The Raiding Party

rs01As decided, Sub–Inspector Bhaskar Bhangale, Havaldar Ramesh Ghosalkar, Constable R.S.Mahale,  Panchas Udhav Jadhav Uttam Govari, Pappu Seth, Rajendra Kumar and Jamadar   Borade with his section of SRPF had all assembled at the place of a Parsi gentlemen outside the village of Siddikarvale. Sharp shooters of SRPF Kailas Gosavi and  DhondibaDhemse were asked to join in plain clothes with their 303 rifles .  They were all briefed about the operation.  Two bullock carts were kept ready near village Siddhi Karvale.

I divided the raiding party in to two parts.  First party included my self with my  .32 bore service revolver and SRP Jawans Kailas Gosavi and Dhondia Dhemse with their rifles.  We had sufficient ammunition.  The other party was led by sub-Inspector Bhangale armed with his service revolver & enough ammunition and included Head Constable Ghosalkar, Constable Mahale & three Panchas. 

Dacoits sometimes enjoy support of some local residents.  Such supporters from in and around Nitalas village could have posed us problems.  I therefore sent Jamadar Borade in my jeep to Bamanwadi via Sheel Phata & Kalyan to intercept such persons.  Constable Jadhav knew the topography very well.  I therefore detailed him to accompany the SRPF section and asked them to reach the suspected hut at 2.30pm.

We carried with us three specially fabricated iron shields to ward off any sudden firing at us in the jungle.  We carried two binoculars & two megaphones.  These were to be used for asking the dacoits to surrender.  The bullock carts were driven by head constable Ghosalkar and Shantaram Dasharam Patil of Padagha.

At 12.30 PM sharp we left Siddhikaravale in two bullock carts.  We took a diversion to avoid village Nitalas & other villages.  The fakir caps on our heads & coloured canes in our hands made a look like random pilgrims.  The bullock carts kicked up a trail of dust as we set out to trace the dacoits in the scorching afternoon heat.

As we started sighting the palm tree-tops, my team grew quieter.  Some kind of immense tension seemed to have subdued them.  The pressure on my mind was also on the rise.  As soon as head constable Ghosalkars signaled, our bullock carts stopped.  The watch told us that is was two thirty in the afternoon.  I gave the spare revolver & rounds to Havaldar Ghosalkar who was also adept at the weapon.

We dismounted quickly and proceeded further along a foot track.  In order to avoid cross fire, the two parties formed a right angles on one side of the huts.  Sub-Inspector Bhangales Party was to proceed from east of the huts, while my party proceeded from the North. We proceeded with great care.

We came across a hut but it wasn’t the right one for it was empty.  I was puzzled.  How many such huts were there?  There were dried up shrubs & leaf less trees around.  We started cautiously working our way towards our target hut.

The Actual Encounter

On sighting the rooftop of a hut, PSI Bhangale’s party moved to the East.  They saw a person sitting in front of the hut. 

The man in front of the hut suddenly shouted, “Brother, the Police!  The police are here!” and rushed into the hut and out of our sight.  Another man stormed out of the hut and opened fire on Bhangales party without a moment’s hesitation.  The rounds pierced Ghosalkar’s arm.  Before the assailant could fire again, , Panch Pappu Sheth kicked him on his hand so hard that he fell on the ground.

The dacoit who had entered the hut was now firing at Bhangale’s party from within the hut.  I fired from my revolver towards the hut.  By now we were fully convinced that these two persons were none else than Ram & Sham.  The notorious brothers who had hoodwinked the police for the past twenty two years.  The killers of Panchas of Dhasar village, the looters and killers of several advisees, and the terrors of the entire region were now firing at us.  The fire and counter fire was now in full swing and the loud booms of the shots were piercing the silence of the Hajimalong valley.  The man firing at us from outside the hut was Balaram. The man spitting fire at us from within the hut was Shivram.  As soon as Pappu Seth fell Balaram onto the ground, Havaldar Ghosalkar, Constable Mahale, Panch Uttam Govari jumped on him.  They pinned him down to the ground and hammered him with the butt of the rifle on his head. Balaram realized that he had no escape.  He yelled at his brother in the hut “ Shivram, first shoot me dead, and then kill the policemen.”

Facing imminent arrest, he didn’t want to be caught by the police alive. But Shivram did not shoot Balaram.  They may be dacoits, but they were still blood brothers.

Shivram started shooting at Havaldar Ghosalkar. Since Havaldar Ghosalkar was lying beyond Balaram, he could shoot only at his legs.  Havaldar Ghosalkar was in great agony.  The pain from the bullets piercing his legs was unbearable.  He cried out for help. Just then PSI Bhangale shouted at me, “Sir, my revolver is jammed.  What should I do?”

This had a very demoralizing effect on the entire police party.  While Havaldar Ghosalkar was yelling for help, PSI Bhangale was shouting that his weapon had jammed and wouldn’t fire.  Shivaram was firing from all sides of the hut. He could see us in the broad daylight, but we could not see him in the darkness of the hut. I couldn’t see where exactly he was firing from and for a moment, I felt helpless.  The double barrel (DBBL) gun of Shivram with its SG (Small game) rounds had a range of 200 yards.  The range of my revolver was only 100 yards.  I was handicapped.  In addition, the DBBL fired nine pellets from a single bullet while my revolver fired only one round at a time.  I could cause only one injury at a time but Shivaram could cause nine!  With a revolver one has to clearly see the target for a good hit.  But the SG cartridge could have at least one good hit out of the nine pellets it fired.  Even if the hit is not lethal, it can certainly demoralization a person.  With an accurate shot, the DBBL cartage can kill even a wild hog!  Moreover, on top of all this, my bullet had to pierce through the thick wall of the hut before it could find its target.  Even if my fire wasn’t effective in causing him grievous injury, it helped to keep Shiva confined to the hut.  Then I realised that even Havaldar Ghosalkar’s revolver was jammed.

Had I not kept the fire on, Shiva could have easily stepped out and finished Havaldar Ghosalkar, constables Govari and Mahale.  And then my worst fears came true.  Shiva stepped out of the hut to finish off the policemen pinning his brother down. 

I let out a loud shout, rushed toward him, and fired a round, but he ran back into the hut and fired back at me.  I felt an ant bite on my stomach.  But I had to keep Shiva pinned down and so ignoring it, I again raised my revolver at the hut. I noticed red stains on my wrists.  The sensation of an ant biting my stomach was getting stronger and so I looked down at my shirt.  There was a hole in my shirt over the chest, and my whole chest was stained with blood.  I had taken a direct hit on my chest!

The whole universe seemed to spin round me.  I completely lost my bearings.  In the flash of a moment I saw my parents and family before my eyes.  I thought it would be sensible to make a retreat.  This thought however lasted only for a fleeting a moment.  I wasn’t sure that I would survive.  Ghosalkar was in agony, shouting for help.  Bhangale’s team was demoralised.  I did not know what to do.  This is when I learnt just how fast the human mind works.

I had recalled what seemed like all my life in a single flash like a movie.  The thought that took over was that in any case I had taken bullets.  I couldn’t be sure that I would live, so why desert my loyal colleagues?  I could not leave them at the mercy of the dacoits.  After all we had been fighting the battle together.  rs03

I reigned in my wavering and emotional mind and asked it to deal with the present reality.  I did not mention my injury to anybody for it could have adversely affected the whole party.

By now our iron shield had turned into an iron net with holes made by the powerful bullets of our enemies.  In spite of the injury I gathered myself together and ordered SRPF jawans to fire.  SRPF jawan Gosavi & I opened fire again.  As soon as I fired three more bullets pierced through my skin and lodged into my thigh.  I continued to fire even in that condition.  Since we couldn’t see Shiva, we were firing blindly in to the hut.  Just then PSI Bhangale shouted from the other direction, “Sir, he has fallen, he has fallen” and surged towards the hut.  I saw Shivram trying to stand up at the door of the hut.  I ran forward and fired point blank from less then ten feet.  As he collapsed I went near him and kicked him hard, letting out a harsh abuse at him.  Balaram was also breathing his last and died in some time.

Twenty-two years of their reign of terror had come to an end - the end of two human parasites that had fought against society, law & order and social harmony.

Shivaram had in all fired twenty-one rounds at us, but not a single one of these handmade bullets had misfired.  On the other hand not a single one of the .45 bore bullets of Bhangale’s party had fired from either one of the two Government Issue service revolvers!