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Out on bail, the Memons keep a low profile

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August 09, 2006 16:46 IST
As the sun goes down and the muezzin calls the devout for the maghrib prayer, Hanifa Memon, who is in her 70s, comes down from her third floor apartment in northcentral Mumbai to pray.

She has arthritis and can barely walk, but she makes it a point not to miss the evening prayer.

Hanifa has been doing this every evening since TADA Judge Pramod D Kode announced on July 27 that he would announce his verdict in the March 12, 1993 Mumbai blasts case on August 10.

Though Hanifa can barely walk, it has not stopped her from visiting the shrine; her faith has remained constant even as life has dealt her family more than its usual share of ups and downs. More downs after her son Ibrahim Mushtaq 'Tiger' Memon in league with fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim was accused of planting bombs all over Mumbai that killed 257 people that horrific day.

"She has tremendous faith in God and the mausoleum. She believes her family will come out clean as they had no idea about Tiger Memon's actions and motives," says a neighbour who did not wish to be identified for this report.

The police charged Hanifa with being part of the conspiracy and she spent 39 months in prison before acquiring bail in 1997.

The Memons, once residents of the Al-Huseini building off Mahim's upmarket Veer Savarkar Road, owned two floors in the building but their flats were sealed after the 1993 blasts.

They had an office in another part of Mahim that housed Teejarath International, a chartered accountancy firm run by Yaqub Memon, one of Hanifa's sons, but it was burnt down by rioters in the January 1993 riots in Mumbai.

Hanifa and her husband Abdul Razzak Memon had six sons -- Ibrahim Mushtaq, Essa, Ayub, Yaqub, Suleiman and Yusuf. The family left Mumbai for Dubai shortly before the blasts.

The prosecution alleged that the Memons and their accomplices planted the bombs in 13 locations across Mumbai to take revenge for the December 1992-January 1993 riots, which killed over 300 Muslims and destroyed offices and homes worth several hundred crore rupees, and provoke communal riots in a city limping back to normalcy.

There was no trace of any of the Memons till Yaqub, a chartered accountant, mysteriously flew back to New Delhi from Dubai on August 5, 1994. 'My family had no idea about Tiger's doings,' he told the media on his return.

Soon, other family members returned to India and were subsequently arrested and produced in Mumbai's TADA court which was hearing the blasts case.

Of the family, Yaqub and Suleiman were not given bail and are still in jail. Essa was granted bail on health grounds, but has been told to surrender in court on August 10. Abdul Razzak Memon died in 2001 while out on bail.

Mushtaq and Ayub and their wives are absconding and suspected to be living in Pakistan.

After they secured bail, the Memons have led an uneventful life, constantly moving from one house to another.

Over the last 10 years they have stayed in Kurla in north Mumbai, Dongri in south Mumbai and Jogeshwari in northwest Mumbai.

Having the Memons in one's neighbourhood is not easy on the other residents as the Mumbai police maintains a constant vigil on the family. Few maintain any social contact with the Memons since that association may invite trouble.

After the 1993 blasts, when the Mumbai police realised that Mushtaq was the main conspirator behind the terror attack, everyone remotely connected to the family was detained and interrogated.

"It is better not to talk about them. They too don't talk to anyone except exchanging salaams," says another neighbour who too wishes to stay unnamed.

Rediff Special Correspondent in Mumbai