Op X team escorted ‘unnamed VIP’, sent coded SMSes, rehearsed route ‘mentally’

FP

A list of six SMSes with coded messages, a travel route that was "mentally rehearsed" by a select few and six vehicles with an "unnamed VIP" were just a few aspects that ensured Operation X was kept a highly-guarded secret.

The most important brief just before the convoy left was "mutha aata, aani nigha" (attend to nature's call and start), suggesting that there would be no stops during the road trip from Mumbai to Pune. With the journey expected to last three hours between city limits "and not more", the convoy had a very specific task — to ensure secrecy and deposit Ajmal Amir Kasab "alive" at the final destination.

The convoy of six vehicles followed "pretty much" the security protocol given to a VVIP. At the Directorate General of Police and the Mumbai Commissionerate, the briefings made no mention of Kasab. They restricted themselves to transporting an "unnamed VVIP". Police stations between the two jails were informed accordingly and "no explanations" were given on the final (Monday) night.

Nothing was in writing, at least from the stage where the Mumbai Police took charge. "Nothing was on paper. Not even the date," said an official on condition of anonymity. "All requirements were mentally noted. Everything was discussed with the officers concerned and scenarios were worked out verbally," he added.

It was on the morning of November 19 — a day after the city police had put in 83 hours and 25 minutes towards city bandobast following Bal Thackeray's death and funeral procession — that the Mumbai Police got the final call. The plan was already in place: to take advantage of lean traffic on the Pune express highway post-midnight.

The Mumbai Police had planned the entire exercise much before, with specific parameters. "We needed lean traffic, good vehicles, officers who had a good judgement over the route, specific ranks, and the right temperament of commandos and officers," said another official.

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