“I’ve written a lot about the Mumbai Mafia and underworld gangsters. But we’ve not really explored the motivation and mindset of terrorists,” exclaims Hussain Zaidi prolific author and former investigative journalist speaking of his latest book Dangerous Minds.
“Abu Faizal– a second year medical student, Saqib Nachan is a self-educated lawyer; while Jalees Ansari has done his MBBS. Yet they are misguided, causing so much mayhem. It was important to first study them myself, so I could put it forth as a story,” explains Zaidi talking to us about criminal minds and more.
What do you believe causes people to get misguided ?
It goes something like this- we look at Kashmiri Militants as Jihadis, but they regard themselves as freedom fighters. What we perceive as rebellion is interpreted by them as something praiseworthy they have been commanded to do by the Almighty. That’s the problem.
For instance, I consider stealing unethical. However, another individual may look at books as knowledge that is meant to be given and received willingly. Something wrong can be justified as right by one’s perception. So, tomorrow killing someone is perceived to be legal! Stealing is allowed, causing bloodshed can be seen as a praiseworthy act. This can be dangerous.
Do you believe most of these ideas are essentially rooted in religion?
Of course. Religion came in close to 1400 years ago. Today the lack of knowledgeable and focussed interpreters has resulted in people imbibing it the way they want to. The first thing that Muhammed did when he came was spread peace, love and humanity. But, all they have taken up is Jihad based. It’s a classic case of misinterpretation.
Given your years of interaction with the perpetrators and victims of crime, have you formed any larger or abstract theories on crime in an urban setting?
I don’t believe crime is a result of circumstances. It is a matter of choice. No one can force you and no amount of justification can change the fabric of your character. One’s surroundings may be bad, but it is a choice that once made, only sees you sink deeper into the abyss of criminal activity.
How do you deal with potentially dangerous situations?
I go into situations after calculating the risk surrounding the project. I don’t fly blind. But when I know I’m going into dangerous territory, I’ll call a friend and tell him if he doesn’t hear from me in an hour’s time- I’m in so and so area.
As a crime reporter, did you ever have to go incognito to get access to a person or place?
I’ve had to reveal my identity at times stating that I’m doing some research or working on a project. I wouldn’t always say that I’m Hussain Zaidi, choosing rather to say I’m a student or a journalist.
How did you get witnesses, detectives and family members to talk to you?
It’s a matter of trust that you build over a period of time. When they realize I haven’t misconstrued their statements or misrepresented their words, they see I have no ulterior motive in talking to them. I’m only concerned with my stories and the information I seek from them.
I go back and write with utmost honesty without violating their confidence. They are more welcoming, helpful and trusting the next time. They then become your sources and are the fountainhead of information you need.
Tell us a little something about your next project?
You know, we all know about Arjuna. But we don’t know much about Droņacharya. We’re aware of famous prodigies but not their mentors. We’ve all talked of Dawood, as a notorious criminal and India’s biggest don. But, what of the man who taught him, trained him and made him such a big criminal with such a razor sharp mind?
So, my next book is about Dawood’s mentor.
I came across some fantastic information about the mentor of Dawood Ibrahim. Research for my book has yielded slow results, but is very enjoyable! We keep investigating and piecing together incidents to put together the whole story. But we must know more about the man!
Your take on blogs and the burgeoning online media culture?
They are fabulous. Today, one can get so much information on his phone that even a humdrum train journey can give you the time to get wiser, learning and reading online. So long as the blogger isn’t spreading disinformation!
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