Mumbai: “Encounter specialist” Pradeep Sharma, a Maharashtra Police Senior Police Inspector, who once featured on the cover of Time magazine and is reputed to have gunned down over 150 criminals and terrorists has put down his papers after 35 years of service.
Presently, chief of Thane Anti Extortion Cell (AEC), Sharma sent in his resignation to the Director-General of Police a fortnight ago, and is awaiting his relieving orders from the state government.
Openly harbouring political ambitions since long, Sharma is likely to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and contest the Assembly elections from Andheri constituency in north-west Mumbai, or Nalasopara town in Palghar district.
Though confirming his resignation, Sharma kept mum on taking the political plunge to media-persons, claiming he has not yet made up his mind, and remains busy with social work through his NGO, PS Foundation.
Once dreaded by the underworld and idolised by the masses as an “Encounter Specialist”, Sharma along with other prominent “encounter specialists” of the 1990s like Vijay Salaskar, Praful Bhosale, Arun Borude, Aslam Momin, Raju Pillai, Ravindra Angre and Daya Nayak helped “clear up the city of organized crime activities”.
Many of these “gun-masters” were trained by retired DGP Arvind Inamdar, sported sophisticated weapons, and they frequently grabbed headlines for “encounter killings” of one or the other criminals from various gangs which used to operate in Mumbai, and occasionally even terrorists. Many movies were inspired by their gangland exploits.
At one point, as with many of his other “encounter specialist” colleagues, he got embroiled in the custodial death of a terror suspect Khwaja Yunus in 2003, and was transferred to Amravati. In 2008, he was dismissed for allegedly harbouring links with the very same mafia he was battling, and arrested two years later for an alleged fake encounter.
Undeterred, Sharma fought his dismissal before the Bombay High Court and Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal, and was acquitted to be reinstated in the police force in 2016.
At his new posting as Thane AEC chief, two years ago, he shot to national prominence in September 2017 by arresting absconder mafia don Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar’s younger brother, Iqbal and blew the lid off a major extortion racket in Mumbai and Thane.
Born in Uttar Pradesh and raised in Dhule (Maharahstra), the 59-year-old AEC chief is due to retire from Maharashtra Police in May 2020.