Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria has claimed that former Joint Commissioner Deven Bharti did not disclose at the start of the investigation in the Sheena Bora murder case that he knew INX Media co-founder Peter Mukerjea and his estranged wife Indrani Mukerjea, NDTV reported on Tuesday. Bharti is now Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad chief.

Maria alleged that Peter Mukerjea had told him he informed Bharti about Bora’s disappearance in 2012, a fact that came to light in 2015. The retired police official, who investigated 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case and also headed the investigation in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, made the revelations in his memoir titled Let Me Say It Now.

Sheena Bora was allegedly strangled in a car on April 24, 2012, following which her body was burnt and dumped in a forest in Raigad. The book states that Maria had questioned Peter Mukerjea at Khar police station about why he did nothing after Bora’s sudden disappearance. This interrogation happened following Indrani Mukerjea’s arrest in August 2015.

In response, Mukerjea said he had told Bharti about Bora’s disappearance. “Now there was a deafening silence in the room,” Maria wrote in the memoir. “The proverbial pin dropping type. I looked at Deven with a quizzical look on my face, but he was poker-faced. And silent. I looked around the room and sensed that even the others were taken aback at Peter’s disclosure. They all tried to look as if nothing of consequence had happened.”

Recalling that incident, Maria said he could not sleep a wink that night. “Deven Bharti was in charge of the functioning of all the police stations in Mumbai city and I thought it would be inappropriate to question him in front of all his subordinate officers,” he added. “However why he had not divulged this vital information to me, and this despite he and I meeting on a daily basis and even travelling together to Khar Police Station! He had never told me that he knew Peter and Indrani.”

Peter Mukerjea was arrested in November 2015. He was granted bail on February 6. The former police commissioner said Bharti was the additional commissioner of police in the Crime Branch and he could have done a lot to locate her.

Bharti rejected the allegations, and claimed it appeared to be a marketing strategy to sell the book. “Maria belongs to a family linked with Bollywood and, it seems, scriptwriters have a great influence on him,” he added. “It’s advisable to read the charge sheet and case diary rather than a piece of fiction. Won’t comment much as the trial is in progress but would definitely tell that the whole investigation team was aware of all developments and were on the same page.”

Rakesh Maria added he had been transferred a day after he questioned Peter Mukerjea, The Week reported.

Former Additional Chief Secretary (Home) KP Bakshi told India Today that the former commissioner’s transfer was done “by the book”. “I can tell you that these were the government orders that we implemented,” Bakshi said. “The transfer was the result of government order for the government consciously decided to transfer him out. He may write anything but we had decided that the case will continue with him, however he declined saying that once I am transferred then I will not handle the case. But the government was ready to continue with the case. So that was not the issue.”

Ajmal Kasab and 26/11 terror attack

Maria claimed 26/11 terror attack convict Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab would have died as Bengaluru resident Samir Dinesh Chaudhari, with a “red thread tied around his wrist”, had the Lashkar-e-Taiba succeeded in its plans to pin the blame on Hindu extremists, PTI reported.

“There would have been screaming headlines in newspapers claiming how Hindu terrorists had attacked Mumbai,” he added. “Over the top TV journalists would have made a beeline for Bengaluru to interview his family and neighbours. But alas, it had not worked that way and here he was, Ajmal Amir Kasab of Faridkot in Pakistan.”

Maria claimed “Kasab joined the ranks of LeT to commit robberies and had nothing to do with jihad”. However, he had been indoctrinated so much that he “was made to believe that Muslims were not allowed to offer namaaz in India”, the former police officer added.

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said Maria would be summoned, and his claims about the terror attack would be probed if required, reported News18 and Times Now.

The former police officer claimed he made the convict say “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. “‘Bend down and touch the ground with your forehead,’ I ordered Kasab,” Maria wrote. “Spooked, he meekly followed my instructions. Now say, ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’, I commanded. ‘Bharat Mata ki jai!’ said Kasab. Not satisfied with just once, I made him repeat it twice.”