By the time the hearse carrying the body of Yakub Memon reached the Bada Qabrastan at Marine Lines at 4.15pm on Thursday, an estimated 10,000 people had gathered inside and outside the cemetery to catch a final glimpse of the only man executed for the 1993 serial blasts. Thousands thronged Marine Lines station and lined the adjoining street.
Outside the graveyard, a company of Rapid Action Force (RAF) officers was posted for crowd control. The RAF team was part of a three-tier security cordon around the cemetery, which also included police commissioner Rakesh Maria and other officers from the Mumbai police and its traffic department.
The cemetery has two gates – the main entrance and one at the rear. Two large loudspeakers had been set up outside the main gate to help manage the crowd. Most mourners entered through the rear gate, which was opened around the time the hearse carrying Memon departed from Mahim. After the hearse arrived, the front entrance was kept shut for another 20 minutes for security reasons.
“A company of the RAF stood guard at the spot when the body was brought there. After the police commissioner arrived, they accompanied him for control crowd. The crowd was so big that the cemetery’s main gate had to be kept closed for some time, and Maria proceeded to the rear gate with the RAF team. The process was concluded peacefully,” said a police officer, who did not wish to be named.
Inside the cemetery there will little space to move, as volunteers repeatedly reminded mourners to refrain from chanting slogans and to simply pray for Memon’s soul to rest in peace.
Mourners began to recite Darood Sharif, an invocation in which Muslims say specific phrases to compliment the prophet Muhammad. Before Memon was buried, namaz-e-janaza (the funeral prayer) was recited for him for the second time – the first was at his home in Mahim. Though peaceful, the crowd was difficult to manage owing to its sheer size and the dearth of space inside the cemetery. People fell over each other while trying to glimpse or touch Memon’s body, while others sobbed in grief.
As his body was carried towards the grave through cemetery’s narrow passages, people joined hands to make a human chain and clear a path. As it approached the grave, however, the chain fell apart as hundreds of onlookers tried to push their way through to watch Memon’s body being lowered into his grave. He was finally laid to rest at 5.10 pm.