In 2010, I received a tip off that the Mumbai police, GRP, RPF were trying to falsely implicate me in a ‘serious’ case on trumped-up charges, to finish me professionally. They had obvious reasons.
Not long back I had written about the then-IG (RPF) BS Siddhu spending Rs 80,000 on an IPL match ticket at DY Patil stadium. After the report, then-Railway minister Mamata Banerjee had sent a team to inquire into his wrongdoings, after which he was repatriated back to the UP cadre in a side posting. I had also done a sting operation that exposed RPF Sr PI Sandeep Khiratkar and PSI Kiran Bhosale. They claimed to have fired 40 bullets at Kasab and had received gallantry medals along with a Rs 5 lakh award for this. The two constables were later suspended for admitting to me that neither of them was present at the spot on that fateful day.
A constable ostensibly working on Siddhu’s behalf approached me. They were ready to pay me Rs 10,000 a month to keep quiet. The bribe offer was later increased to Rs 50 lakh, which I declined. It was then that several senior and middle-ranking police officers came together, conspired and bribed a man who lodged a false FIR against me.
In the meantime, I had quit my previous job with a city tabloid and joined MiD DAY. A few months after I joined MiD DAY, I was suddenly arrested. Within hours, my former boss, the late J Dey came to meet me, along with our publisher Latif Sheikh and a lawyer. Dey said, “They have put serious charges against you, but don’t worry, we will do everything we can to help.”
When I was produced in court, I saw many colleagues from MiD DAY present in court. My spirits were rejuvenated. Ketan Ranga, who was then with MiD DAY, handed me a copy of Executive Editor Sachin Kalbag’s editorial on how the Mumbai media had come together and were supporting me. I was deeply moved. I realised, I was not really ‘Akela’.
MiD DAY provided me with two fulltime attendants to look after my needs in hospital. The management kept texting Latif to make sure I was fine. He told me, “The MiD DAY family is with you. Go ahead and fight.” They threw behind me the services of Mumbai’s foremost law firm, Mulla and Mulla and also garnered support from the Press Club of India, the Editors Guild of India.
While I was in hospital, I learnt that I had been promoted from senior to principal correspondent. Today, as I stand vindicated, I have no words to thank all my colleagues and the management at MiD DAY.
I would like to remind my detractors of this couplet:
Waqt tumhara tumhe sab kuchh lauta dega
Waqt ke paas kahaan rehmo-karam hota hai