In March 1993, a series of twelve bombs tore apart the city of Mumbai, leaving behind 257 dead and 713 injured.
But did you know these numbers could easily have reached the thousands if not for a brave Labrador-Retriever named Zanjeer?
Working with the bomb squad, the heroic canine detected over 3329 kg of RDX explosives, 600 detonators, 249 hand grenades, and more than 6000 rounds of live ammunition. He also helped avert three more bombs in the days following the blasts, thus saving countless lives.
The Mumbai Police Dog Squad became operational on December 9, 1959. Back then, there were only three Doberman Pinschers in the squad – Kumar, Bindo and Rajah – who were used mainly for tracking and solving criminal cases. With a rise in terror attacks, the squad started training additional sniffer dogs who could detect explosives, ammunition and narcotic substances. In 1993, when the Mumbai blasts took place, there were six dogs (including Zanjeer) in the Mumbai Police Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad.
Named after the famous 1973 Bollywood action film, Zanjeer had been trained at the Dog Training Centre of the Criminal Investigation Department at Shivaji Nagar in Pune.
Lovingly called Ginger because of his coat colour, Zanjeer wasn’t your typical sniffer dog – he was practically the best bomb detector in the squad.
This dedicated canine had risked his life, time and again, for the love he had for his handlers, Ganesh Andale and V G Rajput, and was a treasured member of the squad. The sheer volume of illegal contraband that Zanjeer detected in his career includes 175 petrol bombs, 57 country-made bombs, 11 military bombs, 600 detonators, and more than 200 grenades!
Zanjeer’s heroics laid the foundation for strong sniffer dog squads in state police forces across the country. Today, most Indian State Police forces use Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers in their dog squads. Delhi Police has taken an extra step by recruiting and training many of the city’s street dogs for security purposes. National Security Guards have inducted the Malinois (Belgian Shepherd Dogs) breed into their K-9 Unit while the Border Security Force and Central Reserve Police Force use the Rajapalayam (Indian Sighthound) breed as guard dogs to support their work.
In November 2000, Zanjeer died of bone cancer at the age of eight years. Due to his impeccable service, he was buried with full state honours. Zanjeer’s fellow officers laid floral wreaths on the courageous canine before he was buried.
Much loved and missed in Mumbai, Zanjeer will never be forgotten by the country he served. Dilip Mohite, a city-based labour leader and president of the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Pratishthan, has been observing the sniffer dog’s death anniversary on November 16 for the past 16 years. An ardent dog lover, Dilip Mohite told Midday that Zanjeer’s extraordinary detection skills and tremendous contribution to the police force deserve to be recognised. He said:
“Policemen who die a martyr’s death get accolades, but canine members go unnoticed.”
The story of this unlikely hero shows that dogs offer more than just unconditional love and a lifetime of friendship – they also play a very important role in protecting our nation.