At 6.30am on Thursday there was near-silence at the usually bustling Mahim, especially around the Memons’ home at Al-Hussaini building. The silence was eerie as few people in the neighbourhood were asleep. Most had stayed up through the night, glued to their televisions as the Supreme Court agreed to hear a last-minute petition filed by Yakub Memon’s lawyers to stave off his execution. The lawyers’ efforts were in vain, and by 6.45am, news channels were reporting that Memon had been hanged after his petition was rejected.
As dawn turned to morning, shops remained shut and school children stayed at home. Around 10am, residents began to emerge from their homes to discuss the dramatic events of the previous night. A man in his fifties, seated on a chair near one of the many police barricades, said, “After we came to know about the final petition around 12am my family stayed up all night up all night. We were still hopeful that the Supreme Court would change its verdict.”
As the authorities at Nagpur Central Jail handed over Memon’s body to his family after a mandatory post-mortem, back in Mahim, other relatives – and the police – began preparations for his funeral.
Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria, who had led the 1993 blasts probe, visited the area, where companies of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Riot Control Police (RCP) stood in almost every lane around the Memons’ home.
Memon’s body arrived at Mahim by ambulance around 1pm. As the ambulance halted outside Bismillah Manzil, home to one of Memon’s relatives, chants of ‘Allah-u-Akbar’ (god is great) rent the air. When Memon’s body was brought out in a coffin, many of his relatives burst into sobs. By this time, about 500 people had gathered outside the building. Within an hour, their number had swelled to around 2,000, while many others looked on from their windows.
At least 1,000 men lined the street in front of the Mahim dargah and prayed for Memon. Namaz-e-janazah (Islamic funeral prayer) was recited before Memon’s body was taken away. The crowd dispersed slowly and with it the police presence diminished as many officers received orders to move out to other parts of the city. By 5pm, Mahim was quiet again.