Netflix’s ‘Mumbai Mafia: Police vs. The Underworld’ is an eye-opening documentary series that chronicles how Mumbai was taken over by a wave of organized crime in the 1990s. The gangsters, who had gotten fearless by then, were committing crimes in broad daylight, and residents were scared to step out of their homes. However, the police eventually decided to take strict action, which led to the introduction of encounter cops, who would often take up arms against the criminals, leading to massive firefights.
While the Netflix production contains several one-on-one interviews where people express their views on the encounter culture, it also introduces former Mumbai police officer Pradeep Sharma, who found reverence as an encounter specialist. Well, let’s delve into Pradeep’s life and find out where he is at present, shall we?
Who is Pradeep Sharma?
Originally from Agra, Uttar Pradesh, Pradeep Sharma was born and brought up in a close-knit family with no prior experience working in the police force. As his father was a professor of English, he hoped Pradeep would follow in his footsteps and even tried to dissuade his son from joining the police. However, Pradeep longed for a life of adventure, which he believed wouldn’t have been possible had he studied to become a professor. Hence, he moved to Maharashtra and earned an MSc. degree in Dhule.
Owing to his grit and determination, Pradeep went on to become a sub-inspector with the Mumbai police in 1983. While Pradeep was initially posted in Mumbai’s Mahim police station, he soon began doing exceptionally well in his job and was offered a position in the Mumbai Police Special Branch based out of Juhu. Still determined to find further success in his career as a police officer, he kept proving himself through his work.
Eventually, authorities were impressed by Pradeep’s dedication and allowed him to lead several minor police stations around the city of Mumbai before promoting him to the rank of Senior Inspector in the Crime Intelligence Unit. Once organized crime took over Mumbai in the 1990s, Pradeep wanted to find a quick solution to the problem. He was shocked by how crimes were committed in broad daylight and soon realized that standard policing methods would not affect the gangsters in any way. Hence, he consulted with his seniors before putting together a group that would fight fire with fire.
The officers working under Pradeep were eager to prove themselves, and each of them despised the Mafia with a passion. Moreover, instead of arresting the gangsters only for them to walk free hours later, the team reportedly focused on gunfights or “encounters” through which they killed hundreds of criminals within a span of a few months. Pradeep had the most amount of encounters to his name.
While the method proved effective, the show mentioned how the criminals had no way of surrendering and were killed without a trial. In fact, when Alex Perry, a former Time Magazine correspondent, interviewed Pradeep, he mentioned that he could hear two men being physically interrogated in the adjacent room. Although Perry expressed his concerns about the authenticity of such encounters, he noted that Pradeep believed he was helping the community.
Where Is Pradeep Sharma Today?
Although Pradeep Sharma was pretty successful as an encounter cop and earned much fame through interviews in newspapers and television, reports soon began questioning the authenticity of the encounters. The show revealed how some believed that the police were picking criminals up from their homes and allegedly murdering them in fake encounters. Pradeep did manage to stay out of such controversy for long but was cast into the spotlight after his involvement in the 2006 Lakhan Bhaiyya encounter case.
While Pradeep initially faced official enquires for an alleged fake encounter, he was eventually dismissed from the police force on August 31, 2008, after sources claimed that he had conspired with criminals and was involved in underworld activities. Nevertheless, Pradeep vehemently denied such accusations and was eventually acquitted of all charges in July 2013 before being reinstated by the Mumbai police in August 2017. In July 2019, Pradeep Sharma retired from the police force with a desire to enter politics and became a member of the Shiv Sena in September of the same year.
Interestingly, Pradeep contested the 2019 Maharashtra assembly polls but was unable to secure a victory. Besides, with time, he started the social service organization PF Foundation, which has done significant work in the fields of women empowerment, healthcare, education, and the environment, among others. However, in 2021, Pradeep was investigated for being involved in businessman Mansukh Hiren’s death and is currently awaiting trial behind bars as the Mumbai High Court reserved an order on his bail plea.
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