Lived and died for crime reporting
It was a very sad day in my life when I heard about J Dey being shot dead by some unknown persons in Mumbai last Saturday. I did not know J Dey who worked for the HT in Mumbai for some time and was at present the crime reporting boss of the MiD-DAY. But his by line was very familiar and one normally did not like to miss a story carrying his name. Having also specialized in covering crime during my reporting days, I am aware how difficult the job of a crime reporter is. Dey made his mark by breaking a whole lot of stories and I can tell you through experience, it requires a lot of hard work and networking to reach to the bottom of a crime incident.
There are a lot of speculations regarding the motive behind his killing and I think it is premature to reach to any hasty conclusions till the police and other investigating agencies complete their task.
Many news channels have jumped the gun and are attributing his murder to gang warfare and some to the story he was about to break on the infamous oil mafia of Mumbai. It is extremely important for the police to first establish why it took the crime reporter 75 minutes on that fateful day to cover the distance from his mother’s house to the spot he was killed when normally it would never be more than 20 minutes drive on a two wheeler. This inordinate delay could possibly help in cracking the case which has agitated journalists more than any case in many years.
J.Dey was in Mumbai but he represented the dying species of crime reporters who lived for the beat they covered. Normally speaking crime reporting is assigned to the youngest member of the reporting team primarily to help him in understanding the science of covering facts and knowing the city thoroughly. Many senior journalists of today have never covered this beat and therefore are unable to appreciate what kind of sweat and toil the beat involves. My former colleague in HT, AR Wig who was one of the finest crime reporters of his time used to sarcastically remark “that these days people have started covering Parliament House without covering the Parliament Street Police Station’’. What he meant was that without going through the required paces, people have become big journalists and it is no wonder that they do not understand the intricacies of how the police and underworld functions.
I am sure that J.Dey must have had his moments of difficulty while he covered the beat in India’s underworld capital. It is always a great challenge to beat all odds to come out with a story and that is what he regularly did.
In Delhi, the last time when an investigative journalist died under mysterious circumstances was several decades ago. Yes I am referring to the mysterious death of Dhiren Bhagat whose name not many who pursue the profession today may have heard. He was killed in a road accident that no one has been able to explain and the hunch was that he was working on a story about some top political entities.
Delhi has had its share of great crime reporters starting from Pandit Milkhi Ram Bhardwaj and his worthy disciples, AR Wig. OP Bharti, Sat Saraf, BD Tuli and his own son Chaman Bhardwaj. There were others too who excelled in this beat including DK Issar, Chand Joshi, NK Doval, VK Dethe, Ashwani Sarin, Ravi Bhatia, Arti Jerath, Vinod Sharma, GK Singh, Prakash Patra and Manmohan. Even I was considered a top crime reporter of my time and subsequently I saw many crime reporters bloom like Shailesh Shekhar, Soni Sangwan, Neeta Sharma, Madhukar Kumar, Rajnish Sharma, Sudhi Ranjan Sen and Shakti Sharma. Many of us who have followed events closely continue to be foxed with many crime incidents such as the Nagarwala case, Afsar Hussain’s murder, Gautam Jaisinghani’s death, the Tejpal Singh murder mystery and lately the Vasant Kunj killing of S Modi.
There have equally been many mysterious murders in other parts of the country. But I am sure that the J Dey case will be cracked very soon and that will be the day to rejoice for all crime reporters. May Dey’s soul rest in peace and may his family get the strength to face this sudden tragedy. The Maharashtra police owes it to the country to get his killers behind bars at the earliest.