Father of underworld reporting, J Dey shot dead in Mumbai

Arguably India’s most effective writer on the Mumbai underworld, journalist J Dey has been shot dead by suspected underworld operatives near his home in Powai, Mumbai.

Jyotirmoy Dey, who spent most of his reporting career bringing out scintillating accounts of the goings on in the Mumbai underworld for the Indian Express in Mumbai, was working as the Crime editor for the Mid Day newspaper in Mumbai. He has also worked in the Hindustan Times in Mumbai.

Dey has written extensively about the underworld and had sources and insights that no other reporter in India can claim. He is the author of ‘Zero Dial: The Dangerous World of Informers’ and ‘Khallas’ — considered a dictionary on Mumbai‚Äôs underworld.

He has written about Dawood Ibrahim, Chotta Rajan and others and it is reported that he was working on a series of Dawood when was shot dead today. He has been rushed to the Hiranandani hospital nearby, which has confirmed him as dead on arrival.

Mumbai police sources too confirmed that he is no more. There are reports that there were four assailants on two motorcycles who shot him at point blank range. He was shot outside the ‘Spectra’ building near the D-Mart shopping centre in Hiranandani, Powai.

There are reports of eight or nine entry and exit wounds on his body, indicating indiscriminate firing of five rounds of bullets.

Due to his incisive stories, J Dey has been regularly getting death threats, but this death now, when the Mumbai underworld is seen to be under control, has surprised his colleagues.

“The entire news room is in shock right now.. His loss is a tremendous loss not only to Mid Day, but also the science and art of crime reporting,” Sachin Kalbag, editor of Mid Day said, echoing the sentiments of most of those who knew him in his profession.

Kalbaug said he was not aware of any big story right now that would have made anyone uncomfortable and added that Dey did not come up to him with any reports of threats. He, however, pointed out that there have been instances in which Dey’s story ideas were considered too dangerous for his own safety and abandoned.

“He was one of the most meticulous and hardworking journalists.. His biggest contribution will be that he has trained a large number of crime reporters in Mumbai,” he added.

J Dey, all of 6 feet 4 inches tall, has a reputation for being one of the quietest journalists in the city and has never been reported to have raised his voice. He was often mistaken for a police person when out reporting.

MN Singh, former police commissioner of Mumbai, warned that there seems to be an uptick in the activities of under-world gangs in the recent days. He pointed out that there has been two shootings this year and many other intimidation attempts on businessmen.

“It was with a lot of difficulty that the gangs were decimated after a lot of hard work in the late 1990s and early 2000s.. This is a very disturbing,” he said. He pointed out that controlling gangs is not such a difficult job, but requires the police to do their job.

“Due to the real estate activity.. there has been a lot of money floating around and gangs are getting active again. The police must come down heavily,” he said, adding that he was more or less certain this was carried out by a gang. “This killing is certainly an act of some underworld gang.. the modus operandi is that of a gang, not a ordinary criminal,” he said.

Maharashtra home minister RR Patil said the government will uncover those behind the attack “whether they are with a gang or not.”

Dey had, of late, been worried about the re-emergence of the underworld in Mumbai.

“From controlling bootlegging, gambling and smuggling, the gangs have now entered businesses like real estate, cinema, sand dredging and waterfront commerce in Mumbai’s ports and even the purchase of vegetables and meat. For the common man this means he unknowingly adds to the coffers of gangs…,” he had noted in a Mid-Day article in 2009.

J Dey had also recently written an article in Mid Day pointing to Chhota Rajan as the possible hand behind the shooting attempt on Iqbal Kaskar, Dawood’s brother, in Mumbai.

Interestingly, the story also contained the quotes of Rajan, with whom J Dey had a conversation about the shooting attempt.

“In the aftermath of the shootout in Bhendi Bazaar, police officials are beginning to suspect that ageing don Chhota Rajan is making an effort to muscle his way back into Mumbai’s underworld. Sources informed what Rajan did what very few gangsters would attempt-take on the might of the D Company,” he had written.

Those who know him dismiss the possibility that he may have been shot by the underworld. Some also point out that he was working on big story on the oil mafia engaged in the adulteration of petroleum products etc..

He had recently exposed a Rs 10,000 crore scam involving the oil mafia in the state.

The Hindustan Times reported senior Mumbai journalist Jatin Desai as claiming that Dey had given Home Minister RR Patil a report by the Anti-Corruption Bureau on links between police officials and the underworld. “Though the minister promised action, nothing was done,” the paper quoted him as saying.

The Mumbai Press Club, where Desai made the comment, said in an official statement that Dey had recently sought police protection after receiving threat calls after doing the oil adulteration stories.