Bharuch, Feb. 7: Until she saw the body of three-year-old Suhana this afternoon, Roshanbano Sheikh did not believe that her five daughters, aged nine and below, had been killed.
Suhana’s body was recovered nearly 44 hours after her father Salim Ghulam Hussain Sheikh threw her and her four elder sisters into the Narmada from a 65-foot-high bridge near here.
“My daughters are alive and they would come back,’’ Roshanbano, 31, had been telling everyone. She was hoping that her husband was being truthful when he rang up Ali Munshi, a neighbour, on Thursday evening to say he was going to commit suicide.
Roshanbano, who was called across to speak to Salim, 42, was stunned to hear her husband say: “I’m going to die (and am) leaving (the) children (at someone’s house near the railway tracks) in Bharuch.”
Salim made that call a few hours after setting out with all his daughters for a famous dargah near Bharuch. Their 10-month-old son Sabir survived because he had remained by his mother’s side.
Roshanbano and her father Bali Umarji rushed to Bharuch railway station, 20 km from Veradia village where Salim had been living with his in-laws for the last two years. After a frantic and fruitless search for the girls, they returned home by 6pm.
By then, Shantaben Patel had reported to police that she had seen a man throwing his children into the Narmada from the Sardar bridge.The 60-year-old, who stays in a hut at a riverside slum and often worked as a police informer, said she had seen a truck driver trying unsuccessfully to stop Salim from flinging his daughters into the river.
A case has been registered against Salim under Section 302 for killing his daughters on the basis of Roshanbano’s complaint. Police teams have been dispatched to Veradia and his native Surat to locate him.
Roshanbano collapsed, crying inconsolably, when she was taken to the bridge to identify Suhana’s body. By the time she returned home, she was told the body of Yasmin, 5, had been recovered. Shagufta, 9, Rukhsar, 8, and four-year-old Simran are yet to be traced.
Neither police nor Salim’s in-laws have any idea why he killed his daughters.
Salim worked at a power loom in Surat’s Limbayat area until 1994, when the factory was burned down in the communal riots that year. He began to work at a gambling club in Surat’s Behrampura area and was at his most prosperous then. After the club was shut down, Salim took to driving an autorickshaw, before being called to Veradia village by his father-in-law after the post-Godhra carnage two years ago.
Salim helped Umarji out in his vegetable business, but when his father-in-law ran up losses he reverted to driving an autorickshaw.
Salim married Roshanbano in 1993 against the wishes of his family. She learned of her husband’s first wife Razia only six months into the marriage.