The D.B. Marg police station was taking no chances. Their squad at the Vinowli Chowpatty, led by Assistant Police Inspectors Hemant Bavdhankar and Sanjay Govilkar, was subjecting each and every vehicle passing the checkpoint to thorough scrutiny.
The others deployed at the junction were Sub Inspector Bhaskar Kadam, Assistant Sub Inspectors Tukaram Ombale, Sarjerao Pawar and Chandrakant Kothale, Hawaldars Shivaji Kolhe, Vikram Nikam, Ashok Shelke and Chandrakant Chavan, Police Naiks Vijay Avhad and Mangesh Naik, Constables Ramesh Mane, Sunil Sohni, Santosh Chendwankar, wireless operator Sanjay Patil and driver, Chandrakant Kamble.
Since Vinowli Chowpatty junction is a major entry and exit point in the area which was under attack, a four-tier checking was in progress. The first group of men asked the motorists to slow down, switch off the front lights, put on the inside lights and lower all the windows. The next set of officers checked the occupants inside and the car. The third set jotted down the description and details of the car. And the last set of officers were ready outside the van, armed with their AKs.
When the alert message about the Skoda was received, the squad became vigilant. Theirs was the most likely road for the terrorists to take! And that’s what happened.
The Skoda approached the nakabandi at Vinowli and abided by the first command. But at the next command, it did something totally unacceptable. Instead of switching off the front lights, Ismail switched on the headlights to blind the police party. He also began spraying the washer fluid onto the windshield. The inside of the car was not visible to the police and sensing danger, the other officers and men began advancing cautiously.
Ismail swerved the car to his right, intending to cross the divider, but the car could not make it. The police advanced with their weapons and Ismail opened fire from his pistol. By then, the third tier of officers was also closing in.
Assistant Police Inspector Bavdhankar and Sub Inspector Bhaskar Kadam retaliated and Ismail was killed instantly, though it was not apparent as yet. Bhaskar Kadam’s shot had entered his skull. Kasab saw his buddy go limp. The police firing continued. Then, Kasab opened the left door and deliberately fell out of the car.
On noticing this, Tukaram Ombale moved nimbly to the door and saw Kasab lying on the ground holding his AK-47 close to his chest. Without an instant’s delay, Ombale threw himself on Kasab and tried hard to snatch his gun away even as Kasab strived to throw Ombale off him. Although he did not succeed in throwing Ombale off him, he managed to press the trigger. Five bullets pierced Ombale’s body killing him instantly.
Kasab told us that Ombale’s dead weight had made it all the more difficult for him to get up and attack the policemen which he had desperately wanted to do. The rest of the squad rushed to the left side of the Skoda and saw Kasab pinned down by Ombale who was lifeless. Just then Kasab opened fire again and a bullet pierced the left hip of Assistant Police Inspector Govilkar.
The policemen pulled Kasab out and began beating him mercilessly with their batons. Kasab lost his grip on the weapon and it fell to the ground, to be immediately seized by the officers. Sanjay Govilkar, a fine officer who had worked with me in the Crime Branch earlier, realised that he had to stop the attack on Kasab. Despite his injury, he thrust himself between his infuriated comrades and Kasab and shouted in despair, “Arrey yala maru nakaa! Toh aplyala jiwanth awaaa ahe! Tyachyakadoon mahattwachi mahiti milwaychi aahe. Toh sakshidaar aahe. (Don’t hit him! We need him alive! We need to get important information out of him. He is an eyewitness!)”
The timely action by Govilkar had averted a major mishap, or else, we would have been left holding a dead Kasab and lamenting the loss of a god-sent opportunity to get evidence out of him.
The men controlled themselves and came to their senses when they saw a bleeding Govilkar hugging Kasab as if he were saving his dearest friend!
The dramatic finale of Kasab and Ismail’s car ride lasted just seven minutes and wrote a glorious page in the history of the Mumbai Police. It was written in blood, shed by the brave and unassuming Tukaram Ombale. Armed with just a baton, he had lunged forward to grab Kasab’s Kalashnikov without wasting a single thought.
The page was inked with the bullets of Kadam and Bavdhankar who had fired the shots that had eliminated Ismail and paved the way for Kasab’s arrest.
It was written thanks to the grit displayed by the entire team of D.B. Marg police station who had braced themselves mentally to stop the Skoda, come what may and neutralise its deadly crew.