Who kills investigative reporters?

An investigative reporter is shot dead in Mumbai. J.Dey, a senior journalist with Mid-day, covered the crime beat. He was recently looking into the oil mafia.

It is always pause for contemplation when someone doing his job is ruthlessly murdered.

I did not know him and cannot claim much acquaintance with his work. From what I have read, he knew a lot about the underworld activities. As we gather from news reports all the time, the underworld is not a terribly hush-hush underground movement. Their kin produce films, they sponsor Ganesh pandals, openly celebrate weddings and own real estate.

It is important to nail the killers because someone is trying to muzzle information. The usual suspects would be those he wrote about. He would have had access to some insiders. Do they necessarily constitute gangsters?

Let me veer a bit from this unfortunate incident.

Several years ago in what I had thought was a pertinent observation (subsequently I have mentioned it often), I had written in a column wondering how reporters have access to some underworld characters and quote them; I had mentioned a specific article in the news then. Why could the police not follow the lead that was staring them in the face? How could they pretend ignorance when a real conversation took place between real people?

As it turned out, my query was not considered innocent. The reporter was summoned by a police official. I got to know about it much later when the journalist who I did not know personally at the time told me about it. "You almost got me arrested," he said. I reckon he did not call me immediately because it would seem alarmist and make me even more curious.

Why were the cops not interested in arresting the culprits? How did he get the information.

Sources. That's the tricky word. The sources don't drop from the sky or just saunter in. They need to be cultivated. The beat is not kind, nor the hunt for scoops equal.

The underworld is a vile world but not too different from extremist groups - separatist or political establishment. My piece on Pakistani journalist Shahzad's murder tried to explore some factors.

Gangsters do not have a reputation to protect. They could wreak vengeance to make a point if one of them is in danger of being exposed or likely to squeal. For them media exposure is an asset because it conveys what they want to the government and rival groups.

Dey had written about underworld lingo. The cops know it; they also know the code words and what they mean. They only don't seem to have 'evidence'. Police personnel get killed too but we have cases where fake encounter cops have been in cahoots the mafia.

There are forces that benefit from the status quo. This is the real underworld where a coverup operation can be as mercenary as it is secretive.

(c) Farzana Versey

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