From Gujarat, a dead mans tale: to make a living, Mehboob became Jayenti

Written by Kamaal Saiyed | Surat | Updated: Dec 30 2009, 04:57am hrs
All Mehboob Pathan (50) of Valak village in Surats outskirts wanted was a job in the city. Getting one in Surats diamond units was tough with an obviously Muslim name like his. So he passed himself off as Jayenti Bhatti and managed to find work in two separate units in the Kapodara area, as a Hindu.

He introduced his son Mushtaq as Mukesh, daughter Samina as Sharmila, and found jobs for both as well, in other units.

Early this week, he was brutally killed, allegedly over a money tiff. His body, with the head smashed in, was found in a farmland at Antroli last Monday.

The police registered a case and kept the unclaimed body in the Palsana PHC mortuary till Thursday. Then they arranged to give Jayenti Bhatti a Hindu funeral, with all the rites.

His family knew only that Pathan had gone missing, until Friday. They had searched for him and even filed a missing complaint with the police, the day after. But local newspapers had talked about the unclaimed body and Iqbal Pathan, Mehboobs brother-in-law, quietly went there to look up the photo of the cremated body. It was Mehboob.

Mehboob, the family says, had remained a Muslim in his private life and the subterfuge was only so that he and his children could find and keep a job to live on. They are distraught that they cannot hope to give him at least a Muslim burial.

Like me, my father too was hiding his religion only so that we could have a job. We are too poor to do anything, but how could the police dispose of his body the Hindu way says his son Mushtaq, or Mukesh.

Kapodara police inspector SJ Tirmizi, who is probing the murder, confirmed that Mehboob had passed himself off as Jayenti Bhatti only to get and keep his job. His daughter Samina, who renamed herself Sharmila at work, was a diamond polisher in a unit at Varachha. This units manager, Manoj Rokad, soon became a family friend. Manoj, according to the cops, knew about the familys assumed Hindu identity.

VR Malhotra, sub-inspector of Kadodara police, said they had kept the body in the mortuary hoping someone would turn up, since it was unidentified. We disposed of it according to Hindu rites not knowing he was a Muslim. The family turned up too late and we are now helpless.

The police say that two years ago, Mehboob had loaned Manoj Rs 60,000 for an emergency, but he never returned it. Mehboob used to keep calling and reminding Manoj to give it back. The cops say the latter finally asked Mehboob to meet him on December 20. He was taken to Antroli village. Manoj allegedly killed Mehboob with the help of two other diamond polishers, whom the police have identified as Chhanya Rathod and Sanjay.

Diamond industry sources and workers say Mehboobs subterfuge was no isolated case, and there are hundreds of other Muslims doing it just to find a job in the citys multi-billion rupee diamond works.

Rohit Mehta, president of the Surat Diamond Association, claimed he was not in the know of Muslims passing off as Hindus to get jobs in the industry. We will inquire into this, he said.

The Kapodara police, meanwhile, have arrested Manoj. They claim he has confessed that Mehboob was beaten to death.