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The Yakub Memon Story: Excerpts from ‘Black Friday’

Excerpts on Yakub Memon from S Hussain Zaidi’s book ‘Black Friday: The True Story of Bombay Bomb Blasts’

Updated
India
5 min read
The Yakub Memon Story: Excerpts from ‘Black Friday’

March 12, 1993 - a series of 13 explosions shook Mumbai, resulting in 257 fatalities and over 700 injured. S Hussain Zaidi’s book Black Friday: The True Story of Bombay Bomb Blasts which came out in 2002, is a piecemeal account of this well coordinated and planned terrorist attack on Mumbai. Anurag Kashyap’s controversial film by the same name was inspired from this book.

The book which involved 4 years of extensive research, lays bare the workings, and motivations that went behind the biggest terrorist attacks on Mumbai. It has culled together interviews with associates of the criminal masterminds, and the effort and time that went into planning the attacks matched in their precision only by 26/11.

The following are excerpts from the book on Yakub Memon, the sole death row convict in the case, who’s sentenced to die on July 30. He is currently seeking a stay on his impending exceution.

Excerpts

By the time Yaqub Abdul Razak Memon, the third of the Memon brothers, was in his early thirties, he had already acquired the reputation of being the best read and smartest criminal that the Bombay police had ever known.

But Yaqub’s story was unusual. Educated in English-medium schools and college, he graduated with a degree in commerce. He became a chartered accountant in 1990. His accountancy firm was quickly successful, and in 1992 he won an award for the best chartered accountant in the Memon community.

 In 2007 Yakub Memon’s wife Raheen (Centre) gave her only interview to the media after he was sentenced to death. She said “We returned because we were living under house arrest in Karachi. We didn’t like it there”. (Photo: Reuters)
In 2007 Yakub Memon’s wife Raheen (Centre) gave her only interview to the media after he was sentenced to death. She said “We returned because we were living under house arrest in Karachi. We didn’t like it there”. (Photo: Reuters)

In 1991, he launched an accounting firm called Mehta and Memon Associates, with his childhood friend Chetan Mehta. Later there was a third partner: a fellow accountancy student Ghulam Bhoira. When this firm closed down in 1992 Yaqub started another called AR & Sons. He also set up an export firm, Tejareth International, with its office at Samrat Cooperative Society, Mahim, to export meat to the Middle East.

So great was Yaqub’s financial success that he bought six flats in the Al- Hussaini building, Mahim, where Tiger owned two duplex flats. In the same year, he married Raheen in a lavish ceremony at the Islam Gymkhana, and many people from the film world attended the wedding. He and Tiger were dimetrically opposed to each other in nature. One had no compunctions about making money by illegal means; the other was suave, educated and successful through legitimate means.

On the morning of 21 July 1994, a well-dressed businessman carrying a Pakistani passport in the name of Yusuf Mohammed Ahmed sauntered through Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu. He had just got off the PIA 250 flight from Karachi. Though he looked serene, Yaqub Memon’s mind was in turmoil. For the last seventeen months, he and his family had been on the run, and the life of a fugitive was wearing him down.

 Relatives of Yakub Memon walk out of the court after meeting him in Mumbai in 2007. (Photo: Reuters)
Relatives of Yakub Memon walk out of the court after meeting him in Mumbai in 2007. (Photo: Reuters)

Yaqub took a taxi to Karnoli Hotel, accompanied by his cousin, Usman, who had come to receive him. They stayed at the hotel for three days. It was a time for introspection.

The Memon family had been in Dubai on 12 March 1993. The Indian government had been putting pressure on the UAE government to repatriate them. Initially, the UAE denied the Memons were there, but eventually requested them to leave. In early April, an ISI agent escorted the family to Karachi. Each person was supplied with a Pakistani passport and a national identity card.

Meanwhile, the Indian government had received information that the Memons were in Karachi and asked the United Nations, the US and various European countries to support their request to Pakistan that the Memons be handed over. Therefore, on 15 April the Memons, escorted by four ISI commandos, took a Thai Airways flight to Bangkok, where they were accommodated in a spacious bungalow on Pattaya Road. It was virtually house arrest, as they were not allowed to leave the bungalow and were under constant surveillance.

After twelve days, the protests by the Memon family grew so intense that they were brought back to Karachi again. They were housed in the Karachi Development Scheme area, popularly known as the Defence Colony and predominantly inhabited by army officials and personnel. This was a high-security zone and meant that the Memons were virtually untraceable.

Since then things had been better. Yaqub had gone to Dubai for a week on his Pakistani passport, though always trailed by ISI men. He realized that for his family, there would never be true freedom again. There were two choices before him: he could live with this polite imprisonment by Pakistan, or he could go back to India, face a trial and try to clear his name. These were the options he had come to Kathmandu to try and think about.

He decided that the best option for him was to try to make a deal with the Indian government and convince them that the rest of the Memon family was innocent. It was better to try to go back to their old lives rather than live at the mercy of the Pakistan authorities, as tales of the intelligence services killing off those who had outlived their usefulness were legion. He was especially concerned about his parents, who were now old and deserved better, and for his wife Raheen who was due to deliver their child soon. He did not want his child to live his whole life under the shadow of fear.

On 24 July, Yaqub was back at the airport at 8.15 a.m., checking in for the 10.45 a.m. Lufthansa flight LH 765 from Kathmandu to Karachi. At about 9.15 a.m., after he had cleared immigration formalities, he went in for the security check. On opening his briefcase, the officer found two passports belonging to him—Indian and Pakistani—as well as passports of all the other members of his family, a Pakistani national identity card, and a large amount of Pakistani and US currency. The Nepal police informed Interpol and later New Delhi. The interrogation began at Kathmandu itself, and continued for three days, with both Indian and Nepali police participating, though the latter ’s involvement was minimal.

On 28 July, a blindfolded Yaqub was reportedly dropped off at Sunoli, on the border of UP, at 3 am. He was hungry and totally drained of energy. He was taken to Gorakhpur, about two hours by road from Sunoli, and then flown to Delhi in a special plane. On the plane, Yaqub met Union Home Secretary K. Padmanabhaiah who headed the CBI investigation in Delhi. Until now events had been more or less as Yaqub had scripted them when he placed his two passports in his briefcase.

(Used with permission from “ Black Friday: The True Story of Bombay Bomb Blasts” by S Hussain Zaidi. Copyright 2002. Published by Penguin India)

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