No minarets or domes announcing its presence, the Hari Masjid stands in peeling green paint on a nondescript stretch of Wadala Road flanked by garment shops and a row of partially occupied, partially torn-down hutments.
Moments before the azaan beckons the faithful for Friday prayers, 42-year-old Farooq Mapkar’s attendance sparks off congratulatory murmurs.
It’s been 48 hours since Mapkar was vindicated in a rioting case filed against him during the 1993 riots.
Six people were killed when then sub-inspector Nikhil Kapse and his men opened fire at the mosque on January 10, 1993. Mapkar was injured in the firing, and later booked — with 56 others — for unlawful assembly and rioting.
Mapkar was acquitted of all charges on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed an police case against Kapse.
“Witnesses from the area were key to my freedom. They were forced to testify against us. But some had the courage to offer new statements,” said Mapkar. “Acquittal is a big deal but my real victory will be Kapse’s punishment. This was a peaceful area but Kapse’s act has altered the dynamics of this neighbourhood.”
With little else than the mosque defining this stretch of road, news of Mapkar’s acquittal has spread fast.
Friends and acquaintances pause to inquire about progress in Kapse’s case.
“We can’t erase the incident from our memories,” said Rayeez Ahmed Khan (52). “I saw everything that transpired that afternoon and even witnessed my own school friend getting wounded.”
Though Mapkar has moved out of the area to live in Sewri, he has well-wishers even among those still grieving.
“He is a kind man who helped me when I was searching for my husband for many years,” said Hafeeza Sayyed (55). Sayyed’s husband Aadam was in the mosque on January 10 and was allegedly asked to dispose of the bodies by the police, after which he never returned. “At least the ones who died received a proper funeral,” she said.
A lot has changed in 16 years. Many have moved out, the area is being redeveloped and new shop owners have stepped in.
“We can’t say we are happy. When we hear of any unrest anywhere in the city we fear for our lives,” said resident Mohammed Siddique Mastan, who is with the merchant navy. “We can never trust the police. If stern action is taken against Kapse that will come as respite.”