THE war of attrition between India’s law enforcement agencies and the Mumbai underworld has become the stuff of legend. The iconic film Deewar was perhaps the first honest and unflinching look into the murky dealings of the underworld. A key component of this shadowy world is the police informer. Living a precarious existence among criminal elements, while passing valuable tip-offs to the police, he lives life on the edge, owing his allegiance to no one in particular. Known in police parlance as zero dial or khabri, he is truly the unsung hero of India’s criminal underbelly.
Zero Dial: The Dangerous World of Police Informers by the well-known crime reporter J.Dey, is a tribute to these unsung heroes, who are instrumental in helping the police to solve many of their cases. Ostensibly a book about the hunt for terror mastermind Riyaz Bhatkal, the plot weaves in the stories of three police informers-their hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations. Most of these khabris lead lives much like our own, with a living to be made and families to support. In most cases their families are unaware of their real occupation. Many of them are forced into this murky profession due to circumstances, and once in, find it difficult to leave. It’s a seductive world-of crime, sex, drugs and betrayal-and a successful khabri is one who knows how to turn circumstances to his advantage.
Written like a James Hadley Chase thriller, the book is a dizzying ride into a world far removed from the average man’s, where neither the police nor the criminals are completely free of taint. Using his extensive experience as a crime reporter, J.Dey has turned the spotlight on three of Mumbai Police’s best police informers, fleshing out their characters and showing the human side of their sordid lives. As the author says, with the sword of Damocles forever hanging over their heads, the informers can never take their lives for granted. One careless slip, one slice of bad luck, and the sword will inevitably plunge downwards…
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