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The mechanics of a murder

Is the story of senior crime reporter Jigna Vora, chargesheeted last fortnight for the murder of Jyotirmoy Dey, a tale of ambition & professional rivalry gone horribly wrong?

mumbai Updated: Mar 18, 2012 00:26 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Debasish Panigrahi
Hindustan Times

With the Mumbai police filing the chargesheet against Jigna Jitendra Vora, the eleventh accused in the murder of Mid Day editor investigations Jyotirmoy Dey, the gruesome nature of the crime took an unexpected turn. While earlier it had seemed like a case of revenge extracted by an underworld don or a senior police officer, professional rivalry between two crime reporters being the actual cause left everyone stunned. Tracing the steps back to where it all began reveals how one woman's blind ambition may have led her to hatch a murder. The sequence of events points to the mechanics of a crime that has left the world of Indian journalism forever tainted with blood.

As the monsoons rolled into Mumbai last year, a heinous plan was being rolled out by underworld don Chhota Rajan. The gangster was vying for the blood of his decade-old journalist friend, Mid Day crime reporter Dey. Vora, once a colleague of Dey, now Rajan's new-found ally, had been instrumental in fuelling this murderous hate with her claims about how Dey was portraying Rajan in the media. On the don's instructions, the rain-lashed streets of Powai, an affluent locality in western Mumbai, ran red with Dey's blood on the afternoon of June 11, 2011.

Vora, whose foray into journalism was as recent as seven years ago, was always in a hurry. She loved the pace of her job and disliked any obstacles that stood in her way. She quickly rose to the post of deputy bureau chief of English daily Asian Age at the relatively young age of 37. Known for her flamboyance and devil-may-care attitude, she endured a lot for her career and gave little stock to the chauvinist gossip associated with being a young, single mother. She seemed focused on her job knowing she had to raise her 10-year-old son all by herself. But her bubbly, charming demeanour masked a ruthless sense of ambition. On November 25, 2011, Vora was arrested by the Mumbai police in the sensational murder of Dey. Vora stood accused of conspiring with Rajan and instigating the daylight killing of Dey, her former colleague and mentor.

Losing perspective

This was no ordinary crime. It not only raised ethical questions over the sanctity of the profession of journalism but also the safety of Mumbai's crime reporters whose jobs require them to dabble with the seedy underbelly of the city. It is definitely a tightrope walk for them. This is because reporting on the underworld, a facet of crime unique to the city, forms their staple.

However, during the course of their interaction with the underworld, some get overtly involved with their subjects and cross the line. Vora was just another example.

"Jigna's link with the underworld, Chhota Rajan in particular, was different from other reporters having professional relations with him. While, Rajan would call (crime reporters) to pass on information, in Jigna's case it was just the reverse... (and) beyond her professional call," said Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner - crime, Mumbai Police.y's criminal world.

Trigger for the crime

Vora's fetish for the underworld and its larger-than-life operatives, say fellow reporters, developed while she covered cases related to the underworld in the City Civil and Sessions Court. A law graduate, she naturally gravitated to court reporting as her first assignment in the Free Press Journal, from where she moved on to Mid Day. In her time with mentor Hussain Zaidi, one of Mumbai's most reputed crime reporters, she learnt the nuances of the job.

According to media persons who knew Vora, her sources soon began to overlap with Dey's, leading to professional insecurity.

Matters came to a head when Vora found Dey hobnobbing with Chhota Rajan's henchman, Farid Tanasha, who she befriended during the gangster's court appearances . Dey, who was writing a script for an underworld-related Bollywood potboiler, had to make frequent trips to Tanasha's Tilak Nagar residence to understand the nuances of mafia operations. Once, when Vora came face to face with Dey outside Tanasha's house, an ugly fracas broke out. One of Dey's colleagues at Mid Day was witness to the incident and the crime branch said it was following this incident that Vora issued Dey's death warrant and did not rest until it was executed.

A finger of suspicion was even raised at a senior police official from whom Dey was facing a defamation suit. Vora was mysteriously absent from the scene - holidaying in Sikkim when other crime reporters were toiling hard to get a whiff about the identity of the killers, or the motive behind the murder. Twelve days after Dey's murder, she made a sudden appearance with a dramatic story. She went to town claiming London-based fugitive drug lord Iqbal Mirchi was behind the murder as Dey was on the verge of making a big expose' about his dealings.

Quoting unnamed police officials, Vora claimed that Dey had even met Mirchi during a trip to London a few months before his murder. Vora's expose' gave fodder to the rumour mill. But the police cracked the case in the next four days arresting the real assassins and unravelling the conspiracy. They later learnt that Vora had deliberately lied to throw the investigation off track.

As the investigation progressed, Vora had cause to worry. Even as the media went hammering on the developing stories, Vora's contribution was wanting. Her friends in the media too noticed marked changes in her behaviour. Her flamboyance was replaced by anger and restlessness. She became argumentative, questioning and dismissing the police findings during the daily media briefing.

As the police explored their leads further, the picture became clearer. Dey's torrid relation with Vora became more and more evident. Angry text messages exchanged between the two over closeness to Tanasha and verbal abuses thrown at each other in the presence of fellow reporters indicated the simmering hatred between the two competing professionals.

However, the police was well aware of the consequences of arresting a senior reporter. They kept buying time and engaged a battery of counsels to evaluate every piece of evidence. Shrewd media management and an apparent transparency made the task for the police. Even a month before Vora's arrest, media reports gave enough indication of who the police suspected as Rajan's media mole.

Vora was quick to read the writing on the wall. But even until a fortnight before her arrest, Vora was ever present amongst the throngs of reporters, grilling crime branch officials with uncomfortable questions on the murder investigations.

It might have been a valiant show, perhaps a façade to undo the inevitable and avoid being exposed. But the tables soon turned. Innocent or guilty, it was only a matter of time before the truth came out.

First Published: Mar 17, 2012 22:31 IST