Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Daya Nayak and Un-investigative Journalism

No news may not be good news, but irresponsible news is far far worse.

Today, all of Mumbai is talking about Daya Nayak. The credit, of course, goes to our overly creative media. When there is no news, let us manufacture news. Let us talk about a flat in Switzerland, a fleet of luxury buses, an absconding cop, a non-bailable warrant and a manhunt alongwith the Karnataka police. Let us talk fiction.

The first to break the Daya Nayak story was the Mumbai Mirror. This was very interesting, because so far the Mirror has confined itself to front page news about a woman’s hair getting burnt when she went for straightening it and how the vamp in the new Kxxx serial hates the actress who plays the mother in the older Kxxx serials [for the uninitiated, these are the Ekta Kapoor serials on primetime t.v.] And suddenly, here we had a tabloid trying to carry off investigative journalism about a very serious story. But unverified "sources" do not news make. To anyone who gave a thought to the 4 crore net worth story, it stank of a smear job. Which led me to wonder, how much money was paid and by whom, to carry that story?

It did not stop here. The next day, a lot of people wrote in to the Mirror and got published [because public sentiment must be honored] about how Daya Nayak is an evil criminal and how he should be punished severely to deter other corrupt people. The Mirror carried the next installment of their smear campaign alongwith the readers’ opinions. Really, you expect a 17 year old to understand what the MCOCA is? You print a businessman’s opinion on how corruption and bribery should be punished? Yeah sure... Then the ACB raided Nayak, and the Mirror patted itself on the back about how it was responsible for opening the eyes of the ACB. But suddenly, the net worth of Mr. Daya Nayak had gone down from the 4 crores that it earlier was to 41 lacs, out of which 36 lacs was in his wife’s name. Sure she’s a housewife, so she can’t possibly make any money, right? But what if she brought in a dowry and bought two companies with it and made them grow? What if she’s intelligent and capable of handling finances? Oh, but she’s a woman! She can’t possibly do all that! And all though one of those companies stopped working, about 3 years ago, it still kept making money for these criminal masterminds!

The parent Times of India had been silent so far, other than a tiny piece about ongoing enquiries in the Ketan Tirodkar vs Daya Nayak case. After the ACB raids, its head honchos thought, the Mirror’s been doing front page after front page on Daya Nayak, and everyone’s talking...we shouldn’t be missing out! And because they had nothing substantial to report, because nothing substantial had been found – they made up the Swiss flat + Dubai hotel story. It was the most shameful kind of journalistic hooliganism, even more so because it was the Times! Of course, it could have just been another journalist on the ToI who like on the Mirror sold out to Tirodkar or Shakeel, same difference...

The other newspapers were just as bad. The Midday’s reliable "sources" [God, how I hate this word!] divulged Nayak’s total wealth as over 100 crores. The Hindustan Times was largely non-commital but wasted a lot of newsprint on the "absconding" cop. The Indian Express talked about the now old matters of the luxury buses and the 3 flats in Mumbai. Only DNA [that’s Daily Analysis and News, the newest kid on the block] was surprisingly reserved in its comments and mostly stuck to facts, rather than imaginary sources.

Nobody, absolutely nobody bothered to remember the number of times that Nayak put his life on the line, for the system. Nobody talked about the Lashkar E Toiba militants that he gunned down; who would have certainly wreaked havoc in Mumbai had it not been for this man. [See The Real Nayak] No journalist had the guts to suggest that this could be a conspiracy to screw over Daya Nayak’s life. No journalist wrote about just how many people and what kind of people want Daya Nayak dead, destroyed or at least, in jail. No journalist bothered to bring out Ketan Tirodkar’s criminal antecedents before quoting him in their articles. They keep referring to him as a former journalist, as if that magic word absolves him of all guilt, when in fact, he only worked with a small time afternoon daily for less than a year. NDTV [formerly our best news channel, but changed preference from news to sensationalism in the last 6 months] carried interviews with Tirodkar and aired them repeatedly, without editing the rubbish that he spoke. If you can edit Rahul Gandhi’s speeches, can’t you edit a criminal’s? Instead of condemning the known criminal, you glorify his sleaze, put him on the front page and let him drag an innocent [until proven guilty, sure] man through slime down to his own low levels?

The media - and we who follow and believe unquestioningly its various channels – do not realize that a man’s life has been completely ruined by this uncalled for spotlight. From now onwards, Daya Nayak has ceased to be the man who shot down 84 hardcore gangsters and saved hundreds of lives, instead he will forever be remembered by the collective conscious as the cop who ran and hid, when in fact he has done nothing of the sort.

Certain others in this case that the media has reported about - without verifying facts or background checks:

 Raju Padte, close college friend of Nayak. Accused of having illegal cash dealings with Nayak and staying in Nayak’s Andheri flat. Detained by ACB for a day for questioning. The truth: Padte runs a cable network. Owns a fast food stall outside Andheri station. Has bought the flat in Silver Mists, Andheri himself through bank loans and has paid it off gradually. No illegal financial dealings.

 P. Manivellan, friend of Nayak from Coimbatore. Accused of illegal cash dealings and association of his company Deve Paints by lieu of Nayak’s wife being on board of directors of Deve Paints. Currently in police custody by ACB for "questioning" [read harassment]. Tirodkar’s allegation – Manivellan is a front for Daya Nayak for money laundering, and was a poor nobody before coming in contact with Nayak. The Truth: Deve Paints, formerly Garware Paints has been in Manivellan’s family since 15 years. P. Manivellan is a well-off interior designer by profession originally from Coimbatore and in Mumbai since 2001. Has been trying to salvage the company Deve Paints that was earlier managed by his brother and pay off its dues to workers and creditors after it declared bankruptcy 6 years ago. Had leased a flat in Hiranandani, Powai in the duration of his stay which was searched and sealed by ACB prior to his being taken into police custody. Nothing was found. He’s just a man caught in the crossfire.

In a time where fiction can be easily made to seem like fact; and facts can be concealed or forgotten, it becomes increasingly important for the media to remain responsible for what they showcase. Our media, both print and electronic have forgotten the importance of establishing the truth despite any excuses for manipulation; which is the basic tenet of journalism.

Even if a certain section of the media has sold itself to malevolent forces that seek to destroy Daya Nayak, and though it is a shame that an old and esteemed newspaper like ToI has dishonored its reputation by stooping to yellow sensationalist journalism; I continue to hope that the rest of the media will turn away from the unethical and irresponsible attitude seen today and will at least, attempt to establish a cleaner version of the truth in an unbiased manner.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Is Daya Nayak really a criminal?

The recent press coverage given to the so-called "crimes" of discredited encounter specialist Daya Nayak has made me rather lose my pride as being part of the great Indian system. This – is my retaliation to what I see as injustice.

Who is this Daya Nayak? Rising from a 9yr old chaiwalla to feared supercop - no easy task, even in the city of dreams. From working odd jobs, to being the guy who shot 84 blood-thirsty criminals and then on to being the man who everyone looks upon as a criminal...

The newspapers are busy holding his trial, before the court has had any say. Shall we also consider his various crimes then?

In 2003, a small time guy called Ketan Tirodkar, who had earlier worked briefly with the Afternoon Courier, filed a case against Daya Nayak in the stringent MCOCA court. He said Nayak was a part of a conspiracy to shunt out top police officials who were hostile to the cause of the underworld and that he had taken money from the don Chhota Shakeel to facilitate the same. Tirodkar was part of this supposed deal and guilt had driven him to confession. Tirodkar is a known Shakeel man. He has been arrested and is currently out on bail. Because of the numerous cases that this criminal filed, raids have been carried out at Daya Nayak’s home. Not once, but many times, though the ACB never found anything.

Since the last 2 weeks the sleazeball tabloid Mumbai Mirror has been printing stories about Nayak’s disproportionate assets. His net worth is now 100 crore[from the earlier rather modest 4 crore], he owns a hotel in Dubai, has a place in Switzerland and keeps going out of the country all the time – to Canada and America and God knows where else. He owns many properties in India. He owns a fleet of luxury buses in Karnataka. He owns dozens of companies. His wife is the director of several of these. Inspite of being super rich he continued to work a job that paid him a measly 12000 a month and continued to stay in a tiny flat. And with all his extra money he built a school in his home-town, probably because he ran out of ways to spend his extra cash... I didn’t know what was more shocking, the Mirror’s allegations or the fact that the Mirror’s readers responded with things like he should be publicly punished and put to death for his crimes.

Can we please have real news? Can we have some hard facts, maybe a reaction from the man involved? No, the media says we may not, because we’re all imbeciles and don’t understand the delicate balance of the sources and the media. A balance preserved by exchange of hard cash, at least in the case of the great and illustrious Times of India who have been known to print for pay. So, what’s the real story?

Daya Nayak shot down 84 gangsters and arrested over 300 in his years with the police force. He was a man doing his job, for which he was highly praised, given monetary rewards and many awards. He became famous. The men he killed were from all factions of the Mumbai mafia – Dawood’s men, Chhota Rajan’s men, Chhota Shakeel’s men, Ashwin Naik’s men, Arun Gawli’s men – there was no don who didn’t take losses. And he wasn’t alone.
Other encounter specialists, like Pradeep Sawant, Vijay Salaskar, Sachin Vaze and Pradeep Sharma were all equals in the encounters. But like one of our better newspapers pointed out, none of these remain in the crime branch with the exception of Pradeep Sharma. They’ve been transferred, given desk jobs, arrested or in Nayak’s case, are undergoing the process of being arrested. Why’s Pradeep Sharma still there? Is he a better police officer? Or were these others the betters, and got shunted out - paying the price of being better men? Or is Pradeep Sharma better than the others, at licking ass? Pradeep Sawant[former DCP] and R.S.Sharma[former CP] – both great officers when they were working - were gotten out of the way through the Telgi case. That surprised me too – people in power willing to believe a criminal’s word rather than the police officers who put him in jail. It is the same scenario all over again – Tirodkar’s word against Nayak’s.

Does it seem possible that a man like Chhota Shakeel, known for his vengeful attitude, would pay the man who shot and killed so many of his close associates? The same Shakeel who waged war with Chhota Rajan, onetime colleague and pal and killed so many of his men after the Mumbai blasts and riots in 1993? If he wanted to destroy the police force, he would first destroy the man he hated the most - that being Daya Nayak. Which is precisely what he is doing, using Tirodkar as a dummy front and alleging Nayak’s nexus with Shakeel. What kind of man believes this sort of cock and bull story unless he’s been paid to believe it?

The human mind is fickle. What we do not have, we crave; what we cannot have, we hate. The current crop of higher police officials who are now busy throwing stones at Daya Nayak once sang his praises. They promised to protect him from the underworld that posed a constant threat to his very life. And they did - they gave him armed guards, good vehicles and all the support he needed. But then, Daya Nayak got famous. He earned money for killing all those bad guys, and loads of it too. Of course, now the media has forgotten that many of the men that he shot had rewards on their heads to the tune of 5-10 lacs each. So this man was rich, famous and almost a celebrity. He soon became a celebrity, with 2 Hindi movies and 1 Kannada movie being made based on his life. He received the Karnataka Hriday Samrath Award, the highest award granted by the Karnataka Govt. How many policemen get this kind of fame? Isn’t it logical that Nayak’s success made these men see red, and they became insanely jealous of their junior, now a man perhaps too big for his boots... Pasricha, M.N. Singh, A.N.Roy, Dilip Sawant – none of these could avoid the green-eyed monster. The officers investigating Daya Nayak through the Anti Corruption Bureau are all Nayak’s contemporaries, and none of them have so much as been in a headline before being involved in the his case. They are neither rich nor famous. If they were looking for a chance to pull him down, this is it. If they were looking for fame, they’ve now hit paydirt. It seems as if the raids that they have been carrying out are only to harass the man and his family, rather than any attempt to find the truth.

There’s also Pradeep Sharma. How does he figure here? He was the one under whom Nayak trained and matured as a police officer. But now he has gone out of his way to attack Daya Nayak and his character. Have the two had a fall-out after the erstwhile pupil far outshone his mentor? Or is it something else?

Now to the media. The premier newspaper of India, ToI, has behaved in an utterly despicable manner. First, by allowing their tabloid to carry unverified stories about Nayak and then themselves making allegations that border on the ridiculous. It would be funny if it weren’t so terrible. We do not expect this of our newspapers. A flat in Switzerland? Really?? At least they could have said a bank account, that would have been a little more believable. A fleet of luxury buses operating within Mangalore, that coming from the Indian Express. Midday saying Daya Nayak’s worth 100 crores. Please, have some respect for the intelligence of your readers. Give us the usual rubbish that you pass off as news, but don’t give us slimy rotten rubbish, don’t venture into serious news when you have no idea what it’s about. The kind of stories the Mirror and Midday have carried; it made me think they are on Tirodkar’s payroll. He’s a criminal for god’s sake. Don’t glorify him. Daya Nayak is, or was, a good cop. He made Mumbai safe again. If you can’t come out in his support, don’t tear him down at least!

Once upon a time, he was the media’s golden boy. He made the bad guys disappear, he looked great and photographed well, he was nice to the journos – he was everyone’s favorite story. But show a man a hole, and he will finger it to make it bigger. That is what the media has been doing now. Glorifying Tirodkar, interviewing him constantly, letting him accuse whoever he wants, allowing him to drag anybody he pleases into his slime, not editing his rubbish – what has become of the days when we had real news? When reporters reported facts, not opinions? Especially of criminals?!

The Mirror said the ACB raided Nayak because of its reports. But the Mirror said he’s worth 4 crores. All the ACB found was evidence on paper worth 41 lacs. So where’s all his 4 crores now? How much is 4 crores? Maybe 2 small sea-facing flats in south Mumbai. It’s not a lot of money, it only seems to be so. Considering that the man shot 84 gangsters, each with rewards on their heads of upto 10 lacs, even if he shared his money with the other members of the team, he’s made at least 84 lacs through his reward money alone! This was years ago, and with the right investments, he could have been a millionaire many times over by now. Is investing wrong? Is making wealth wrong? If it is, why aren’t all the rich guys in India in jail today? If Nayak was really that rich, he wouldn’t be doing the thankless job of being a policeman even today. He wouldn’t be living in a tiny house. If he were greedy for money, he would have kept everything he got for himself, rather than building a government school in the tiny village that he was born in, because he doesn’t want the children there to walk like him to a school 2 hours away and then stop studying because it was only a primary school. But rather than praise the man, we suspected him of laundering ill-gotten money! How low can we stoop?

Dragging his wife into the story, dragging his friends in and accusing them of protecting him... isn’t that what friends are supposed to do? By raiding any man who is even remotely associated with Daya Nayak, what does the ACB wish to prove? That to know someone is a crime? That to be friends with a man, and go to the aid of that man in times of trouble is against the law? Is it now illegal to be good human beings?

Daya Nayak’s real crime is that he was good at his job. Worse still, he was far better than anyone else around him. Even worse, he was proud of it.

I am ashamed to be part of a system that rewards ability with punishment. I am ashamed of a system which has not protected Daya Nayak from the harassment of a criminal. I am ashamed of our police force who seek to harm its own and wish to arrest a good man on grounds of jealousy and envy. I am ashamed of our laws, which can allow this to happen, which are being abused to destroy this man who almost gave his life to uphold them, which have been misused to turn their enforcer into a disgraceful caricature. I am ashamed of our media, who call Daya Nayak an “on the run” absconder, when he’s nothing of the sort, and none of whom have come forward with a good word for him.

A young citizen of this nation, I feel nothing but guilt to be part of a people who glory in villainy and grind down true greatness to dust under their heels, only because they cannot equal it.

If he is a criminal, then justice will of course be done, but let him not be destroyed because no one has the courage to speak out in his support. If you believe in him, lets reach out in support, speak out and let others know of the truth. Let us at least give him a chance to speak, to show that he is not guilty of the crimes he has been accused of, before we sentence him to a figurative death in a trial by our minds.