A force of over 26,000 policemen was deployed all over Mumbai the day Yakub Memon’s body arrived from Nagpur and was buried. Other precautions included hourly updates from local religious leaders, preventive detentions of potential troublemakers, a close watch on the city through CCTV camera network and a set of text messages ready for circulation in bulk to all Mumbaikars should any rumours started spreading.
Hours before the body arrived, the police were already watching “sensitive localities” on CCTV. Officers were scrutinising crowds gathered outside Mahim Darga, five minutes away from the Al Husaini building where the Memons live. CCTV feeds are transmitted simultaneously to the traffic police and the main control rooms.
At one of these control rooms, about 15 officers were glued to their terminals and were scanning through footage from several cameras. A giant screen was set up in the room, where 13 specific feeds were projected in their respective windows.
The cameras can rotate 360 degrees and zoom in on the face of any person. Even if someone on the screen so much as raised their arm or pointed in a direction, the police would zoom in on the face.
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Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria and all five Joint Commissioners of Police were personally overseeing the bandobast on the streets. The police had pressed 25,000 of their own personnel into service, which included 5,000 officers. The police were supported by 12 companies of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) — with 70 to 75 personnel in each company — and three companies of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), with 125 personnel in each company.
“The decision to call in the RAF was taken late on Wednesday night. We were informed by our local sources that a very high number of people was talking about visiting either Mahim or the Bada Kabrastan, and we did not want to take any chances,” said a senior officer with the Mumbai Police.
Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni added, “There were around 6,000 personnel in Mahim alone, and 7,500 personnel around the cemetery. Crime Branch personnel from all units were out on the streets, personally meeting their own sources to get a sense of the atmosphere and keeping an eye out for any known criminal elements or mischief mongers in their respective areas.”
Another part of the preparations, which began 15 days ago, was composing three text messages and liaising with cellular service providers so that these text messages could be sent out in bulk at a moment’s notice. The content of the messages asked Mumbaikars to cooperate with the police and not to believe in rumours, and it was decided to send them out in case any rumours did float.
A total of 526 people were taken into preventive custody by various police stations and crime branch units, many of them from Mahim or from near the cemetery. The police kept in constant touch over the phone with local religious leaders and social workers to get updates from all over the city.
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