Mumbai, Aug. 25: The last two of the gang of five that raped the 22-year-old photojournalist on the Shakti Mills compound last Thursday have been arrested but a mobile phone on which the savagery was recorded is missing.
Qaseem Bangali, 21, was picked up from Mumbai Central station around 4.15am today as he waited for a train out of the city. He had been dodging arrest since a goof-up by a Mumbai crime branch constable.
The constable had called Qaseem on Friday and asked him to report at the police headquarters near Crawford Market after Mohammad Chand Babu Sattar, the first accused to be arrested, revealed his name.
“But Qaseem, aware that Chand had been arrested, put two and two together and went into hiding,” an officer said.
All of yesterday, police had laid a virtual siege in and around Agripada where Qaseem lives, leading to huge traffic snarls. The area is about a km from Mahalaxmi where Qaseem — he has three felony charges against him, including robbery — and his mates had raped the girl.
“The manhunt paid off. His mother, along with Chand’s family who also live in Agripada, tried to block the search initially. But we got information that he was hiding in Reay Road near the Mumbai docks, a km from his home. He had planned to get away by using a ferry at a nearby jetty,” said a police source.
Qaseem, however, escaped when the police got there. He was eventually picked up at Mumbai Central station today. His father’s family came from Bengal to Mumbai three generations ago.
Qaseem’s mother, Chand Bibi, today told The Telegraph over phone: “I do not know what is the level of his involvement in this heinous act. I do not know whether he is innocent or whether his accomplices are framing him because of some enmity. If he is guilty, he will have to face the law. But if he is not, he should get justice.”
She claimed that Qaseem had been home watching a music channel on TV on Friday when he got a call from a constable called Mujawar.
“He quickly put on his shirt, borrowed Rs 50 from me and left home without saying anything. I have not seen him since,” she said.
“Later, at night, three policemen came to my kholi (hutment) and asked me a few questions about Qaseem’s whereabouts and left. They asked me not to tell him they had come if he called. But he did not call me,” said Bibi.
The police are now hunting for Qaseem’s mobile phone which, his accomplices have told them, have pornographic videos that he loved watching.
“He used the phone to videotape the entire gang rape — the photojournalist, her male colleague and the other accused have all told us. Qaseem has confessed his crime but is not telling us where he has hidden the phone. It is crucial evidence,” a police officer said, terming Qaseem the most depraved of the lot.
The officer said the photojournalist and her male colleague had said in their complaint that Qaseem had called Mohammad Chand before violating the girl.
“He told him — ‘Mehman aa gaye hain, khatirdari ke liye aa ja (The guests have come. Come to entertain them)’. Qaseem raped the girl twice,” the officer said.
The police are now trying to find out whether Qaseem and the other accused have committed other sexual offences in the past.
“The shooting of the rape video, their threats to kill the girl with a beer bottle while raping her, their calling each other up to join in after cornering the girl in the defunct mill — all indicate that they were waiting with a plan to rape. It also suggests that they may not be first-timers,” the police source said.
A few hours after Qaseem’s arrest, a Mumbai police team picked up Mohammad Salim Ansari, 27, from Bharat Nagar in north-west Delhi with the help of Delhi police.
“He was going to a relative’s house when he was arrested. He was then taken to a hospital for a medical check-up and presented before a duty magistrate in Rohini before being brought to Mumbai,” said DCP Ambadas Pote of Mumbai crime branch.
“The magistrate has granted a transit remand for 48 hours, after which he would have to be presented before a court.”
The other accused — Qaseem, Chand, Vijay Jadhav and Shiraj Rehman Shaikh — . were produced at the Bhoiwada holiday magistrate’s court in Mumbai. Jadhav is from Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district. The others are either from Bihar or Bengal but have been in Mumbai for over two generations.
“They have been remanded in police custody till 30 August... The government has appointed special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam to fight the case,” Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh said.