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A wedding in Mumbai recalls multiple tragedies

ByVinay Dalvi,
Feb 18, 2024 11:18 AM IST

Ilyas Memon and Humera Shaikh’s nuptials are possibly the last in the immediate family of Tiger Memon

Mumbai: Four beefy men at the gates of the Najam Baug Trust at Dongri kept a close eye on the guests streaming in. Everything about the wedding that took place inside was low key, starting with the plain invite printed on a white paper that was first given to criminal advocate Farhana Shah to secure parole for the groom’s mother.

(from let to right) Rubina Najam, Baug Trust at Dongri where the wedding took place, and the invite.
(from let to right) Rubina Najam, Baug Trust at Dongri where the wedding took place, and the invite.

And yet, for all the efforts to keep the wedding out of the public eye, several pairs of eyes and ears in Mumbai police and central agencies have been following the preparations keenly. Ilyas Memon and Humera Shaikh’s nuptials are possibly the last in the immediate family of Tiger Memon, the key conspirator in the March 12, 1993 serial blasts, that left 257 people dead, over 700 injured, and which permanently altered India’s most cosmopolitan city.

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The family home at Mahim, the Al-Husseini building which once housed all 6 brothers, and is now barely inhabited, is under watch by the Mahim police station’s Anti-Terrorist Cell (ATC). Teams from the National Investigation Agency, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), the Mumbai crime branch and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) are closely tuned into the chatter around the wedding. “Though, no one expects either Tiger or his brother Ayub, both of whom are thought to be hiding in Pakistan, to show up,” said an officer from the Mahim police station. “For, while there is still verifiable information on Dawood Ibrahim, very little is known to us about Tiger,” he added.

Until March 1993, Ibrahim Mushtaq Abdul Razzaq, one of the 6 Memon brothers, headed the bustling, prosperous clan at Al-Husseini. His daredevilry, including once evading a high-speed police chase by driving the wrong way on a one-way road in the city, which led to the nickname, Tiger. But the destruction of the Babri masjid on December 6, 1992, and the widespread rioting that followed, led to a terrifying finale that destroyed, along with many other lives, the Memon clan of Mahim.

Of the 6 brothers, Tiger and Ayub are at large, sought after by Indian agencies, Yakub Memon, once a chartered accountant, was hanged in 2015; Anjum remains in jail while Yusuf Memon, also jailed, died in 2020. The eldest brother Suleiman, whose son Ilyas got married on Saturday, was the only one acquitted. However, his wife Rubina is serving life imprisonment at Pune’s Yerwada jail. Her advocate Farhana Shah, who cut her teeth in criminal law during the Bombay blasts trial, has only sympathy for her client.

“Her only fault was that a family car, registered in her name, was used by Tiger to load ammunition, and which was eventually found by the police. Rubina herself knew nothing of the conspiracy.” The Maruti van was found parked next to a petrol pump at Worli and its registration led investigators to Al-Hussaini building. It was here, in this building, by now abandoned by the Memon family, that then deputy commissioner of police Rakesh Maria famously found a key to an explosive-laden scooter which had been found abandoned outside Plaza Theatre at Dadar. The two vehicles exposed the culpability of Tiger Memon.

Rubina Memon, who left the country along with the rest of the family, and was later brought back, was sentenced to a life term. On Wednesday, she was back in Mahim on a 7-day parole to attend her son’s wedding. The division bench of justices AS Gadkari and Shyam Chandak granted her parole leave because the son’s marriage is the last wedding in her family. Besides, the court also considered that Rubina had spent around 16 years behind bars, and when last granted 6 days’ parole leave in January 2021 to attend her daughter’s marriage, she had reported back to the jail in time.

“We have information that the function at Dongri is very private with only 150 guests from both sides in attendance,” said the officer at Mahim police station speaking to HT before the wedding. “Our teams are keeping a watch on the invitees and there is technical surveillance in place.”

Ilyas Memon who runs a small store of plastic goods returned to Mahim three months ago from Bandra to be with his father Suleman who was once an income tax officer.

“They mostly keep indoors and keep to themselves,” said the officer. “Most members of the extended family who had left Mahim after the blasts have returned to the neighbourhood only recently, said the cop.

“Twelve members of the Memon family had escaped to Dubai and Sharjah between the 1st of March and the 12th of March, 1993. Nine of them were brought back to India in coordination with UAE authorities in a classified operation between August and September 1994. On 15th September, 2014, a Special TADA court hearing the long-drawn-out blasts trial, convicted four members of the Memon family: Yakub, Essa, Rubina and Yusuf; three other member of the family, Suleman, Hanifa and Rahin who is Yakub’s wife were acquitted in the case,” said the police officer.

Now, only Yakub’s widow Rahin stays in the 8-storey Al-Husseini building with her elderly parents. The once-bustling building now stands as an empty shell on a busy street, a dust-smeared landmark to multiple tragedies.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Manish Pathak is part of Hindustan Times’ nationwide network of correspondents that brings news, analysis and information to its readers.

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