A beloved Labrador Retriever, Zanjeer saved countless lives during the 1993 terrorist bombings in Mumbai. When he died in 2000, he was honored with a full state funeral.
A hero among dogs, Zanjeer the labrador retriever was an irreplaceable legend of the canine world. As a member of the Mumbai Police Bomb Detection Squad, he prevented countless fatalities by sniffing out bombs and grenades. His service was especially important during and after the 1993 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
Over the course of his impressive career, Zanjeer (sometimes called “Ginger” because of his coat color) sniffed out over 240 bombs, 600 detonators, 250 hand grenades, 7,340 pounds of the explosive RDX, many guns, and over 6000 rounds of ammunition.
The bomb squad became so dependent on their faithful canine that sometimes they would bring no additional equipment, only Zanjeer. He made a lasting impression on the police force and the country of India — as well as the entire world.
Zanjeer’s Early Training
The dog who was destined for greatness started training for his career as a wee pup. He trained at the Dog Training Centre of the Criminal Investigation Department at Shivaji Nagar in Pune, India.
Zanjeer, who was named after the groundbreaking 1973 Bollywood action film, turned out to himself be a dog of action.
At just a year old, he started working for the Mumbai Bomb Squad in December 1992. In the early days of Indian police dogs, just three Doberman Pinschers were on the squad: Kumar, Bindi, and Rajah. However, the police used them mainly for assistance in solving criminal cases.
By the time of the 1993 attack on Mumbai, the bomb squad employed six dogs — one of which was Zanjeer. He was arguably the most reliable and talented detection dog on board at the time. Under the guidance of his handlers, Ganesh Andale and V G Rajput, Zanjeer paved the way for detection dogs in law enforcement.
The 1993 Mumbai Terror Attacks
What Zanjeer was up against in terms of keeping the citizens of his country safe may seem insurmountable. There was a history of bad blood between political and religious factions, and tensions were simmering. Violence could appear out of nowhere — at any time.
In 1992, an Indian right-wing Hindu organization demolished the sacred Babri Masjid mosque located in Ayodhya, India. This sparked widespread riots between the Hindus and Muslims, as many Hindus believed the mosque to be the birthplace of the deity Rama. Upwards of 2,000 people died in the ensuing riots that lasted several months.
As retaliation for damages caused by the rioting, members of the Muslim underworld crime syndicate known as D-Company planned a bombing on Mumbai — then known as Bombay. This attack involved car bombs, scooter bombs, suitcase bombs, and grenades placed all over the city.
Zanjeer went to work, using his signature three-bark alert to inform his team of bombs in Dadar, Thane, Mumbra. In the short time following, he helped retrieve three Type 56 rifles, five 9mm pistols, and 200 grenades from 10 suitcases left outside the Siddhivinayak temple.
He also detected a scooter bomb containing RDX explosives and gelatin sticks.
A few days later, Zanjeer alerted the police again after investigating two suitcases at the Zaveri Bazaar that contained nine more rifles. In a time so rife with danger, the number of human lives Zanjeer likely saved during this time is incalculable.
Zanjeer proves that dogs are more than just pets: They will give their all to protect us.
The chief of the bomb detection and disposal squad, Nandkumar Choughule, said that the dog was “god sent”, and that Zanjeer succeeded in finding bombs where men had failed, according to Foreign Policy.
Zanjeer laid the foundation for detection-dog squads across India.
Local labor leader (and dog lover) Dilip Mohite said that Zanjeer’s extraordinary career with the police force deserves to be recognized. “Policemen who die a martyr’s death get accolades, but canine members go unnoticed”, he said.
Sadly, the canine hero succumbed to bone cancer at just 8 years old. The Indian government, along with Zanjeer’s fellow officers, buried him with full state honors to acknowledge his impeccable service to his community. They laid floral wreaths over Zanjeer before his burial.
He was a much-loved dog, and will not easily be forgotten. The citizens of Mumbai often commemorate the anniversary of Zanjeer’s death on November 16.