I was sitting in my office (Property Cell of Mumbai Crime Branch) and was browsing through news channels when the phone rang. It was my boss, Joint Commissioner of Police Himanshu Roy. “Arun, it is a very serious matter. Press all your resources and get on to the case right away,” the voice on the other end instructed.
On my way to the crime scene, I called up all my ace khabris (informers) for any information, interrogated the eyewitnesses and I realised there was hardly any clue to begin with. So, instead of finding out who the killers were, we started the other way round. We examined Dey’s life first. His closest friend was called for questioning. I went with him to Dey’s house and began investigating his day-to-day routine.
There was one thing very peculiar that we could not crack. Dey never took straight roads to head to office. His friend said of his unusual behaviour, “That’s the way Dey had been. Secretive and unexplained.” Even after two days, I was totally blind. On June 14, Roy sir (Jt CP) called me to Powai police station where two on-record criminals - Mateen Shaikh and Anwar Hatela - had been detained. They confessed to the local police about their involvement but I learnt that they had made the confessions out of fear.
The mounting pressure from the media and the government was keeping us on our toes. A petition in court sought that the case be transferred to the CBI. It had become a prestige issue for the entire force. I still remember June 18. It was Roy sir’s birthday. As I wished him and said sorry that I could not get any gift for him, he only said, “Arun, you know what I want from you.” I promised him I would put the accused behind bars soon.
The first tip-off we received was about an on-record criminal, Arun Dhake from Lal Dongar in Chembur. Though he was externed, the locals found him loitering in the area till the day Dey was killed. One team was put on his trail. Dhake was close to one more criminal Anil Waghmode, from the same area. I asked my trusted officer Nandkumar Gopale to get on to these two guys. In two days we got all the information on them. Gopale and other team members were put on the trail of another criminal in Pune.
As we had made headway, I was happy. I called up my bosses and assured them I would see the case to its logical end. Meanwhile, the second team found out that a hardened criminal’s family member had died in Dharavi. There were chances that several local offenders would turn up to pay tribute. We picked up three suspects from the spot, including the one whose relative had passed away. We came to know that the group was run by a south Indian man who had been arrested in a couple of murders. The group leader had reportedly left for Rameshwaram in Madurai.
Now, the third team led by inspector Ajit Sawant, was asked to reach Rameshwaram. On June 28, I left for Madurai. I disclosed to Sawant that we were looking for the South Indian ringleader of the two gangsters picked up from Dharavi. He said it was none other than Satish Kalia, whom he had interrogated a few years ago. The team in the city procured Kalia’s photograph, and distributed it to all the team members.
Meanwhile in Madurai, the team checked hotels and lodges but had no trace of Kalia.
One of the constables who was sent to inspect Rameshwaram beach was the first to catch sight of our man. Kalia was spotted standing at the beach, enjoying the breeze at dawn. Sawant was rushed to the beach and he also gave a green signal. The team reached the spot. The man who had given us sleepless nights was just a few metres from us. The team members spread out on the beach and flanked him, while I faced him from the front.
Soon the team closed in on Kalia and nabbed him before he could make any move. Looking straight into his eyes, I asked, “Idhar kya kar raha hai re? ” He answered, “Paap dhone aya hoon.” Feigning oblivion, I asked, “Kaunsa paap? (Which one?)” In response came the confession. “Wahi jiske liye tum yaha mere liye aye ho.”