiling cupboard that along with a bed makes up half her room, she alleged: “He tried to persuade me to let him keep it with himself. I refused. When he realised I wouldn’t budge, he planned to get me framed in a drugs case and then raid my cupboard.”
Patankar doesn’t discuss statements she gave the Manickpur police station in Vasai, in which she allegedly confessed to have met her alleged supplier Samuel three times in 2014, and to have purchased mephedrone from him on each occasion. She also denies Mumbai Police’s version of her dramatic arrest in a bus in Panvel in April.
“I had visited Mumbai four times in the one month that the police was looking for me. When a friend said she knew some officers at the Social Service Branch, I decided to go there. Hamare konkan side ki aurat itne hushaar nahi hote (Women in the Konkan are not very bright),” she said.
There are also laments that no one speaks to her any more. “In my granddaughter’s school, other children tell her that her family will be stripped naked and beaten up. The police wanted me to lose the respect of my family,” she said.
“All I wanted as for them to test the drug before the arrest. Why did the police make such a sensation when they knew they hadn’t found drugs? Dawood ki bhi behan thi, lekin uska matter bhi police ne itna uchala kya (Dawood Ibrahim also had a sister, but the police make such a big deal out of her)?”