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Memons' neighbours sad, angry with blast verdict

The mood in the seven-story Al-Hussain co-operative housing society was of anger and sorrow post verdict.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2006 21:17 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

There was a hushed calm and subdued anger in the upscale Al-Hussain apartments in central Mumbai's Mahim on Tuesday following a special court's verdict finding five members of the Memon family guilty in the 1993 serial attacks on India's financial capital.

The mood in the seven-story Al-Hussain co-operative housing society at Dargah Street at the Mahim Creek, where members of the Memon family had hatched the conspiracy for the bombings that killed 257 people, was a mixture of anger and sorrow.

The Memons lived in four flats—sealed by the court after their arrests—on the fifth and sixth floor of the building.

The family had in 1984 moved into these flats, barely 100 metres from the Mahim Police station.

Though most residents in this predominately Muslim neighbourhood declined to speak on the blast verdict, the Memons' immediate neighbours in the housing complex were more forthcoming.

For them the Memons were "good neighbours" who went about their own business.

"They were a wealthy family and good neighbours. But their interaction with us was limited to an occasional hi or a hello or a bye on the landing in the lift or the stairs. Otherwise the family used to keep to themselves, with the exception of Rahin, Yakub Memon's wife," said Almas Siddique, 34, who lives with her parents on the seventh floor.

Rahin's family lives on the ground floor of the building. They lived in a chawl on which this complex was built. Yakub married Rahin after the Memon family moved into the building from neighbouring Dadar.

"They gave the impression that they were a busy family. Members used to zoom in and out of the buildings in fancy cars and they always seemed to have a stream of visitors. They were highly connected," Siddique said.

Elderly neighbours feel the verdict is "too harsh" for the Memons.

"We are sad for the Memons. After Yakub surrendered to police and admitted his role in the blasts, the family has already spent such a long time behind bars that they should have let them free," said Rashida Kazi, a 64-year-old neighbour.

The retired Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) schoolteacher was very angry in the way the minority community was being discriminated against.

"Had it been a Hindu family instead of the Memons, would the verdict be so harsh?" she asked.

"No one has bothered to see what led the Memons to do what they did. The family was a victim of communal violence before the 1993 blasts. Things that happened before the blasts and people behind that violence have gone scot-free. When someone is pushed against the wall it is but natural that he would retaliate," Kazi said.

"It was a tit-for-tat situation," she said.

She, however, maintained that the neighbours had little idea of the Memons' plans.

"We had no knowledge what they did for a living. That they were wealthy was apparent by the number of vehicles they owned and their lifestyle. But we had no inkling about the conspiracy hatched in the flats below us," said Kazi, a former secretary of the housing society.

"We were not aware of any unusual activities days before or on the eve of the blasts. We only came to know of the Memon family's involvement after police came calling in March 1994. We realised then that the family had already fled," Kazi said when asked if she had noticed anything unusual about the Memons the night before the blasts.

"We were simply shocked when we learnt that the entire Memon family had been accused of plotting and financing the serial bomb attacks," she said.

First Published: Sep 12, 2006 21:05 IST