| A policeman with one of the accused women. (AFP)
Mumbai, Sept. 3: In Salim Chawl, Farheen is known as a fledgling beautician who pesters neighbours to sit for a facial. Her mother Fahmida’s tenuous link with other residents was all about finding out the cheapest bargain — for clothes.
On the day of the blasts, she even paused in the passage to wonder aloud who could have engineered them.
After police arrested Sayyed Mohammad Hanif Abdul Rahim, his wife and 16-year-old daughter for being behind last week’s explosions, which claimed over 50 lives, their neighbours were in shock. They found it hard to believe that the man they had lived with so closely for seven years could kill so many in cold blood.
But they were more surprised by his choice of accomplices — his wife and daughter.
“Farheen was a very nice, good-looking, simple girl, who dropped out of school and took up a beautician’s course. She used to often come to me and ask if I would let her do a hair massage or facial,” said a resident of Salim Chawl, a row of one-room houses in the Chimatpada area of Marol in Andheri East.
“Fahmida was like any housewife. She was also very simple. They lived an almost austere life. Fahmida used to ask me where she could get the cheapest clothes.
“But I am going mad thinking how they came back on August 25 and behaved as normally as before. Across the passage, Fahmida and I discussed the blasts. She even discussed with me who could have done it.”
However, at one level, the neighbours were not surprised. The woman said Rahim, who performed namaaz five times a day, seemed a man of great determination.
“He must have made his wife and daughter listen to him. He was a tabligi, very orthodox. His women wore full burqas when they went out.”
Another neighbour, a college-going girl who lived opposite, said Rahim was an authoritative man and Farheen and Fahmida seemed to be in awe of him.
But if Rahim could influence the women, he was not so lucky with his 19-year-old son who has trained in computers and works. “Their son, Irfan, used to stay away. He never got along with his parents,” said another neighbour. “We never wanted to know what went on inside the house. Perhaps, that’s why Rahim could carry on like this.”
Rahim has another daughter, four-year-old Shakira, who was also in the taxi her parents took to the Gateway of India. She was in police custody yesterday, but has now been taken away to Pune by her grandmother.
Police feel Rahim’s outfit, the nascent Gujarat Revenge Force, may have established connections with other terror networks in the city. But the 45-year-old, who kept to himself, did not trust or need anyone to carry out the destruction other than his wife and daughter. He only needed another man: Arshad Shafiq Ahmed Ansari. It is not even clear whether the revenge force — set up to avenge the post-Godhra massacre in Gujarat — has more than these four members.
Rahim, Fahmida, 37, and Ansari, 25, have been remanded in police custody till September 15 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Farheen, whom the police found out to be a minor, has been taken to the Umarkhadi Home in Dongri. She will be tried by a juvenile court.
The police feel that Rahim, while working as an electrician in Dubai, established connections with people who are likely to have provided the funds. They also provided him with names of people here whom he could contact. That is how he got in touch with Ansari and devised the plan to take revenge, police sources said.
It is not clear how he got hold of the explosives, a lot of which was found in their one-room house, but the police feel that the two bombs that set off the blasts were assembled the previous night by the family. Rahim, who used to drive an auto-rickshaw here, has also admitted that he was behind the Ghatkopar blasts earlier this year and last December and had attempted another blast in the Seepz area of Andheri East on December 2, said inspector Vinayak Saude.
The police also said no RDX was used in the explosions, as was previously reported. Police sources said an explosion of this kind could not be carried out without the help of other terrorist networks, but preliminary investigations suggested it was the work of Rahim alone. There was no evidence of the involvement of any underworld elements either, the sources added. “It seems there was nothing personal,” said senior inspector Vijay Salaskar. “Rahim was disturbed by what happened in Gujarat. It is not as if he lost any relative.”
It was the same with Ansari, a zari worker who was in Surat at the time of the Gujarat riots. Ansari’s family members, residents of a slum in Andheri West, said they could not believe that a shy, withdrawn man like him was capable of such action. He joined Rahim’s cause because he wanted to take revenge against the Gujarat atrocities, they added.