The non-descript Qadar building where Indian Mujahideen founder Riyaz Bhatkal lived many years ago become a landmark in Kurla.
The building has no plaque for it to be identified, but, from an auto driver to tea stall owner in the area, everyone knows its exact location. The entrance to the building, dotted with small one-room kitchen houses, remains as dark as Riyaz and his brother Iqbal Bhatkal's deeds.
But those residing in these houses are welcoming to outsiders and instantly recall Riyaz as the boy who played in the building's courtyard 15 years ago. When Hindustan Times visited the building, Riyaz's one-time neighbour said, "I saw him about 10 years ago. He was still studying then. After the family left, we haven't seen him, or the family members."
Diler Khan, the current landlord of Qader building, states that the house was owned by Riyaz's family, but refuses to divulge details. "We have provided all the information to the concerned police authorities. They have asked us not to talk about Riyaz's house or his family to anybody," said Khan's daughter, in fluent English.
Riyaz's family used to live on the rent they got from tenants until Riyaz became the face of the homegrown terror in September 2008. This affected his family's monthly income as there were few takers for his house in Kurla.
Whenever anyone would start living in the house, security agencies would visit the tenant and demand documents of the lease, said police sources. "This kept the house vacant for a long time, after which the family decided to sell it off," said a Mumbai police officer, requesting anonymity.
But sources who have been monitoring the family say that it is not in any financial difficulty. "A local, Tanzeem, has been providing the family Rs8,000 every month for its necessities," said a police officer from Bhatkal, requesting anonymity. The ancestral home of the Bhaktals has been put up for sale for Rs70 lakh.
Investigation of the Indian Mujahideen operatives nabbed recently by the Delhi special cell, and who are being investigated by various agencies, has revealed that the move comes after Riyaz found a safe dwelling place in Karachi where his neighbours, also from Bhatkal, have accommodated him with warmth.
"Many persons belonging to this community moved to Karachi and Sindh during partition, and it is exactly where Riyaz has found his safe house," added the officer.