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Boot for ‘Dirty Harry’ brigade

Mumbai, Oct. 20: Mumbai police’s gang-busting “Dirty Harrys” were busted today, with 10 of them shifted out of the city amid preparations to prosecute them for an alleged custody death.

Among the 10 is senior inspector Pradeep Sharma who, with pupil-turned-rival Daya Nayak, had formed the police’s star pair of “encounter specialists”, famed for hunting down and shooting gangsters by the score.

Daya, out on bail in a wealth case, is suspended and many of the other “Harrys” have been transferred. But today’s move is the biggest blow to the group so far.

The mass transfers were prompted by a high court directive during the hearing of a case filed by the mother of Khwaja Yunus, an accused in the December 2002 Ghatkopar bus bombing who was allegedly tortured to death in lock-up.

The case, in which Daya, too, has been implicated, was probed by Maharashtra’s Crime Intelligence Department (CID) under the high court’s orders, but the chargesheet has been lying with the state police brass since August 25.

The court today asked state police chief P.S. Pasricha to take “appropriate action” on the chargesheet, leading him to issue the transfer orders.

Sharma, believed to be a veteran of some 100 “encounters” and featured by Time magazine with Daya, has been shifted to Amravati. He had investigated key cases, including the Bollywood-underworld nexus, the IC-814 hijacking and the arms seizure at Mumbai port in May this year.

Inspectors Arun Borude and Prakash Patil have been moved to Buldhana and Nanded. The other seven are assistant inspector Dinkar Mohite (Nagpur); sub-inspectors Giridhar Gore (Ratnagiri), Kanhaiyya Thorat (Nandurbar), Limbaji Yadav (Hingoli) and Mangesh Mahajan (Nashik); and constables A. Johari (Nashik) and P.R. Mule (Raigad).

Yunus, a chemical engineer from Parbhani, had disappeared on January 6, 2003, a few days after his arrest. The police claimed he had escaped while being escorted to Ahmed Nagar by a team led by sub-inspector Sachin Vaze.

The CID had arrested Praful Bhosale, head of the Ghatkopar unit, and Vaze in the case. They are now suspended. Yunus’s mother Aasiya Begum has sued the state for Rs 20 lakh.

The police had set up several “crime intelligence units” in 1997. Between 1998 and 2000, these teams are believed to have killed over 300 from the gangs of Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Rajan, Arun Gawli and Amar Naik.

They have since then scattered. Vijay Salaskar, who shot don Amar Naik and many of Gawli’s gangsters, is now with the anti-terrorism squad.

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