For the heck of it

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts

Saw Black Friday over the weekend. An awesome movie - good performances by the actors, great direction, nice execution of the plot and good background score. Black Friday, which is India's only entry this year at the Locarno Film Festival, is the story of the 1993 bomb blasts that took place in Mumbai.

Based on a book by S. Hussain Zaidi, this docu-drama tries to recreate those events and the intense feelings that followed them. The film has Kay Kay Menon (as the Commissioner of Police), Aditya Shrivastava as Badshah Khan, and Pawan Malhotra (as Tiger Memon), among the star cast.

On March 9, 1993 Gul Mohammed turns himself in at Nav Pada police station, Bombay. His statement: there is a conspiracy underway to bomb major locations around the city. The police dismiss his confession. Three days later Bombay city is torn apart by a series of explosions. The death toll is close to 300.

Investigators discover that the bombs were made using a high-powered explosive, RDX. It could only have been obtained through the collusion of a foreign power. And a large amount of illegal money.

The first arrest
An abandoned vehicle is found -- filled with explosives and weapons. Registration papers in the name of 'Rubina Memon', sister-in-law to one 'Tiger Memon', resident of Mahim, Bombay. Tiger has a criminal record for smuggling.

On March 14, 1993, Asgar Muqadam, Tiger Memon's secretary, is picked up for interrogation. He is beaten till he confesses what he knows about the bomb blasts, and the police begin their search.

Arrests and Interrogation

Inspector Rakesh Maria is put in charge of the investigations. Between March and April his men tear Bombay apart in search of suspects. The lock ups are filled with detainees, including Mushtaq Tarani, Parvez Shaikh, Abdul Ghani Turk, Imtiaz Ghavate, and Shoaib Ghansare.

Still missing are Badshah Khan, Javed Chikna, Anwar Theba, Bashir Khan, Iqbal, Farooq Pawle, Irfan, Tainur, Shahnawaz, Babloo, Moin, Naseem, Zakir, Firoze, Mehmood.

On the run
Following the blasts Badshah Khan had left Bombay and gone into hiding. He shuffles around the country waiting for word from Tiger but it never arrives.

Badshah tires and finally halts at his village in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, North India, where the police catch up with him. It is May 10, 1993.

He is brought back to Bombay and to Rakesh Maria for questioning. He admits being a part of the conspiracy, but continues to justify his actions. For the first time there is a glimpse of motive: the blasts were revenge for the atrocities suffered by the Muslim minority community during the December 1992 and January 1993 Bombay riots.

There is still a large amount of unused RDX (Research Department Explosive) explosive stashed in the city. A man called Yeda Yaqub Khan is responsible for keeping it hidden. But when his brother and sister-in-law are picked up for questioning by the police, Yeda panics and hurriedly moves it to other locations.

On March 30, 1993, just eighteen days after the blasts, local youths stumble upon part of it while fishing at Nagla Bunder Creek, Bombay. A stroke of good fortune for investigators.

And Yeda, still rattled by the arrest of his family, turns informer. He offers up information on the whereabouts of the rest of the RDX in exchange for his family's release. The point of origin of the explosives is determined as Pakistan.

The Conspiracy

Badshah Khan realizes that there is no justification for his acts, and decides to become a police witness. He completes for Maria the story behind the blasts - starting with smuggling in the explosives, going to Pakistan for training, and his first meeting with Tiger Memon. On November 4, 1993, the police file a charge sheet against 189 accused. The Central Bureau of Intelligence takes over the case.

Then on August 5, 1994, Tiger's brother, Yaqub Memon, willingly turns himself in to the authorities. In a candid Newstrack interview on national television Yaqub states that it was Tiger and his underworld associates who orchestrated the conspiracy. And Tiger Memon has now disappeared.

What is past is prologue
Before the blasts there were the Bombay Riots, bloody warring between the Hindu and Muslim communities between December 1992 and January 1993. It was an unprecedented outburst of violence and abuse, resulting in emotional trauma and property loss. Tiger Memon's office was burnt to cinders.

The suffering of the Muslim minority community in the riots incited a meeting of underworld leaders in Dubai, who then took it on themselves to seek retaliation. Tiger was also looking for his own revenge, and suggested an attack on Bombay as the strongest message.

Leading to Friday, March 12, 1993. Twelve explosions at key points around the city. 300 people dead. 800 injured. And a trial that awaits verdict. A must see!!



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