Invisible Cities: Part Fifteen: Missing

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This article appears in abridged form in Daily News & Analysis on the 14th of December, 2012.

Sajid Mohammed, a 15 year old boy from Golibar disappeared on the 1st of August, 2012 on his birthday. His father, an RTI activist who fought against the builder lobby in Golibar, wrote complaints one after another stating that his life and that of his family was in danger but the police took no action.

Shoukat Mohammed was 25 years old in 1992 when his video cassette store at Nirmal Nagar, Khar was burnt down in the riots. He lived away from his home for four years, than eventually moved back into nearby Shastri Colony in Golibar, where he has lived since, bringing up a family with three children, his first child, a daughter Rukhsar was born in 1994, and his son Sajid was born in 1997, and then Zahid, his youngest, in 1999.

He has worked in the railway department’s as a Senior Indicator Operator directing traffic of the local trains for the past 22 years now and over the past few years has been campaigning against Shivalik Ventures and the re-development project in Shastri Colony, Golibar, alleging that in Shastri Colony, the ‘secretaries and the chief promoters had given bogus names who are non residents of Mumbai’ for the SRA project, and that ‘the survey was not conducted as per proper rules of the SRA,’ that illegal structures were listed as legal, and that homes were surveyed twice, and that one of the members of the society Chandrakant Gaurav alias Dagdya had prepared bogus ration cards, bogus electricity bills for his own structures to be declared eligible.

Developer Shivalik Ventures has repeatedly asserted that there has been no wrongdoing in their massive redevelopment project in Golibar where one after another of the 46 societies has made accusations of forgery and highhandedness of the SRA and the builder.

Shoukat, alone in his society has been singlehandedly writing complaints about the project, his home being one of the lone standing structures in Shastri Colony, the rest demolished or residents having moved away. In his complaints to the police, he even stated that one Mrs. Zaibunnissa Khan, a relative of the chief promoter, Sayyed Rauf, had approached him with an offer of 15 lakhs to withdraw all the complaints against the builder.

Then on the 27th of April, 2011, his neighbour Chandrakant Gaurav had approached him and threatened his saying, ‘that he would be picked up and killed,’ and that he (Gaurav), ‘was well protected and could get away with anything’ and that ‘they would put a false case on him (Shoukat).’

When Shoukat had gone to file a complaint to the police they refused to lodge a First Information Report even when he produced witnesses, and the police merely lodged a NC (a Non-Cognizable offence).

Yet on the first of August this year, Shoukat’s son never returned from his tuitions. His suspicions immediately fell on his neighbours, Chandrakant Gaurav alias Dagdya, Javed Qureishi, Jaffar Qureishi, Ghulam Sheikh, Ismael Roshan Khana alias Pappu.

A worried Shoukat went to Nirmal Nagar police station and was told to wait 24 hours. On the 2nd he repeated to the Sub-inspector Sharad Panduram Jadhav that he has suspicions that members of his society were involved in the abduction of his son, yet instead of filing a kidnapping case, the sub-inspector wrote it down as a missing persons case.

Speaking to Sajid’s family, his teacher, and his friends, Sajid is described as an introvert, with little interest in outdoor activities, with few friends, and a diligent student studying for his 10th standard SSC exams at Cardinal Gracias High School at Khar. He vanished without any of his possessions but the notebooks he had taken for his tuitions and the clothes on his back. There are no suspicions amongst his friends, teachers or his family that the boy could’ve run away. And that too, for over four months.

Irrespective of whether it was a kidnapping or a missing persons case, the police did nothing for the next two months.

Then on the 26th of September, a whole two months after he went missing, with the help of a human rights organization, Shoukat drafted a letter to the Home minister, and the Chief minister, threatening to go on a hunger strike at the Mantralaya, if the police did not file an FIR and look for his son. Finally, the police took cognizance of the father’s complaints and  in a few days they arrested those Shoukat had accused.

The behavior of the police is implicit in the fact that they did not ask for police custody of the accused even though they hadn’t found the boy. The first three accused were merely released in 2 days, and the other two was arrested later and swiftly released again.

Meanwhile, Sub-Inspector Sharad Jadav refused to comment on why he did not file it as a kidnapping case when Shoukat first approached him and merely walked away pointing out a senior officer. Inspector Ramesh Khakale responds that the police had arrested the accused but the case is still in investigation and that it is now being handled by his Senior Police Inspector Sahebrao Sonawane, who refused to speak to the media.

In the past few years, a large number of RTI activists who fought against the builder lobby have been attacked by miscreants or known criminals – Santosh Daundkar of BIT Chawl, Aba Tandel of Golibar, Sandeep Yeole of Ramnagar, Suresh Banjan of Indiranagar.

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