Residents of this bereaved town, 285 km northeast of Mumbai, are now pushing for the 500-metre stretch to be named.
It was a bomb planted in a motorcycle outside Abdul Ansari’s shop on September 29 that has now morphed into one of India’s most divisive religious and political debates.
Textile transporter Ansari (75) has been here in Malegaon’s 200-year-old eastern quarter since 1962. Outside his spartan office is a half-kilometer street of shops selling cosmetics, hijabs and glasses of steaming tea.
This is the street Malegaon wants named ‘Shaheed Hemant Karkare Road’, in memory of senior police investigator Hemant Karkare. He was among the 183 people killed in Mumbai’s November terror strikes.
As chief of Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad, Karkare was probing the 2008 blast where a bomb planted in an anonymous motorcycle left outside Ansari’s office went off on a September night, killing six.
In Ansari’s office, the pockmarked walls and a frozen clock mark the bombing and its time: 9.38 p.m. “Karkareji ko maara gaya hai kyonki sab khulaasa kar rahe the, aur kya? Ek umeed ki kiran thi hum logon ke liye, who bhi chali gayi. (Karkare has been killed because he was exposing the real forces behind the Malegaon blasts. We had one ray of hope, he too is gone),” said Ansari.
It’s an unwavering conclusion — Karkare’s killing was a targetted assassination meant to stifle the uncomfortable revelations of the blast probe — that echoes across a cross-section of the over four lakh Muslims who make up 70 per cent of the residents of Maharashtra’s poorest town.