How state prepared to maintain law and order

Look like a force in command, was the brief to police after several top-level meetings

On November 14, a day after Diwali, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan called an urgent meeting at 8.30 pm. Police top brass was "made aware" a security scenario was likely.

The meeting attended by BMC and police commissioners and the chief secretary discussed the "security scheme and preparedness" in the event of demise of Sena chief Bal Thackeray.

After several subsequent meetings at various levels, the brief was police would be "relatively accommodating to the crowd in the (funeral) procession", but firm and polite on peripheries, with a response plan in place for the returning crowd on the final day.

Soon after, calls were made to all senior police officers to coordinate with BMC. Heads of all five police regions and other senior officers were asked to report at 9.30 pm and "stay put" in their zones.

An alert was issued across police stations to take stock of material, men, resources and vehicles. At the police station level, personnel were asked to return with clothes and stock for three days. Personnel on leave were told through relatives to join back.

Police sources said seniors were then asked to prepare a plan and identify sensitive areas in each of the five regions, number of Sena and MNS units, workers with criminal background, history-sheeters in areas where mobs had demanded closure of shops, a list of entry points for vehicles and people from outside.

A general plan was in place for the past seven days, they confirmed.

On November 15, a comprehensive plan based on requirement of each zone was discussed at the police headquarters.

Thackeray residence Matoshree, Sena headquarters and Shivaji Park, the site for cremation, were identified as a "heavy security pool" requiring maximum barricading and police deployment.

Western, under whose jurisdiction Matoshree falls, and Central, which has Sena Bhavan, were identified as most sensitive regions. While the Thackeray family grappled with the crisis, police worked discreetly to get the response mechanism in place.

"The commissioner's orders are clear. We must be seen as a force in command, not as a reactive force. There was massive deployment based on this specific brief. Visibility was increased overnight and corrections made," said a senior officer.

Minutes before Thackeray death was announced on Saturday afternoon, senior police hierarchy was informed and within minutes implementation of the deployment plan began.

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