Residents of Bandra’s Garib Nagar slums are used to the constant flow of visitors asking for Azhar and Rubina. Ever since Loveleen Tandon picked the duo to act in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, they have been enthusiastically guiding people to their homes.
On Sunday, though, the visitors included some policemen. Following a report by UK newspaper News of The World that Rafiq Qureshi, nine-year-old Rubina’s father, had tried to give her away for adoption for £200,000 (Rs 1.6 crore), Rubina’s mother, who has divorced Rafiq, filed a complaint and the police took the family away to record their statements.
The newsreport was published on Sunday after well-known undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood – also known as the ‘fake sheikh’ as he often poses as a sheikh during investigations – conducted a sting operation following a tip-off from “a concerned, close family friend and former neighbour”.
“Rubina’s mother landed up here with the police and dragged everyone to Nirmal Nagar police station,” said the girl at the empty house.
“There are claims and counter-claims made by the mothers and the father. We are probing the matter,” Deputy Commis-sioner of Police (DCP), Zone VIII, Nishar Tamboli said. “We are still to ascertain the facts.”
Mahmood posed as a wealthy sheikh from Dubai interested in adopting Rubina after their informant told the newspaper that Rubina’s father Rafiq had been approached by a wealthy Middle Eastern family who saw the girl on TV and wanted to
“They agreed to come to Mumbai to discuss the adoption in May,” the paper reported.
This, however, allegedly made Rafiq greedy and he decided to put her up for adoption to the highest bidder. When News of The World contacted him, Rafiq is said to have put them in touch with his second wife’s brother Rajan More. “Why don’t you speak to my brother-in-law, Rajan, and he will discuss it with you? I will ask him to call you.”
More said: “Yes, we are interested in securing our girl’s future.” Her parents expect proper compensation from whoever adopts her, the newspaper reported. “We are talking of around 50,000 pounds,” he said.
Rafiq met the reporters at the five-star hotel Leela Kempinski in Andheri, accompanied by Rubina and More, some family and friends.
As he tried to fix the deal, Rafiq said: “We’ve got nothing out of this film.” Then, almost embarrassed to speak aloud, he whispered how much his daughter would cost into the ear of one of the family members with him. “It’s £200,000!”
When the reporters objected – it was four times the earlier demand - Rafiq’s brother Mohiuddin insisted: “The child is special now. This is not an ordinary child. This is an Oscar child!” And Rafiq declared: “I have to consider what’s best for me, my family and Rubina’s future.” After the publication of the story, Rafiq refuted the allegations. “I will never sell Rubina. It is a conspiracy to malign my reputation. The voice in the video is not mine,” he said. The newspaper has also put up the video on its site.
Christian Colson, the producer of the film, said: “Our friends and colleagues in Mumbai are trying to speak with Mr Qureshi to get to the bottom of what happened.”