In an election rally in Akola, Maharashtra on Wednesday (16 October), Prime Minister (PM) Modi said that it will soon be clear who had helped the perpetrators of the 1993 Mumbai blasts to flee India and take shelter in the “enemy territory”.
PM Modi was referring to the absconding Dawood Ibrahim, the mastermind of the attacks, who is allegedly hiding in Pakistan.
His statement comes at the backdrop of Enforcement Directorate (ED) issuing summons on to Praful Patel in connection with the deals with Iqbal Memon “Mirchi” family members.
Memon was a close associate of the Dawood gang, and Patel is an NCP leader and former civil aviation minister.
The bomb-attacks that killed hundreds
On 12 March 1993, a series of bomb explosions rocked the financial capital of India. According to some news reports, the death toll was over 300 and the number of injured stood at 1,400.
Mumbai Bomb blasts, as the terror attack is widely known, is the largest coordinated terror attack to have taken place on Indian soil in terms of the number of casualties. It is also the first one where RDX was used as an explosive material.
Starting at 1.30 pm from the basement of the Bombay Stock Exchange, the city witnessed blasts at 12 different locations. These were carried out through explosive-laden cars and scooters.
The stock exchange blast took the lives of 50 people. Another blast in a double decker bus left 90 dead. The Fisherman's Colony in Mahim causeway, Zaveri Bazaar, Plaza Cinema, Century Bazaar, Katha Bazaar, Hotel Sea Rock, the Air India Building, Hotel Juhu Centaur, Worli and the Passport Office also saw the blasts.
Three days before the attack, on 9 March, Gul Noor Mohammad Sheikh (Gullu) was detained by the police at Nav Pada police station. Sheikh was an accused in the communal riots that had gripped Mumbai the previous year.
He was one of the 19 men hand-picked by Mushtaq “Tiger” Memon to carry out the attacks and had been trained in Pakistan.
Reportedly, after third degree treatment, Sheikh confessed the plan to the police. However, in a conspicuous development which have led to allegations of pressure from the top political brass, the police ignored the details given by Sheikh about his role in the communal riots, his training in Pakistan and the conspiracy to blow Mumbai up.
The attacks were previously planned on the day of Shivaji Jayanti - the day of celebrating the birth anniversary of the Maratha emperor, Shivaji. However, after the detention of Sheikh, Tiger Memon advanced the date of the blasts to 12 March.
Mumbai Underworld’s connect to Pakistan
The attacks were planned by Dawood Ibrahim and his D-company. Ibrahim had fled to Dubai, and later Pakistan. In 2011, Ibrahim, along with his D-Company, was number three on the FBI's "World's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives" list.
In 2015, a US Congressional report alleged that the D-Company was a "5,000-member criminal syndicate operating mostly in Pakistan, India, and the United Arab Emirates," which has a "strategic alliance" with ISI and has "forged relationships with Islamists, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and al-Qaeda.
The investigation following the attacks found out that Dawood was the mastermind of the attacks which were carried out by his aide Tiger Memon.
Memon picked 19 Muslim youth and sent them to Pakistan via Dubai for training. The men were trained in the use of AK-56, pistols, hand-guns, light machine guns, rocket launchers and Kalashnikovs. They were also taught to make bombs with RDX and to fling hand grenades.
Memon family’s Al Hussaini building in Mahim in north-west Mumbai was the epicentre of the entire operation. Assembly of bombs, setting of targets, and meeting between the terrorists happened here. The vehicles used for the blast were all parked here.
Four members of the Memon family were later convicted by the court while three were acquitted by giving them the “benefit of the doubt”. The investigations also revealed the hand of Indian Muslim expatriates in UAE who financed the operation.
Memon family was quite affluent and well-educated. Yakub Memon, whose funeral was attended by hundreds in the Muslim community, was a Chartered Accountant with his own accounting firm. His grand marriage-ceremony was attended by several celebrities.
The investigations revealed that the explosives and the grenades were smuggled from Pakistan. The star brand pistols which had been recovered were also of Pakistan manufacture. Reportedly, these were very popular with the Mumbai underworld.
The documents recovered from Yakub Memon, including the passports issued to the Memon family members by Pakistan falsified Pakistan’s claim that it hadn’t harboured the accused in the bomb blast.
Fingers pointed at Sharad Pawar
In 2006, then chief minister of Maharashtra Sharad Pawar admitted to lying about the blasts, adding a thirteenth locality - the Muslim dominated area of Musjid Bunde - to the list of the 12 places which actually suffered bomb blasts. All 12 were Hindu-dominated areas.
Pawar also admitted to lying about evidence recovered and misleading people into believing that it pointed to the Tamil Tigers as possible suspects. He justified the act saying that he did so to avoid break out of communal violence in the city.
A day before the attacks, Pawar had reportedly told the Mumbai police, “I don't want Beirut replicated in Bombay."
Later, when Pawar accepted his lie, he was praised by the Justice Srikrishna Commission.
On Monday, Republic TV reported that it had accessed the copy of a sale deed agreement which allegedly contains the signature of former Union Minister and NCP leader Praful Patel along with Asif Iqbal Memon alias Iqbal Mirchi, a key member of the Dawood Ibrahim gang. The deal was purportedly signed in 2007.
Now, ED is all set to grill Patel in the matter of helping Dawood’s aide Iqbal “Mirchi” to launder money.
Legend goes that Dawood actually escaped to Dubai after a tip-off from a senior politician, and bigwigs in the Mumbai Police and Maharashtra government helped him to do so.