The news of the arrest of Sajjad Ahmed Abdul Aziz Mugal alias Pathan by the Mumbai police on the morning of October 11 was unexpected and sudden. It brought to an end the despair and anguish to which my family had plunged into for over a year-and-a-half since this dreaded criminal jumped parole to escape life imprisonment.
Arresting Sajjad from Kashmir was by no means an easy job for the Mumbai police. Sajjad is not a simple, first-time petty criminal as he made himself out to be. He is a hardened criminal who did not commit the crime on the spur of the moment — as the sessions court’s judge has opined. The way he plotted his escape from Nasik jail, by seeking parole to meet his sick mother, reveals his criminal mindset. Reports that Sajjad was in the process of acquiring a false Aadhaar card shows his criminal bent of mind.
Once free, Sajjad employed all tricks in his armoury to deceive the police. His planning and execution of the murderous assault on my daughter Pallavi inside her own flat in pursuit of his lust was so immaculate that it convinced the sessions judge into awarding him life imprisonment — and not capital punishment. This was despite his conviction on all charges — under sections 302 (murder), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with the intent to outrage her modesty), 449 (trespassing in order to commit an offence punishable with death) of IPC and section 37(1) (a) read with 135 of the Bombay Police Act,1951(possession of knife in contravention of ban) — that were levied on him by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch.
Sajjad hailed from Uri in Jammu and Kashmir. After jumping parole, he escaped to the safe havens of his home state. He knew that once there, it would be impossible for any police from outside the state to nab him. Sajjad was shrewd enough to exploit the advantages of his physical appearance, language, religion and the difficult terrain of Jammu and Kashmir to protect himself against attempts by the Mumbai Police to arrest him.
It was, therefore, a herculean task for the Mumbai Police to arrest Sajjad from his hideout in Kashmir. The law and order situation in the state made it very difficult for police to move freely, more so in places like Uri, Baramulla and the surrounding areas where security combing is very tight to check anti-national and terrorist activities. The chances of the task force getting identified was very high. Mounting an operation in such a difficult and hostile terrain by the Mumbai Police was akin to undertaking covert action in an enemy area.
When I met D. Padsalgikar, Mumbai’s police commissioner, in September 2016 after Sajjad had managed his escape, he was most sympathetic and assured me that he would leave no stone unturned in arresting the culprit. Frankly, I couldn’t recognise his steely resolve then and interpreted his gesture as one meant merely to console me.
The success of Mumbai Police in arresting Sajjad comes as a huge morale booster for the public. Whenever such a heinous crime is committed, society reacts with shock and anger. There is huge criticism of the law and order machinery. And when such dreaded criminals escape, with the connivance of the very officials tasked to guard them, the trust and the faith of society in the government machinery collapses.
The arrest of Sajjad from what he assumed was the safe havens of his home state — and in retrospect within a reasonable time — sends a very strong message that criminals will never be able to escape from the strong arm of the law and will be made to pay for their misdeeds. It tells us about the dogged determination of the Mumbai Police’s Crime Branch. The Mumbai Police’s execution of the operation speaks volumes of the capability and expertise of its senior officials in mounting covert operations.
The police team, which executed the operation almost 2,000 km away from Mumbai in a hostile and difficult environment, comprised officials who were daring, disciplined and well-trained. They had faith in themselves and were ready to take up the challenge, even at risk to their personal safety. These are the sterling qualities of which heroes are made of. These are accomplishments, which uniformed organisations like the police force cherish for years and the personnel involved in such operations become legends. These successes are trophies, which encourage future generations in the force to achieve impossibilities in the line of duty. The Mumbai Police has set a very high standard in one of the basic and important police functions, that is, tracking down culprits and bringing them to book. That there were no major hiccups in the execution of the task is indicative of the extreme professionalism in the force.
It is a huge relief for the nation that the Mumbai Police could apprehend Sajjad before he could succeed in his plan to obtain a false Aadhaar identity. Had he executed his plan, Sajjad would have opened a channel for other criminals, including terrorists from across the border, for acquiring the most important document of identification in the country. I hope this factor gets due cognisance during the hearing of the appeal petition for death penalty to Sajjad.
Society blames the police for its failures and rightly so. But when it succeeds, the police force deserves our gratitude. The Mumbai Police personnel involved in this operation, with Padsalgikar at the helm, are the the pride of the country’s police services. I am sure the entire country is applauding their success. We, the grieving family, bow to them with gratitude. These officials deserve the highest recognition given to the police force. Bollywood would be well justified in making a movie on the Mumbai police’s success.
It is also time to acknowledge the effort of the media in creating adequate awareness on the issue of abuse of women in the country and keeping alive the memory of this case. Sajjad has now unmasked himself adequately for the judiciary to recognise what a dreaded criminal he is and give him the capital punishment while adjudicating on the appeal pending before Bombay High Court.