On Thursday, talks between members of the Memon family and Mumbai Police rolled to a standstill, at least for a few crucial minutes, over two requests.
First, the family asked police to ease security and let the namaz-e-janaaza (funeral prayers) be held on the streets in Mahim even though it was originally scheduled to be conducted only at the burial ground in Marine Lines. Then, the family sought permission to allow mourners at Yakub Memon’s “home locality” to see his face for the last time.
The brief standoff ended with police permitting funeral prayers to be performed twice but not allowing the face of Yakub to be uncovered.
Officials explained to the family that any glimpse of the face could lead to a law and order situation in an already tense atmosphere, amid the presence of nearly 1,000 policemen, 125 Rapid Action Personnel (RAF) and riot control police.
Till around 1.50pm, things were going well, with Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria and his two deputies in charge of the Mahim operation — Milind Bharambe, joint commissioner (traffic) and Raosaheb Shinde, additional commissioner (central region) – monitoring the security cover.
At around 1.55 pm, Iqbal Memon, father-in-law of Yakub, and a few others walked up to Maria with the two requests. Seeking permission for prayers to be conducted in Mahim, Iqbal pointed out that hundreds of people had gathered there and not all had vehicles to travel to the Bada Kabristan in south Mumbai.
Maria was mulling over this when the second request was put forward. “People here have not seen Yakub for the last seven years (he had last visited Mahim for his father’s funeral). They want to take a final look,” said Iqbal.
Maria was quick to dismiss the second request. Shinde adopted a firmer stand and reminded Iqbal that there was an understanding that the funeral prayers would be held in south Mumbai and that Yakub’s face would not be shown. The family should stick to the understanding, he said.
But just when it appeared that the police were facing their first hitch in the predominantly Muslim neighbourhood, both sides relented and an agreement was reached.
“It is 2.05 pm now,” Maria told Memon. “You have to manage everything soon. We will take his body at 3 pm.”
Finally, at around 3.10 pm, nearly a 1,000 men assembled for the funeral prayers on the Swatantraya Veer Savarkar (SVS) Road near the Mahim dargah traffic signal. Instead of his residence at the Al Husaini building, Yakub’s body had been brought by undertakers to his brother Suleiman’s residence at the Bismillah Mansion on SVS Road, as per the family’s wish.
At 3.20pm, the namaaz started, and by 3.26 pm, an ambulance carrying Yaqub, his face still covered, made its way through the crowd to the burial spot.