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Monday, 31 December 2012

Public Memory, Gang Rape & Terrorist Attacks.


Following has been unwritten Standard Responding Procedure(SRP) of certain sections of our society whenever some terrorist attack or bomb blast happens in our country. The same could be (and is) applied on incident of rape.

Public: We will light candles & shout slogans.
Police: We will catch the culprit as soon as possible.
Politician in Power: We will suspend the responsible policemen. We will not allow this to happen again.
Politician in Opposition: We demand the immediate dismissal of this government.
Press: We will drop all other stories, continuously show the protests & organize debates in studios.
Activist: We will file PILs in the courts.

After every terrorist attack all the above respond in the same manner. After much uproar everything dies down till next terrorist attack happens.
Now the same set of response is seen after the Delhi gangrape case. Hope, that like terrorist attacks, such style of response doesn’t becomes a practice after every case of gang rape (God forbid such incident happens again)

An European philosopher once said, “Public memory is short lived” & his thought gets confirmed & illustrated every time we respond to any terrorist attack.
Here, I would like to quote music maestro Zubin Mehta (Times of India, 31/12/12) who reacted on Delhi rape case with words- “I am fuming, but I see a very healthy sign of public objection, public demonstration. I hope it will not die down. I hope it will not be a one week thing.”

I share the fear of Zubin Mehta. We need to be focused & result oriented. We have to check whether the bottom line satisfies us. We have to break the regular pattern of our reaction. We have to act both collectively & individually to deal with a social evil.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

ठहरो...ठहरो..रामलीला अभी जारी है...


दशहरे का दिन दस दिवसीय रामलीला आयोजन का आखिरी दिन होता है। इस दिन रामलीला शाम 7 या 8 बजे शुरू होने के बजाय 6 या 7 बजे ही शुरू हो जाती है। दर्शकों की सबसे ज्यादा भीड रामलीला मैदान में इसी दिन दिखाई देती है। मैदान के एक किनारे रंगबिरंगा और भीमकाय रावण का पुतला राख में तब्दील होने के लिये तैयार रहता है। आमतौर पर इस दिन हनुमानजी के हाथों अहिरावण वध का प्रसंग दिखालाया जाता है और उसके बाद होता है राम और रावण का महायुद्ध। विभीषण की सलाह पर राम, रावण की तोंद का निशाना लगाते हैं और रावण ढेर हो जाता है। कई रामलीला मंडलियां रावण की मौत से पहले उस प्रसंग को भी दिखातीं है जिसमें राम, लक्ष्मण से कहते हैं कि वो अंतिम सांसे गिन रहे रावण से राजनीति की शिक्षा लेकर आयें। रावण के मरते ही सभी दर्शकों के चेहरे मंच से हटकर मुड जाते हैं रावण के पुतले की तरफ। आसमान में रंग बिरंगी आतिशबाजी शुरू हो जाती है। बम पटाखों की गर्जना असत्य पर सत्य की विजय की सालाना घोषणा करती है। रावण के पुतले में जडे आतिशबाजी के तमाम आईटम सक्रीय हो जाते हैं और कुछ मिनटों में ही बीते दस दिनों की मेहनत से तैयार की गई ये कलाकृति आग को समर्पित हो जाती है। जैसे ही रावण का पुतला भस्म होता है, भीड रामलीला मैदान से निकलने लगती है। कुछ लोग घर जल्दी पहुंचना चाहते हैं, कुछ दशहरे के मेले में वक्त गुजारना चाहते हैं तो कुछ डांडिया रास के आखिरी दिन का लुत्फ उठाना चाहते हैं। मंच से रामलीला के संचालक गुहार लगाते हैं- भाईयों और बहनों...ठहरिये..ठहरिये...लीला अभी खत्म नहीं हुई है। अभी सीता मैया की अग्नि परीक्षा और भगवान का राज्याभिषेक का प्रसंग बाकी है।...लेकिन संचालक की गुहार को अनसुना करके भीड मैदान से बाहर निकलती रहती है। मैदान 70 फीसदी के करीब खाली हो चुका होता है। संचालक फिर फरियाद करता है- अगर आप राम भक्त हैं तो पूरी लीला देख कर जाईये। आपने अब तक भगवान राम को वन में दर दर भटकते देखा है, अब उन्हें राजा बनते नहीं देखेंगे क्या? संचालक की इस भावनात्मक विनती के बाद कुछ बुजुर्ग लोग रूक जाते हैं, लेकिन ज्यादातर को वहां से निकलने की जल्दी रहती है।

अबसे बीस साल पहले मैने दशहरे के दिन आखिरी बार रामलीला देखी थी। मेरे दादा, दादी, नाना, नानी रामलीला देखने के बडे शौकीन थे और हर साल वे पूरे घर को मुंबई के क्रास मैदान में रामलीला दिखाने ले जाते थे। हम बच्चों को बडा मजा आता था। खासकर राम विवाह वाले दिन होने वाला हंसी मजाक और लंका दहन वाला दिन हमें खासा पसंद था। रामलीला से ही प्रेरित होकर मैं हर साल अपने मोहल्ले के बच्चों को इकट्ठा करके दोपहर के वक्त रावण का छोटासा पुतला खुद बनाकर जलाता था। रावण को आग कौन लगायेगा इस बात पर बच्चों में अक्सर झगडा भी हो जाता। रामलीला का हमें साल भर इंतजार रहता। 4 दिनों पहले मैं यूं ही दक्षिण मुंबई के एक रामलीला मैदान पहुंचा। लगा कि बचपन की यादें ताजा होंगीं, लेकिन रामलीला में काफी कुछ बदल गया था। उस दिन राम विवाह का प्रसंग था भीड पहले के मुकाबले काफी कम थी। रामलीला मैदन में जहां पहले हर ओर सिर्फ राम, लक्ष्मण,सीता और हनुमानजी की तस्वीरें लगतीं थीं और इक्का दुक्का मारवाडी प्रायोजकों की दुकानों के बैनर लगते थे, वहीं अब राजनेता के तस्वीरों वाले कट आउट्स नजर आ रहे थे।
अबसे 20 साल पहले तक रात 1 बजे तक रामलीलाएं चलतीं थीं, लेकिन अब अदालती आदेश के बाद 10 बजे ही समापन 
आरती कर देनी पडती है, नहीं तो पुलिस वाले लाऊड स्पीकर समेत वाद्ययंत्र उठा ले जाते हैं और जुर्माना ठोंकते हैं। नवरात्रि के दौरान मुंबई में बसे 2 तरह के परप्रांतीय देर रात तक जागते मिलते थे। उत्तरभारतीय लोग रामलीला में दिखाई देते तो गुजरातियों की भीड डांडिया रास के आयोजनों में रहती।

बीते कई दशकों से मुंबई के शिवाजी पार्क में होने वाली रामलीला इस साल नहीं हो रही। इस मैदान में शिवसेना की सालाना रैली को तो इजाजत मिल गई, लेकिन रामलीला को नहीं। इसके अलावा लगता है कि टीवी के तमाम चैनलों पर रामायण और हनुमानजी की लीलाओं पर आधारित दर्जनों धारावाहिकों ने भी रामलीला पर अपना प्रभाव छोडा है। जब भगवान आपके टीवी सेट पर ही रोज प्रकट होकर अपनी लीला दिखा रहें हैं तो खुले मैदान में बैठकर रामलीला देखने जाने की जहमत कौन उठाये? पहले बडी रामलीलाओं के ज्यादातर आयोजन मथुरा, वृंदावन वगैरह से पेशेवर कलाकारों की टोलियां बुलाते थे, लेकिन अब ज्यादातर रामलीला आयोजक स्थानीय लोगों से ही रामलीला का मंचन करवाते हैं, जो दिन में कुछ और काम करते हैं और रात में रामलीला के कलाकार बन जाते हैं। हिंदी अखबारों में पहले हर रोज बडे रामलीला आयोजक प्रत्येक दिन की लीला के विज्ञापन दिया करते थे, लेकिन बीते चंद सालों से रामलीला के विज्ञापन अखबारों से गायब हैं।

मुंबई में रामलीला से ग्लैमर जगत भी दूर रहा है। एक ओर जहां मुंबई के बडे गणपति पंडालों में बडे बडे फिल्मी सितारे शीश नवाने जाते हैं और डांडिया में उनकी मौजूदगी आयोजकों की आमदनी बढा देती है तो वहीं फिल्म जगत को अपने में समेटे रहने वाले शहर मुंबई की रामलीलाओं में शायद ही कोई हिट फिल्मस्टार आता हो।

रामलीलाओं में होने वाली भीड भले ही साल दर साल सिमट रही हो, लेकिन अगर रामकथा का ये माध्यम बदलते वक्त के साथ अगर खुद में कुछ बदलाव करे तो फिर पुराने दिन वापस आ सकते हैं।

Saturday, 26 May 2012

5 Answers To Those Who Defend Rave Parties.



Since the time Juhu Police has busted a rave party at Hotel Oakwood certain newspapers especially the English ones have launched a campaign to prove that it was not a rave party at all & police went overboard in the incident. Although, it is the job of free media to question the authority & take everything with a pinch of salt, in the present case, it is not seen that the publications questioning the police action have done thorough homework & considered the larger aspect of the issue. I am not defending the cops here, but to be fair with them, I have certain points to make in response to the criticism published in some newspapers.

1)  It was not a rave party?A newspaper claimed that the party where police intruded was not a rave party at all, but a normal Sunday evening sundown party. To see how this is untrue, look at the invite sent on social networking site Facebook. The language & choice of words clearly indicate that it was a party for drugs & sex. I spoke to Dr.Yusuf Merchant of Drugs Abuse Information Research & Rehabilitation Centre (DAIRRC) who has helped thousands of youngsters for de-addiction. He examined the copy of invite & said that at a first glance anybody who is part of the drugs circuit will come to know that it is an invitation for a rave party. The words “Sundown”, “Down”, “Do not FLY” have a connotation for rave party goers which are different from that explained in the Oxford Dictionary. Moreover, according to Dr. Merchant the last sentence of the invite –“ Support the music & not the drugs” itself hints that there is availability of both drugs & music in the party. Apart from the invitation, seizure of trance music equipments & drugs also prove that it was indeed  a party which has been understood in our society over the years as a rave party.
2)  Why victims were treated as accused? “People taking drugs should be treated as victims of drug abuse & not as accused”, preaches a newspaper. I agree with this...but wait, how will you ascertain that a person is a victim? He/she will not voluntarily come to the cops & declare that I am a drug addict. Please take me for de-addiction. Obviously, cops have to secretly execute their operation to reach out to such “victims of drug abuse.” Thus, police action was justified in Juhu rave party case. When police will detain the suspects & get their tests done, then only it will be revealed whether they have been drug addicts or not. We should also not forget that laws related to drugs abuse & trade are very mild in India when compared with Saudi Arabia, China, Thailand & other countries of South East Asia where the convicts are likely to get death penalty after a short trial. It should also be considered that most of the persons detained during Sunday’s raid were adult Indian citizens (few foreigners too) from well to do & educated families & they should have been aware about the law of the land. Selling & consuming drugs is a crime in India.
3) Why detained people were paraded before the Media? This is the one where critics have gone factually wrong. Police never ordered the detainees to parade before the media. Infact, media representatives themselves gathered outside the hotel, police station & hospitals when they got the news of the raid. Police did not co-operate in providing media persons the footage & photos they required. Media guys had to struggle to get them. Interestingly, lensmen of that particular media group were also there which has raised this issue. Infact, the presence of media should be considered as a relief for the detainees which led to cops behaving decently with them…otherwise everybody knows the language of slaps & abuses which policemen in Mumbai (or all over the country) use to deal with the people in their net. If nobody was roughed up, treated inhumanely, kicked, slapped, punched or abused it was all due to media’s presence.  Media also provided an opportunity to the detainees to explain their side of the story.
4)  Deterrence Value: Dr.Yusuf Merchant told me that there are dozens of rave parties organised in & around Mumbai over the weekends, but the issue is highlighted when police raids one. Since 2007 there have been 5 rave parties in & around Mumbai which were raided by the cops…if we believe Mr.Merchant then the scenario is very alarming & more such raids are required to deter youngsters from drug abuse. The latest trend is that now drug addiction has extended itself from collegians & even school going children are falling in the trap. Dr.Yusuf Merchant can provide more elaborate information on this…then the correct question will be- why is police not raiding more rave parties rather than why police has raided a rave party? Newspapers still have some social responsibility I believe.Every person abusing drugs should fear that he/she will be caught.
5) Voice of rich & powerful. If you look at the personal profiles of most of the youngsters caught in the party, you will find that they belong to affluent families…the families which only subscribe English newspapers & patronise them in several manners ranging from Page 3 parties to sponsorship of events. Hence, when you see an English newspaper targeting police for rave parties the reasons could be understood. This has not happened for the first time. It happened when Fardeen Khan was arrested with Cocaine in 2001 & it happened when rave parties at Pune & Karjat were busted. While criticising cops, one senior journalist who is also a politician & a film maker went to the extent of saying that drugs should be legalised in India. I wish that he should be surprised one weekend by taking him for tests & results might reveal the real reasons behind his stand.

The only point where I find police action as unjustified is the decision to charge all the detainees found consuming alcohol under Prohibition Act. The irrational requirement of a permit to drink is unnecessary & provides scope for corruption.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

10 Traffic Rules Which No Driving School Will Teach You.



1)      When there is a strong urge to jump a less busy red signal & the traffic cop is not seen, it makes sense to wait for few seconds & observe some other oversmart guy to jump the signal. If he is not caught, then you too move on bindass.
2)      When you ride a motorcycle it’s a thrill to hack your way in a zigzag manner from the traffic of 4 wheelers, but when you drive a car, motorcyclists are the biggest headache. You may have to brake suddenly if some biker comes in front & you may listen a sound coming from the rear of your car. You get down to find out that some other vehicle has kissed your car due to sudden braking.
3)      If caught by a traffic cop it is more likely that you will escape penalty or pay less fine if you politely handover your driving licence to him as soon as he stops you. You may invite more trouble if you hurt his ego by arguing with him or not easily handing him the licence.
4)      Drive more cautiously on Sunday during both day & night time even if roads are pleasantly vacant. It is likely that some half asleep person or somebody who is drunk gets knocked down by your car.
5)      Although, talking on mobile phone while driving with car blue tooth devices are illegal in many countries of the world, you are less likely to be caught..and when caught there is an excuse- “Oh Johnny, I was not talking on phone…was singing along a song on radio...which made you assume that I was talking. ”
6)      Heavy vehicles like dumpers & tankers are the biggest killers of 2 wheeler riders in Mumbai & other major cities of India. Stay away from them as much as you can.
7)      Nakabandis by cops mostly takes place on same locations, same timings & on same days/nights of the week.
8)      Even if you drink premium vodka & think that you do not smell alcohol after chewing a mouth freshner…you are still likely to be suspected & tested.
9)       Never fight with a BEST bus driver in fit of a road rage. Even if he is at fault, you are more likely to be jailed rather than he fired from his job.
10)   If the car moving in front of you is irritatingly slow in speed, then there might be some taxi ahead of that car…& the car driver might be enjoying the foreplay of the couple sitting on the rear seats of the taxi.
(Strictly based on observations & not personal experiences.)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Address to the Nation.: 5 Observations on why crime has increased in Mumba...

Address to the Nation.: 5 Observations on why crime has increased in Mumba...: Here are my 5 observations on recent spate of crime in Mumbai. + UNORGANISED CRIME: The decade of 90s was characterised by the organi...

5 Observations on why crime has increased in Mumbai.


Here are my 5 observations on recent spate of crime in Mumbai.

+ UNORGANISED CRIME:The decade of 90s was characterised by the organised underworld gangs headed by Dawood Ibrahim, Chota Rajan, Arun Gawli & so on. Shootouts & gangwars were rampant. Most of the targets of gangs were affluent people like builders, jewellers, film personalities etc. Present days are dominated by unorganised criminals who either operate independently or in small groups. They are involved in crimes like chain & bag snatching, house breaking, robbery, theft etc. Their targets are mostly women & senior citizens.

+ LACK OF DETERRENCE: Criminals aren’t afraid of cops anymore. Stringent measures like “encounters” & application of laws like MCOCA have declined. Most of the officers having reliable networks of informers are jailed, suspended or dismissed from the service on genuine/fake charges of links with the underworld & corruption. Rest dont want to risk their career by going out of the way to control crime.

+ PRIORITY OF POLICE: Police is not seen as chasing criminals today. Their priority seems to be shifted towards raiding hookah joints & beer bars. Moral policing seems to be on top of the agenda.

+ LACK OF CONSISTENCY: Every new police commissioner comes and announces his own policies and programmes and discontinues or stops support to the ones initiated by their predecessors. There were brilliant strategies adopted by previous police commissioners pertaining to women and senior citizens security…but they have not been maintained.

+ INFIGHT WITHIN THE POLICE FORCE: Various wings & branches of Mumbai Police do not share cordial relations & dirty politics dominates the functioning. Police Commissioner unofficially formed its own squad and gave extra ordinary powers to it. This led to squad’s competition with the crime branch.

There are many other factors also like corruption, stress of policemen, poor working and living conditions, but such factors are as old as the concept of police. They do not specifically characterise the present times.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

10 Most dangerous railway platforms of Mumbai.



हर साल मुंबई की लोकल ट्रेनों में सफर करने वाले 3 हजार मुसाफिर बेमौत मारे जाते हैं।मुंबई में बीते हफ्ते लोकल ट्रेन के मुसाफिरों की सिगनल से टकराने से हुई मौतों ने फिर एक बार सवाल खडा किया है कि लोकल ट्रेन में सफर करना कितना सुरक्षित है। स्टार न्यूज ने अपनी पडताल में पाया कि जिन कारणों से मुंबई में मुसाफिर हादसों का शिकार होते हैं उनमें से एक बडा कारण है कई स्टेशनों पर ट्रेन और प्लैटफॉर्म के बीच खतरनाक गैप।

मुंबई में हमने पहचान की है 10 खूनी प्लैटफॉर्म की। ऐसे प्लैटफॉर्म जहां ट्रेनों और प्लेटफॉर्म के बीच है खतरनाक गैप जिनमें लोग अक्सर चढते उतरते गिर पडते हैं। कई घायल होते हैं तो कईयों की जान भी चली जाती है। एक टेप के जरिये हमने जान कि इन प्लैटफॉर्म और ट्रेन के बीच कितना फासला है। आमतौर पर दुनियाभर के तमाम विकसित देश सुरक्षा के लिहाज से ट्रेन और प्लेटफॉर्म के बीच 6 से 8 इंच की दूरी ही रखते हैं। इसके अलावा हर रेल्वे अपने सभी स्टेशनों पर एक जैसी ही दूरी रखता है। हर स्टेशन पर प्लेटफॉर्म और ट्रेन के बीच का गैप अलग अलग नहीं होता, लेकिन एक नजर इस टेबल पर डालिये कि हमने क्या पाया-

Station
Platform Number
Gap
Old/ New rake.
Nahur
1
1ft 3 inches
old
Ghatkopar
2
1 ft
new
Vidya Vihar
2
1 ft 3 inches
new
Kurla
3
1 ft 4 inches
new
Wadala
4
1 ft
old
Dockyard Road
2
1 ft 4 inches
old
Sandhurst Road
2 (Harbour)
1 ft 4 inches
new
Sandhurst Road
1 (Main)
1 ft
old
Bandra
3
1 ft 5 inch
new
Dadar (WR)
2
1 ft 4 inch
new


एक रेल हादसे में अपनी दोनो टांगे खो चुके समीर जवेरी अब आर्टीफीशियल पैरों के जरिये अपनी जिंदगी बिता रहे हैं। जवेरी अब आर.टी.आई के जरिये रेल मुसाफिरों की सुरक्षा के लिये जंग लड रहे हैं। मध्य और पश्चिम रेल्वे से आरटीआई के जरिये उन्होने साल 2010 के जो आंकडे हासिल किये उनके मुताबिक प्लैटफॉर्म और ट्रेन के बीच के गैप में गिरने से 91 लोग घायल हुए, जिनमे से कई ऐसे थे जिन्हें समीर जवेरी की तरह ही हमेशा के लिये अपने हाथ, पैर गंवाने पडे। 8 लोग ऐसे थे जिनकी गैप में फंसकर मौत हो गई।
महिलाओं और बुजुर्गों के लिये तो इन गैप्स से खतरा रहता ही है लेकिन मानसून के वक्त ये और भी ज्यादा खतरनाक हो जाते हैं। प्लैटफॉर्म और ट्रेन के फुटबोर्ड पर फिसलन पैदा जाती है जिनकी वजह से कोई भी गैप में गिर सकता है।
कई देशों में ट्रेन और प्लैटफॉर्म के बीच ज्यादा गैप न होते हुए भी मुसाफिरों को चेतावनी देने वाले बोर्ड लगाये जाते हैं कि वे गैप से सावधान रहें, लेकिन मुंबई के जो 10 खतरनाक प्लैटफॉर्म हमने आपको बताये वहां कहीं भी इस तरह की सूचना मुसाफिरों को नहीं दी गई है। हमारी पडताल से साफ होता है कि मुंबई के रेल स्टेशनों पर प्लेटफॉर्म की ऊंचाई हर जगह अलग अलग है और कई जगहों पर ट्रेन और प्लेटफॉर्म के बीच की खाई जानलेवा है।

रेल प्रशासन ने प्लेटफॉर्म से जुडी शिकायतें मिलने के बाद कुछेक प्लेटफॉर्म को तो दुरूस्त करवाया लेकिन सेंट्रल और वेस्टर्न लाईंस पर अब भी तमाम प्लेटफॉर्म मौजूद हैं जो मुसाफिरों के लिये काल बन सकते हैं।

Monday, 5 March 2012

5 Karmayogis of our times.


Each one of us in our life comes across people, who make an impact on our thoughts & actions. Following are the five persons whom I have observed as the true professionals, workaholics & source of influence & inspirations for the people with whom they have worked & interacted.

E. Sreedharan:
I came to know about the greatness of this man while working on a documentary based on his life. While as a government servant he created benchmarks in railways & even after the retirement his achievements were marvellous. Whether it was the task of establishing Konkan railway on an arduous hilly terrain or to lay the network of Metro Rail as per deadline in urban jungle of Delhi, Sreedharan made value addition to everything. He was full of optimism & energy & negotiated all the hurdles in his projects with ease. Calling him “Metro Man” just underplays his contribution to India’s infrastructure. He was a man who displayed genuine enthusiasm for his work & had high level of integrity which is generally rare among the people who work for the government.


Sudhakar Solomonraj:
He is the head of department of Political Science department in Wilson College, Mumbai but this designation just explains a fragment of works which Sudhakar Solomonraj does. Mumbai’s educational sphere in general & Wilson College in particular are fortunate to have an educationist like him. He is a wildlife enthusiast & supervises the nature club of the college. The unique co-operative education programme which is an interface between academic & professional world has been a success due to his efforts. Students call him “walking talking encyclopaedia” due to his elephantine memory & knowledge on numerous things. He reads a lot & he does this for the betterment of his students. Solomonraj is an unsung hero who doesn’t have any personal life & has dedicated himself to his books & students. He makes value addition to anything he does & goes out of the way to achieve “his” targets.

Milind Khandekar:
He is the managing editor of Star News. With his sincerity, dedication, integrity, leadership qualities, ability to learn quickly & intelligence, he achieved at a very young age what other journalists take years to get. Coming from a humble family from a small city of Indore, Milind Khandekar was the part of original team of S.P.Singh who made history with his style of presenting Hindi news bulletins. He is one of the pioneers of new age news television. Those who have worked under him, consciously or unconsciously follow his philosophy of professionalism. Inspite of severe neurological problems & personal tragedies he has created an image of upright & hardcore media professional which has inspired many. When he was a reporter, he was known for breaking many major stories & today he is one of the trendsetters of Hindi news industry.

Sunil Mehrotra:
Navbharat Times is the only surviving Hindi morninger in the city & Sunil Mehrotra is one of those species of print Hindi journalists in Mumbai which is about to extinct.
With around more than 12 years of experience as a crime reporter, Mehrotra has emerged as the most resourceful, credible & upright member from his fraternity. Inspite of various hostilities within & outside his organisation Mehrotra has managed to maintain his image. Although, being a veteran in his field, his level of enthusiasm has never declined. While many journalists of his batch now have comforted themselves with desk jobs, Mehrotra still spends most of his time roaming on field, meeting his sources & delivering original content. He hates “telephone journalism” which some lazy print reporters have adopted. Crime reporters during the course of their duty undergo several experiences ranging from threats to life, prosecution & offers of bribe or favour, but Mehrotra has never allowed these influences to touch his integrity. He has been a guide for many print & television reporters who have earned their names in their respective professions.

Sanjay Pande:
He was the real life version of police officers you have seen in the movies like “Shool”, “Gangajal” & “Singham”. Sanjay Pande was an upright policeman who always went by the book even if it meant wrath of his seniors or being thrown out to some unimportant posting. During short stint with Mumbai Police, Pande earned a name for his honesty, sticking to his professional ethics & confrontation with corrupt politicians. During his tenure as the DCP, he unearthed the leather scam & brought many rich & powerful in the net of law. For obvious reasons he had to face hostilities from his political & uniformed bosses. He was frequently transferred from one post to another…but this harassment never deterred his spirit. Pande did something at his every posting which made politicians & scamsters uncomfortable. He resigned from the post in late nineties but not before leaving a message that – “Not all men in Khaki work for money. Some work to protect the dignity of the profession also.”  

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

How I sneaked into an underworld wedding.



Covering underworld means not only keeping track of crimes committed by various gang members or their changing equations, but also to keep an eye on gangster’s  family functions, marriages and deaths in their families. Such events often help to get an idea of the people who have affiliations and loyalties to a particular gang. They serve as a means to know the nexus of a particular gang with influential people in the society. They also need to be checked because there is always a possibility of attacks from rival gangs during such events. However, coverage of such events is not an easy task for a crime reporter. It needs courage, quick decision making ability and willingness to take risks. If you are caught, the result can be anything from few broken bones to losing life. I got an opportunity to witness and cover such an event. It was underworld Don Dawood Ibrahim’s nephew Danish Parker’s wedding.

From an informer I got a tip that Dawood’s sister Haseena Parker is arranging Dawat-E-Walema (wedding feast)for his son Danish’s wedding on 18-12-2004 at Anjuman-E-Islam School outside C.S.T railway station. I took this as a great opportunity to update myself on the infamous D-Company as many gang members, well wishers and relatives of D Company were likely to be present on the occasion. It had tremendous news value too. For the first time after Dawood fled out of India such a grand function was to be organized by his family.

I decided to do the story, but there were challenges at every step. The first challenge was to gain access into the highly guarded venue. I needed to gate crash. Second challenge was to shoot the event with a spy cam and capture most of the visitors at the venue. Third challenge was to get out of the venue safely and without the camera getting damaged. It required a fool proof plan because even a minor glitch would have been a disaster. I decided to take along my most trusted cameraman Atul Kadam with me.(Now he is with Times Now) He had done many such daring shoots with me and was never scared of taking risks. Moreover, he knew my style of functioning.

Atul got a medium size black bag and hid camera inside. He made a small hole in the bag so that lens could capture the objects. Both of us then brought white coloured Pathani kurtas and white skull caps wore by Muslims. I feared that being an “on-air” face of Star News I would be identified by D Company’s men, but then an idea struck. I got  dark glares which covered a large part of my face. I assumed that the skull cap along with the glares would make me look different and I will not be identified. But then Atul cautioned me –“Wearing glares at night will  look weird and raise suspicion.” Atul’s concern was right but then the illness of sore eyes came to our rescue. That was a time when Mumbai was in grip of sore eye illness. Many people were wearing dark glasses so that others don’t get infected. I told Atul not to worry as people will think that I was wearing glares due to sore eyes.

We reached the Anjuman-E-Islam School at around 8pm. Before trying to enter the venue, we decided to get an idea of the security arrangements at the entrance. From a distance we observed the activities at the Gate of Anjuman-E-Islam School. The gate was well decorated with white flowers and colorfully lit. There were around 3 young men of around 25 years of age who checked the invitation cards and allowed people to enter. Bouquets and bags were also thoroughly checked. All of sudden I heard abuses and shouting. 2 people were being pushed out from the gate. I went closer to check who were they. Both turned out to be Mumbai’s veteran photo journalist Ashish Raje and Mukesh Parpiani. They were caught with the camera while entering the venue and were being thrown out with warnings that they should not be seen near venue again. Their attempt to access the venue failed. I feared that our will also meet the same fate as the security arrangements at the gate were very strict. There was also a camera from the police which shot each and every person who entered the venue. We checked whether there was any other way by which we could enter the school, but found that the main gate was the only option. We thought of aborting the operation as it seemed impossible to sneak in. However, before taking the final call we decided to wait for few more minutes.

At around 9.15pm, the number of guests arriving at the venue reduced and those who had already arrived had started returning after the dinner. This allowed all the 3 youngsters to relax as they didn’t expect more visitors. Moreover, the crowd at the gate now was of people who were returning. One of the youngsters left the gate and went inside. Second one got a call on his cell phone and got engrossed in a conversation, the third one kept an eye on the gate. It was at this moment that 2 tall beautiful ladies dressed in shiny Panjabi dress arrived at the gate. The guy with cell phone stared at them while talking. The other one checked the invitation card and allowed them to enter. As soon as both the ladies went inside, the guy who checked their cards went to the guy with cell phone and murmured something in his ear and then both started laughing. I assumed that they were discussing the attractive looks of those ladies. This was the right moment for us to move. Both the guys present at the gate lost the attention from their task. I pretended to be talking on cell phone and moved swiftly inside the gate without making eye contact with anybody. Atul did the same. We were not noticed by the duo. My heart started beating faster. We successfully crossed the first barrier.

The reception was organized on the ground of Anjuman-E-Islam school. It was well lit with powerful flood lights. The stage was beautifully decorated with colorful flowers and around a dozen fans filled up the ground with pleasant fragrance. The dinner counters offered choices from numerous dishes of Mughlai and Chinese food. There were several vegetarian dishes also. A Paan stall was arranged next to the deserts counter.

 Haseena Parker was dressed in a light green sari and stood next to the couple on stage. This was for the first time that I saw her in person. She appeared to be a middle aged lady with an aggressive face. The “pride” and “power” of being Mumbai’s most dreaded Don’s sister was very much evident on her face and was also expressed through her body language. Her commanding behaviour and harsh tone distinguished her from other ladies present in the function. Nobody dared to look into her eyes while talking to her. She was being addressed as “Aapa” meaning elder sister.  I tried to imagine that if this is the personality of “Sister”, then what would be the personality of “Brother.”

I moved around to check who the invitees were. The first person who caught my attention was an inspector from the crime branch of Mumbai Police. He too dressed in a Lucknowi Kurta had sneaked into the reception. He was one of my sources and also a good friend. I assumed that he had come to track some wanted criminal of Dawood gang and was hopeful of catching him here. Later on the inspector told me that he was on lookout for a gangster named Salim Sondha as he was expected to come there. He recognized me and winked. He too realized why I was there and wished me luck by lifting his right thumb. We did not talk or came close to each other. Majority of the guests were from Gordon Hall Apartments of Nagpada area where Haseena Parker lived with her family. There were few people from Dawood’s native village in Mumka of Ratnagiri district. They had traveled more than 300 kilometers to spend few hours at this grand reception. Whenever, Dawood organized any family function in Dubai or Karachi he invited famous film personalities to sing and dance. Even before fleeing to Dubai he organized shows of film stars in Pakmodia Street for the people of area where he resided. Film stars always obliged D company, some due to gain proximity with the gang and others due to having no choice. Saying No to a Don meant inviting trouble. Dawood’s brother Noora who died in 2009 was also a song writer and had connections with filmi people. I was not much hopeful of catching any film star at this event, but still scanned each and every face thoroughly. While looking at the faces of invitees I saw veteran crime journalist and writer of film “Black Friday” amongst the crowd. He was there with a colleague from his tabloid and had the same agenda for being present there which I had. I decided not to communicate with him as it would have deviated attention of both of us from the ongoing mission. Among the crowd of invitees there were only two faces which I recognized with names and both were of no news value as one was a police officer and another was a journalist. The excitement of this operation started dying. However, I stood very close to the stage with a hope of catching somebody whose presence at this wedding will become a big story. Atul was trying his best to capture most of the faces.

“Hello Mr.Jitender Dixit…how are you? Where is your camera man? Are you not going to show Dawood bhai’s nephew’s wedding on Star News?” A loud voice attracted my attention towards the stage. “Oh my God.” I felt like being hit by a lightening. He was the lawyer of Dawood’s family who stood on the stage to get photographed with the couple and with Haseena Parker. He knew me well as I had often interviewed him on various criminal cases against D Company. The lawyer unintentionally revealed my identity in front of Haseena Parker and all her cronies. It was not his fault. He just got excited on seeing me there. I did not respond to him, but the response came from Haseena.
She thundered- “How dare to come here…you media people need to be taught a lesson. @$#$%. You are behind our lives and you don’t let us celebrate our family functions also. What crime has been committed that I and Dawood bhai have come out from the same womb? You deserve to be punished.”

I was caught. Apart from a failed operation there was an imminent threat of assault. The only choice to escape was to run away from the venue…but as I turned myself towards the gate a bulky and bearded guy wearing a black coloured Pathani grabbed my collar with his left hand. As he was about to deliver a forceful punch on my face, I pushed him back with full strength and he fell on a chair after losing the grip from my collar. Immediately, I rushed towards the gate. As I came near the gate I realized that 4-5 young men had started chasing me including those 3 guys who were earlier posted at the gate to keep an eye on gate crashers. As I ran out of the venue, I saw that there was nobody at the gate and police camera which was there since the beginning had also left.

Right outside the school, there is a footover bridge which connects CST railway station from Times of India building. As I climbed the bridge, the youngsters continued chasing me. They kept on saying- “How dare you come here basturd? Do you think we are fools? We will not let you go alive. Media is not powerful than us…” While chasing me they attempted to hit me by throwing 2-3 stones, but somehow I escaped from being hit. As soon as I entered CST railway station, I saw a Harbour Line train leaving from platform number 1. The guys had come very closer and I was about to get caught. There were just 2 choices- 1) Take the risk of boarding a running train or 2) Get assaulted by furious gangsters. I boarded the running train. Guys chasing me also attempted to get into the train but by then the train caught speed and they were unable to board the train. I looked back at the platform from the door. The frustrated guys were showing their middle finger to me.

Even after I escaped from the venue, Atul stayed back. He informed me that Haseena Parker got very angry when she realized that I had sneaked into the reception and also escaped unharmed. She gave a verbal bashing to all those who were responsible for security arrangements for their negligence. Haseena’s son Danish died next year in a car accident at Mumbai-Goa Highway