The Powai police and the forest department have arrested three slumlords, including a woman, for illegally constructing and selling 94 rooms on a forest land in Powai.
The three accused are the alleged ringleader, Reshma Khan, 45 and her agents, Nabiul Hussain, 45, and Mohammad Hussain Khan, 37 — all school dropouts. They are in police custody till Thursday.
The forest department had on May 30 and May 31 conducted a demolition drive and razed the 94 rooms in BEST Nagar in Filterpada of Powai. Reshma allegedly sold rooms to at least eight buyers, who collectively paid Rs40.50 lakh to her. They filed a police complaint against her on June 18. They had known that something was fishy as the rooms were heavily underpriced, a police officer said. On checking the bank accounts of the trio, the police found that the accused had withdrawn money.
Claiming that the land belonged to her ancestors, Reshma had built several rooms in BEST nagar and sold them to anywhere between Rs4.5lakh and Rs6 lakh. Hussain and Nabiul worked as middlemen and took a commission for bringing customers. All the three have been living in the locality since their birth. The police said the woman had instilled a sense of fear in slum dwellers and ensured that no one else, except her, built and sold rooms. Her relatives are behind bars in cases like robbery, dacoity and murder, and hence the dwellers feared her. She also has a buffalo shed and sells milk.
The police are also investigating how Reshma managed to get notary documents to sell the rooms. The rest of the 86 slum dwellers who bought rooms are yet to come forward and file police complaints.