14 September 2008, Sunday (Five days before the Batla House shoot-out)

At around 2 a.m., my phone rang. It was Sanjeev. Referring to the email from IM the previous day, he said, “Sir, SI Ravinder Kumar Tyagi had written a letter to Yahoo asking them to retrieve the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the email sent by IM to the media. At around 10.30 p.m. yesterday, we got a reply from Yahoo that the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), Mumbai, is the service provider for that particular IP address.”

“Did you find out which number is using that IP?” I asked.

“Yes, it is registered in the name of a power company in Chembur. The Mumbai Police went to check that address, but it turned out to be an open Wi-Fi. They have seized the router for forensic analysis, but it may be a dead end if forensics doesn’t reveal anything.”

“Keep following up with them on this. Have the requests for dump data of cell towers been sent to all the service providers?”

He confirmed that he had done it and had spoken personally to the service providers. I asked him to be ready next morning for a meeting along with the cyber cell in-charge SI Chhanda Sahejwani and SI Ravinder to discuss tracing of the previous four emails sent by IM.

After putting the phone down, I surmised that tracing the email was not getting the desired results. The Wi-Fi systems were recently introduced and a number of people either did not have password-protected Wi-Fi or did not change common passwords given by the service providers. This helped IM take advantage of open Wi-Fi systems.

3.00 am

I was unable to get any sleep that night, as there was a lot going on in my mind about everything that needed to be done to ensure all the leads were covered. My phone rang again an hour later. Anand Mohan, DCP, New Delhi District (an IPS officer of the 1994 batch) was at the other end. “Sir, sorry to call you so early in the morning. We have an eyewitness. An 11-year-old boy named Rahul, who sells balloons on Barakhamba Road, told the police that he saw two men getting down from an autorickshaw. One of them dropped a plastic bag into a nearby dustbin. Within 15 minutes, the dustbin exploded. According to Rahul, one of them had a long beard and was clad in a black outfit, possibly a kurta-pyjama. The other person was wearing a shirt and trousers, and was clean-shaven. Rahul is now at the Connaught Place police station. His family members have also come to the police station. A few representatives from a children’s NGO and a psychiatrist are helping Rahul rebuild the chronology of events.”

“Excellent, Anand! He may provide some leads. Get the sketch of the suspects prepared with his help. We should also question auto drivers to see if anyone can give any leads about the duo. What about the questioning of the injured and arrangements at the hospitals?”

“Sir, we have made strong arrangements at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, where the injured and dead were shifted from the explosion sites located in the New Delhi District. All the vehicles parked in the hospital premises have been thoroughly checked for bombs and explosives. Many VIPs are visiting the hospital.”

“Do you know who detected the bombs that didn’t explode?”

“As soon as the call of the first explosion in Karol Bagh was received and Red Alert was sounded off in Delhi, maximum number of police officers moved out in the field.” There was excitement in his voice. “They also followed it up with stakeholders of the ‘eyes and ears scheme’. The beat officers were already in the field, as it was evening time. A 32-year-old vendor named Kundan spotted a package, wrapped in a black polythene bag and taped with black tape. It was kept in a garbage bin next to Regal Cinema. He immediately informed Beat Constable Suresh Kumar. Without wasting any time, Suresh ripped the timer from the package and rendered the bomb ineffective. At India Gate, a 20-year-old ragpicker, Krishna, found a similar packet inside a dustbin just outside the children’s park. He immediately informed Beat Constable Jaivir, who pulled out the timer device attached to the package. The bomb at Central Park was detected by the two HCs Sanjay and Rajender just a few minutes before another bomb went off in the park.”

It was very brave of these men to risk their lives trying to rip off the bomb with bare hands. Some would perhaps call it foolish, but in my many years of service with the police department, I know that most men would not think of themselves or their families in moments such as these. They would dutifully take that risk if it meant saving lives. All these men were later rewarded by the commissioner.

Excerpted with permission from Batla House: An Encounter that Shook the Nation, Karnal Singh, Rupa Publications.