Five years ago, when Faraaz Dharamseey was 18, he lost his father in a hit-and-run accident on Marine Drive. A man was arrested for the crime, eye-witnesses identified him as the driver of the errant vehicle, the police got a confession, and the alleged culprit was released on bail as court proceedings began.
It was an open-and-shut case, except for one small stumbling block. Faraaz's mother, Nadiya, who was riding pillion on the scooter when Shabbir Dharamseey was killed, insisted that the man who had confessed to the crime was not the one responsible for her husband's death.
|Faraaz (right) with his father, who was killed in the accident five years ago, and his mother, who suffered serious injuries
On that fateful night of March 23, 2007, while Shabbir had been flung forward on impact, Nadiya was thrown backwards when their scooter was hit from the rear by a Maruti Alto (registration number MH04 BK786).
She had landed on the bonnet of the car, her hair stuck in the shattered fragments of the windshield. Lying there, trying desperately to get free, Nadiya had got a good look at the driver of the car.
"The man kept on driving until my mother fell off a little distance away from the accident spot," Faraaz said. "It gave her time to see him, to memorise his face."
The driver, Nadiya had said, was a teenager. Three other people sitting in the vehicle, she had insisted, were teenagers as well. The Alto belonged to Umer Basar, who runs a construction and steel exports business in South Mumbai.
• The car that hit the Dharamseeys. Faraaz’s mother, who was slammed against the windshield, was sure a teenager was at the wheel. At the trial, however, an older, bearded man was produced as the accused. (R) Uzair Baser, the alleged accused following Faraaz’s probe and the police’s re-investigation
The person who surrendered before the police was Mohammad Farhan Manzur Ahmad, who worked as a driver in Basar's company. Ahmad was a big, burly man of 27, with a flowing beard; far removed from the teenager Nadiya had claimed to have seen.
Armed with little other than his mother's certitude, Faraaz refused to believe the version of events being given by the police, the alleged culprit, and the three eyewitnesses who claimed they were sitting in the car when the accident took place.
Then a student who is now a product analyst with Crisil, India's leading Ratings company, Faraaz decided to launch his own amateur, parallel probe.
Today, five years and three months after his father's death, Faraaz's perseverance and faith is finally bearing fruit. When trial begins at the Esplanade Court on Thursday, Mohammad Farhan Manzur Ahmad will no longer be the key accused.
Instead, the focus will shift on Uzair Basar, a 22-year-old, who was 17 at the time of the accident, and has been identified by Nadiya as the driver of the car. Uzair is car-owner Umer Basar's cousin, and had allegedly been bundled off to South Africa after the accident.
|Strands of Nadiya’s hair stuck on the windshield of the car that hit her
Uzair's name has come forward because of Faraaz's meticulous investigation over the last five years, which primarily involved stalking Manzur Ahmad day and night, and repeatedly finding opportunities to persuade him to tell the truth.
Though Ahmad insisted for months that he was indeed driving the car the night the accident had taken, place, Faraaz eventually convinced him to spill the beans.
In an affidavit submitted to the court in November, 2011, Manzur Ahmad accepted that he had acted on his proprietor Umer Basar's behalf, and that he's been paid Rs 1.5 lakh to shield Uzair, who did not have a driving license because he was a minor.
The affidavit was signed by two other employees in Basar's company who also said that they had been paid to pose as eye-witnesses and lie to the police about Ahmad's culpability.
Once Faraaz heard Uzair's name, he started trying to track him down through social networking sites. Finally, after weeks of searching, he came across an address in Worli: an apartment complex where the man he was looking for may be staying.
For several days, Faraaz staked out the Worli complex trying to find someone matching the general description of the person his mother had spotted in the car.
He showed her pictures of them (taken off social networking sites), until she finally spotted the face that she said had been etched in her memory since the night of her husband's death. The man she identified was Uzair Basar.
When the court learnt of these new developments in February this year, it ordered the police to conduct a re-investigation of the entire case. In a fresh report submitted to the court last month, the cops have corroborated most of Faraaz's findings.
They have concluded that the accused Manzur Ahmad was a decoy, that the statements of the eye-witnesses were false, and that the entire plot was hatched by Umer Basar to shield his cousin Uzair.
"We conducted the reinvestigations in the case as per courts orders. Statements were again recorded of the people involved," Naval Bajaj, an Additional Commissioner of Police who was then heading the South region, told Mumbai Mirror.
"It's been five long years," Faraaz said, "but the truth has come out."