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The Rediff Special/ A Ganesh Nadar in Mumbai
Cops have not harassed us, say Fahim's family
March 02, 2009
In the cheek by jowl existence of a Mumbai [Images] chawl -- familiar across the globe now, thanks to movies like Slumdog Millionaire [Images] -- in Goregaon, a western suburb, lives a family of six brothers.
It is a close-knit family; the brothers live with their wives and children. They make envelopes in a small family enterprise.
Last year, breaking news shattered their world.
A television news channel reporter arrived at their chawl. They were told that their sixth brother, Fahim Mohammed Yusuf Ansari, had been arrested by the Uttar Pradesh [Images] Special Task Force in February in connection with the attack on a Central Reserve Police Force camp in Rampur town in UP.
Now, Fahim is also an accused in the November 26 Mumbai terrorist attack.
The police charge-sheet says he surveyed the targets in south Mumbai and made detailed plans. He is said to have given these plans to a Lashkar-e-Tayiba [Images] operative, Sabahuddin Ahmed, who in turn is said to have given them to Zaki-ur-Rehman and a man believed to be code-named Abu Kahafa in Pakistan, who used them to brief the terrorists who attacked Mumbai.
Fahim's story is as bizarre as it gets. On one hand, his is the everyman story from a Mumbai chawl, and on the other, a terrifying testimony to the reach of terror's tentacles.
The youngest of nine siblings -- six brothers and three sisters, who are now married -- he dropped out of college in six months when he realised that the family income was not sufficient to see him through. He joined the family business. He was married and has a four-year-old girl. He got a job in Dubai [Images]. He and his brother Usman worked there for a year, and then Usman came back. Fahim continued to work there.
He was in touch with his family for three months after that. Then, the family says, he disappeared. The family says it complained to the police in Dubai and Fahim was listed as a missing person there.
The police charge-sheet says Fahim trained at Lashkar camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, flew to Nepal on a Pakistani passport and travelled back to Mumbai, videotaping landmarks in south Mumbai and living under the alias of Sahil Pavaskar.
When he was arrested in UP, the police say they found hand-sketched maps highlighting the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus [Images], the Mumbai police headquarters, the Taj Mahal Hotel [Images], the Bombay Stock Exchange [Images] building and other Mumbai landmarks.
It was only after the Mumbai attack that the police connected the dots.
Since the reporter arrived at their chawl, Fahim's family have met him twice. His eldest brother Abu Bakr Ansari says, "There were two cops with him when we met. He couldn't talk to us freely. He looks OK. There are so many questions I wanted to ask, but could not."
"The police have not harassed us," he adds. "It seems that they had kept us under observation for two months and realised that we were just doing our work. Knowing that we are innocent, they let us alone."
Abu says he never had any inkling about Fahim's alleged terrorist links.
"Here he went from work to home with us. He was always with us. There was no chance of him making any friends outside. Even in Dubai, as long as Usman was there with him, we knew what was going on."
Fahim's wife and child live with them.
"She will stay with us," Abu says with the matter of factness familiar in poor people wherever they may be. "Where else can she go? This is a joint family and I am the head of this family. I have to look after her as I look after another brother who is also not here".
Another of his brothers had mental health problems. He just wandered off one day and they don't know where he is. They have complained to the police.
"We do not have the money to launch a massive manhunt. He was over 50 when he walked off. We know that he had some problems in his head."
"We are hoping he will come back," he says, "We are still here."
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