New Delhi: On 12 March 1993, terror in one of its worst avatars came knocking on Mumbai’s many doors; 12 coordinated blasts rocked the city for two hours. The first one went off at 1:30pm at the Bombay Stock Exchange and the last one exploded at 3:40pm at the city’s Airport Centaur Hotel.

Plaza Cinema, Sea Rock Hotel, Zaveri Bazar were just some of the other places targeted that day in an attack that left 250 dead and nearly 700 injured.

Twenty two years, 600 witnesses and 100 guilty sentences later, Yakub Memon, the brother of one of the main accused Tiger Memon, will hang on 30 July. Though the sentencing took place in 2006, the ensuing years have seen Yakub Memon file mercy petitions and seek reprieve, clearly to no avail.

Everything about the blasts, from the intensity to the material used, Research and Development Explosive (RDX) left the police grappling for answers. A 150+ team of the Mumbai police force was set up under the command of Rakesh Maria who was DCP traffic then. Maria is now the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai.

It was an abandoned scooter and a Maruti van, packed with weapons and hand-grenades that gave the clues that helped the force track the case. The van was found to be registered in the name of a Rubina Memon who was a resident of Al Hussainia building in Mahim. On reaching the eight-storied building which served as the home and office of a business family, the Memons, the police found it locked. The Memons had left India two days before the blasts.

In an interview to Mumbai Mirror in 2013 Maria recounted how he noticed a scooter key on the refrigerator while searching the Memon’s apartment. He checked if the key matched the abandoned scooter they had found. It did. The scooter too was owned by the Memons. And that is how the police zeroed in on the family of Abdul Razak Memon, a former small time cricketer and his five sons, Tiger, Yakub, Suleiman, Essa, Yusuf and Ayub. Tiger, the oldest son had by this time already built a reputation as a smuggler and henchman for Dawood Ibrahim.

The 1993 Bombay inspired a book and a movie by the same name, Black Friday. Both works are considered to be milestones. But they had plenty of raw material to work on. Maria’s team criss-crossed the country hauling in suspects, interrogating them in order to start building a picture of what had happened. A scenario was also pieced together from information that authorities had received prior to the blasts but had ignored. Customs and intelligence agencies had received tip-offs of weapon consignments coming to India. Gul Mohammad Khan who had participated in the communal riots after the demolition of Babri Masjid in late 1992 was in police custody and had claimed that blasts were being planned. He said he had been sent to Dubai and Pakistan to train for the attacks and also been taught to make bombs. The police didn’t believe him. But it is widely believed that Khan’s betrayal forced Memon to shift the date of the blasts. They were initially planned for April.

Khan was just a young man living in a Bandra slum, Behrampada. He was involved in petty crime and looting. The profile of most of the men who worked with Tiger on the blasts was similar, each having had a run-in with the law in the past. And that is how the police connected the dots, picking these men up, piecing together the events. The prosecution case came to rest on the testimony of two men who turned approvers and were later allowed to walk free in 2007. One of them gave minute details of the planning—right from the meetings to the recoinassance of blast sites to the drop off of one of the explosive-laden vehicles.

Yakub Memon, the CBI says was arrested in New Delhi in 1994 but the family has always maintained that he came back with the intention of helping the authorities and that he was innocent. Yakub ran an accounting firm and stands accused of providing tickets to the accused to flee to Pakistan and Dubai. Memon’s wife, parents and three other brothers, Suleiman, Essa and Yusuf also returned. Both Essa and Yusuf are serving a life sentence while Suleiman was acquitted. Tiger Memon, Dawood Ibrahim, Jawed Chikna, some of the principal accused, are all still absconding.

The primary chargesheet in the case was filed in 1994 and in April 1995 the trial started. The prosecution presented more than 600 witnesses and it was in 2000 that the testimony of all of them was wrapped up. In September 2006 the court pronounced its judgement.

From a film star to petty crooks to notorious underworld dons to white collar workers such as Yakub Memon, the 1993 bomb blasts impacted every level of society. It changed Mumbai’s communal fabric and introduced India to home-grown terrorism.

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