An excerpt from the book, SHEHLA MASOOD: THE MURDER THAT SHOOK THE NATION by Hemender Sharma 

Shakib, who along with Raees scientist was given Rs 5 lakh of the reward money that was announced to provide clues about the killers was on the run after realizing that the CBI was zeroing in on him. He had found out that the CBI had come to look for him at his house; he knew that sooner or later he would be caught. He called up Zahida and told her that the CBI was zeroing in on him and that he had got nothing from her except a little money. Zahida knew what he was angling at. She called him to the Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (MANIT) saying that a room was available there. Shakib called his friend Raees and asked him to accompany him, saying that Zahida would be accompanied by her friend. It was meant to be an orgy.

On the given day, while driving towards MANIT, an excited Shakib called up Zahida. They had reached the gate of the institute when Raees got suspicious. From the voices that he heard on the phone, he could sense that someone else was giving directions to the woman speaking on the phone. Raees refused to go and asked Shakib to stop the car. He advised Shakib not to go, saying that he sensed that something was not well. Shakib heeded Raees’ advice.

After a while, Zahida called him. She wanted to know where he was. ‘I just got a call from a friend. He needs urgent helpand I have to go, so I will not be able to come today. I will call you later and we will fix up a meeting,’ Shakib said. Zahida was disappointed and almost pleaded with him to come to the designated spot.

On the way back from MANIT, Raees was curious. He did not understand why Zahida was so anxious to see him. Shakib told him the entire story. How he had gone to meet her at her MP Nagar office in connection with recovering the money that she owed to Faiz, and how he had fallen for her, how she had been teasing him and the messages that she had been sending him. Raees raised some doubts, ‘Why has it been taking so long for you to lay this woman? She is not the first woman in your life and why has she finally agreed now?’ Raees and Shakib now realized that they had just narrowly escaped. A plan to eliminate the most crucial link in the Shehla Masood murder case had just been foiled.

Raees, a 5 feet 5 inches tall father of three girls, had earned the alias ‘Scientist’. The first time that he saw a school building from the inside was when he had gone along with his wife to get his eldest daughter admitted. At a very young age, he had become a motorcycle mechanic’s apprentice from whom he had learnt everything about repairing motorcycles. Soon, he became excellent at the job and could repair engines that no one else could. He started innovating and fixed old motorcycle engines onto damaged bikes and sold them off to youngsters at a very low cost. People in his fraternity started calling him ‘Scientist’ for his creative skills; he did not know how to copy a number from a mobile phone onto a piece of paper but give him a faulty engine and he would bring it to life. Raees Scientist, like Shakib, had a passion for ram fights. The two became friends after organizing many such fights.

Shakib told Raees how the CBI investigators had reached his house while investigating the Shehla Masood murder. While they drove in the old city area, Shakib told Raees that he had arranged for the killers to eliminate Shehla Masood through his cousin Tabish, and that Irfan had come from Kanpur to execute the killing. And that he had just got Rs 3 lakhs from Zahida Parvez. Shakib told Raees that he had demanded more money from Zahida after the CBI had raised the reward to Rs 10 lakhs. Raees now figured why Zahida had been so desperate to meet Shakib at the MANIT campus. He was furious but the two now hatched a plan – they would fix Zahida and take the reward money as well.

They then fixed the deal. Raees would ensure a safe surrender and Shakib would fix up things with Tabish and Irfan in Kanpur. The prize money would be equally split between Raees and Shakib. Raees knew that it was not safe for Shakib to stay in Bhopal; it was just a matter of time before he was located by the CBI. Their first job was to ensure a safe house for Shakib and then to move him out of Bhopal at the earliest. He did not want Shakib to travel alone, so Tabish was immediately called. The two then went to a common friend’s place which they thought was safe for the night.

The next day, Tabish came to Bhopal. He went straight to the house where he had stayed in August.

On 18 February 2012, Shakib Danger, Raees Scientist, Laeek and Tabish went to the Govindpura house of hockey player Salim Ahmed in a silver-coloured Tata Indigo car. Raees had sorted out the surrender plan. The first thing required was to move Shakib and Tabish out of Bhopal.

Shakib asked Salim to arrange for two train tickets to Kanpur. Salim immediately called up his agent Bunty, who said he could arrange tickets only for the next day. But Shakib was impatient to leave immediately. He told Raees that he and Tabish would leave in the general compartment without any reservation, but Raees refused. He wanted to keep a record; a trail that could be accessed later, if need be. So Shakib had no other option but to agree to the plan to leave the next day on 19 February.

For the night, they asked Salim to arrange for a place where they could relax and party outside Bhopal. Laeek went back in the Tata Indigo car and Shakib, Raees, Tabish and Salim left for a dam in Raisen district in a Gypsy. They halted for the night at a friend’s farm in Raisen, where they thought no one could trace them. They drank till midnight and returned to Bhopal only by noon the next day.

On their return Raees took Tabish along with him, and Salim and Shakib went to the Sindhi market, where they released their tension by organizing a ram fight. As decided earlier, Raees and Tabish came with Laeek in the car to Salim’s Govindpura house in the evening and after picking up Salim and Shakib, they went to the railway station, where Bunty handed them the tickets.

As Shakib and Tabish boarded the train to Kanpur, Raees asked Shakib to wait for his next call and to not disclose the plan to anyone else.

From the railway station, Raees went to meet the owner of a hotel; he had already fixed an appointment with him for the evening. With the help of his contact, he wanted to meet a former SP of Bhopal, who was an IPS officer from the batch of 1990.

The next morning, the two went to the IPS officer’s home and after narrating the entire story, requested him to connect them to a top official in the CBI. The officer first confirmed that the story was plausible and that he was not being fooled. Satisfied, the officer called up a senior of his, an IPS officer of the MP cadre from the batch of 1988, and repeated the story that Raees Scientist and the hotel owner had told him. The senior officer spoke to Raees Scientist on the phone and asked him to come to Delhi immediately.

Picture Credit: Harper Collins/ Hemender Sharma

Excerpted with permission from SHEHLA MASOOD: THE MURDER THAT SHOOK THE NATION by Hemender Sharma, HarperCollins.

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