The first stop that Shyam Gawande (name changed), 30, makes every time he is released from the Western Railway jail near Grant Road station is at the Wheeler newspaper stall on platform 1. From there he purchases a copy of the Hindi magazine Suspense Kahaniya and the latest Marathi supplements Police Times and Maharashtra Crime News. Gawande, who studied up to Class X, and works as an occasional extortionist for criminal gangs in Mumbai and Yavatmal, says that he loves reading the crime magazines and hopes that his name too will appear in them some day.
Similarly, Abdul Rehman (name changed), a former sharpshooter with the Abu Salem gang says that he and his mates were the fans of Madhur Kahaniya and Crime & Detective. Nowadays, he mostly reads Police Times to update himself on any new entrants in the field of murder and sometimes picks up a copy of Maharashtra Crime Times in Marathi.
"Mainstream newspapers report only about big criminals like D Company or Chhota Rajan. Small time criminals like us also want to become famous. Not everyone is as intelligent as Dawood Ibrahim. Many criminals read the detailed descriptions given in these magazines to learn how to avoid getting caught," Rehman says. He adds that the magazines also double up as sex guides. "They are hot magazines with photos of hot women," he smiles.
Over dozens of cheap crime magazines and news supplements related to crime are a hit with criminals across Mumbai's jails. The titillating covers of scantily clad men and women joined in orgasmic embrace, coupled with stories of gory sex crimes and murders in the inside pages have catapulted them to a cult status of sorts.
The Wheeler book seller at Churchgate says that they keep at least 15 different crime magazines and most of them are sold within the week they are published.
In fact, the local police too purchases these magazines. Police constable Anil Dongre says that the crime weeklies in Marathi are mostly read by the local police to remain informed of any new crimes and criminals. "Every month there are new entrants in the field. Most of the crimes reported in them are of murder, extortion, sex and passion. The methodology of these crimes is so well described that we make it a point to read them. It helps us in our investigation," he says.
Eknath Shivram Adsul, editor and publisher of Maharashtra Crime News says that his publication is a hit not only in Mumbai but also in Karnataka and Goa. "Our readers are both criminals and the police. Both want to be known for their work and we provide the perfect platform for them," he says. Sometimes the criminals themselves call him and threaten him with dire consequences if he does not write about them. At other times, it is the police. "Our paper has over 500 subscribers in Mumbai alone," Adsul claims.
Anil Arora, marketing head of the Delhi based Suspense Kahaniya, which is very popular in the Arthur Road jail library says that their readership consists of men in the age group of 15-60 years. "Our magazine is popular in Northern India (UP, Bihar, and Punjab), Chennai and Bangalore. Some Mumbai women also read them. They are supplied to all the jail libraries across the country." The erotic photographs are used to add some spice to the reading material.