Delhi: Shootout At Wadala, based on S Hussan Zaidi's account of the rise of the mob in the Mumbai of the 70s, is a sequel to Shootout At Lokhandwala.
JJ Hospital, is one of the largest state government-run hospitals in the city. Sprawled over 20 acres of land, the hospital had over 45 wards and 1, 500 beds.
Over half a million patients were treated in the hospital every year. The serene precincts of the hospital not only provided relief to the patients who they cured and the medical college students they housed but also to intimacy-starved couples, who used the cover of thick green bushes for the odd clandestine rendezvous.
As the hospital was spread over a large area and had a constant stream of visitors to its various wards, it was not possible to monitor everyone who made an entrance and exit.
Sautya and Shakeel had readied their plan in a matter of days and were ready to strike. All the preparations were made in such haste that the most important element of a strike—the reconnaissance of quarry or ‘recce’ as it is also known—was skipped and was performed, at last, only hours before the planned assault.
Around 1:30 am on 12 September 1992, a couple sneaked into the hospital premises to conduct the recce. As men would have attracted suspicion at this late hour, a couple was sent in, as they would be relatively innocuous-looking.
The couple was briefed to move around the hospital and assess the strength of security arrangements, ward locations, and exit points. They took a solid hour and returned at 2:30 am to report that their targets were in ward number 18 of the general administrative building, guarded by only one officer and four constables.
What they had missed was that only Shailesh Haldankar was in this ward; Bipin Shere had been shifted to Ward 6 on the first floor the previous morning.
At 3:40 am the assault party struck with full force. Subhash Singh Thakur, Sunil Sawant, Shrikant Rai, Bacchi Pandey, Shyam Garikapatti,and Vijay Pradhan went into action. The constables were dozing and inspector K.G. Thakur had just begun to think of lying down on a couch himself, when the assailants barged into the ward and began to fire indiscriminately.
Even as Haldankar’s lifeless body slumped on the bed, riddled with bullets, the shooters began looking for Shere. Sub-inspector Krishnavtar Thakur, who had jumped off his couch and taken cover behind it, managed to remove his service revolver from its holster and fired back at them. The dozing constables seized the moment as well. Police head constables P.G. Javsen and K.B. Bhanawat grabbed their .303 rifles and began shooting. This firing from two sides had stunned the shooters; they did not expect any resistance from the police. Normally, the underworld never targets the police because this could antagonise the police force, who could then seek out and get rid of the whole gang for vengeance.
A volley of bullets caught the rattled Shrikant Rai and Vijay Pradhan unawares and injured both of them. Sautya indicated they should all leave but before this, he decided to fire in such a manner that the police party would be scared to fire more bullets.
Turning the barrel of his AK-47 on the constables, he let forth a flurry of bullets which proved to be too much for them. Both Javsen and Bhanawat were hit and fatally injured. Another ricocheting bullet pierced the leg of constable Nagre.
While Subhash Singh and Inspector Thakur were exchanging fire, Sautya called out to Subhash and Shyam and gestured for them to leave. They obeyed, but not before firing a last volley of bullets from their carbine and automatic pistol. Thakur managed to duck and save himself, but the shower of bullets hit a patient, a nurse, and the relative of a patient in the ward.
The hit squad immediately retreated from the scene. In the final analysis, a handful of policemen who were seriously outnumbered and outmanoeuvred put up a courageous fight against the desperadoes. According to the police panchnama, over 500 rounds were fired. An AK- 47 took its toll in the outcome of this violent skirmish which lasted barely five minutes yet claimed the lives of many policemen, while inflicting only minor injuries on the shooters.
The audacity of the attack shocked not just those on the hospital premises but the entire locality. Mumbaikars never forget the constant sound of shooting guns, something they had only seen and heard in the movies till now.