Post the Bangladesh debacle, the ISI had been trying hard to gain a foothold amongst the Indian Muslims to destabilise India, but without much success.
With the demolition of the Babri mosque and the consequent countrywide riots, the ISI’s task became easier. They could now use the Muslim dons of the Bombay underworld. A ready network for clandestine movement and distribution of arms, ammunition and funds, with enough cheap manpower to commit the deadliest of crimes at the shortest notice, was now available on a platter. All that the ISI had to do was to give these lumpen elements a ‘higher purpose’ through indoctrination, make them feel important and valued enough to get committed to foreign masters, and then train and equip them in the use of sophisticated arms and explosives to wreak havoc on India’s integrity and stability.
The underworld grapevine has it that after the first phase of the December 1992 riots, some of the aggrieved Bombay Muslims had sent a message to Dawood Ibrahim for help; but he could not oblige. To provoke and instigate him into action goes the story, some Muslim women sent him bangles, the ultimate Indian way of humiliating a man, by questioning his masculinity. Now whether the bangles were really sent or not, and if they were, whether the ISI was behind the dispatch itself, Dawood threw in his lot with the ISI to avenge the fall of the Babri mosque and the December riots.
It must have truly warmed the ISI’s cockles. In any case, in December 1992, Dawood, Tiger Memon, and Mohammad Dosa got together along with the ISI to hatch the conspiracy and began planning it meticulously, taking care and exercising caution to keep their Hindu henchmen completely in the dark.
The object of the conspiracy was nothing less than waging war against the Government of India and engineering violence in different parts of the country to overawe the Indian State by exploiting the communal sentiments of the Muslims and provoke them to resort to terrorist acts in the name of religion, by creating instability through fomenting Hindu-Muslim riots and causing acts of wanton killing to terrorise the Indian people through the use of firearms and bomb explosions.
The original plan was to cause Hindu-Muslim riots all over the country in April 1993 on Shiv Jayanti – the birth anniversary of the founder of the Maratha Empire, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The riots were to be triggered by causing massive explosions at carefully selected strategic targets which would unmistakably point towards a Muslim hand and invite the Hindu ire. To enable the Muslims to defend themselves and attack the Hindus and the security forces, the former were to be equipped, well in advance, with sophisticated arms and ammunition enough for waging a war. The cities on the bomb blasts list included the metro cities of Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi, Bengaluru, Surat and Ahmedabad.
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Between December 1992 and January 1993, Dawood and Anees Ibrahim, through Tiger Memon, summoned eight other conspirators to Dubai. They included Mohammad Dosa and Tiger’s two brothers Yakub and Ayub. Yakub was a chartered accountant and his office premises in Mahim, ‘Tejarath International’, was heavily damaged in the communal riots. The brothers were deeply disturbed, seething with anger and desperate to wreak revenge. The conspirators held meetings to chalk out detailed plans and some Pakistanis actively participated in the meetings.
Tiger and Mohammad Dosa took up the responsibility of securing landings of the ISI supplied arms, ammunition and explosives on the Indian coast, of transporting them to Bombay and also of deploying men to assemble the car and scooter bombs and set off explosions. Training saboteurs to handle weapons and explosives was another crucial step for which Dawood and Anees Ibrahim, Mohammad Dosa, and the Memon brothers selected Muslim youth through their trusted lieutenants.
Between January and March 1993, at least twenty-three such boys were sent to Islamabad via Dubai. Their families were informed that they were going abroad ostensibly for jobs and had no inkling whatsoever that they were recruits for terror operations to wage a war against India. The training was supervised and controlled by Pakistani agents and army officers who taught them to use grenades, rocket launchers and automatic weapons and also to assemble bombs with timer devices and detonators. After the terror training, the newly trained recruits were flown back to Dubai. The journey from Dubai to Islamabad and back was by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Pakistan’s national carrier. On the few passports that were seized, we found stamps of exit from Dubai, but no corresponding landing or disembarkation entries to give away the destinations. Again, there were stamps of re-entry into Dubai after forty-five days, but no corresponding exit stamps from another country. This was obviously because they were not subjected to any immigration or emigration formalities at Islamabad.
After landing back in Dubai, they were administered an oath of secrecy and made to take vows that they would lay down their lives to achieve their objective. Those who could not be taken to Pakistan were instead trained in the forests of Sandheri and Bhorghat which come under the jurisdiction of Goregaon police station in Raigad district of Maharashtra. Simultaneously, arrangements were on to smuggle in, through the Western coast, huge quantities of explosives, arms and ammunition supplied by the ISI.
The first landing was organised by Mohammad Dosa on the coast of Village Dighi in Raigad district on 9 January through his landing agents, Mechanic Chacha and Uttam Potdar. To ensure a smooth landing, on 6 January, Mohammad Dosa and Mechanic Chacha met Customs officials at Hotel Persian Darbar in Panvel and secured their connivance. Twenty-three men participated in the landing and they also included subverted Customs officers and policemen. Two more landings took place at the Shekhadi coast in Shrivardhan Taluka in Raigad between 2-8 February 1993. These were organised by Dawood and Tiger Memon through their landing agents, Dawood Taklya, Dadabhai Parkar and Rahim Laundrywala. For these landings, Tiger met Customs officials on 2 February at Hotel Big Splash in Alibaug to secure their connivance. In all fifty men participated in the landing, loading, unloading, transportation and storage of the contraband. For planting RDX, vehicles worth lakhs of rupees were bought by the gang in bogus names and addresses.
On 4 March, Tiger Memon held important preparatory meetings at Hotel Taj Mahal. It was attended by some of his most trusted lieutenants including Badshah Khan, who later turned approver. At this meeting, Tiger disclosed the detailed plan of causing blasts in Bombay at select Hindu localities, important iconic buildings and installations, and the mass massacre of Shiv Sena and BJP corporators by storming the Bombay Municipal Corporation building. The targets selected were the Shiv Sena Bhavan, the Bombay Municipal Corporation building, the Bombay Stock Exchange building, the Air India building, the Sahar International Airport, Plaza Theatre, Century Bazar at Worli, Hotel Searock at Bandra, Hotel Centaur at Juhu, Hotel Centaur at Santacruz and the oil dumps at Chembur.
On the night between 11 and 12 March, Tiger conducted the final meeting at Al Husseini building to ensure perfect and flawless execution of the blasts. Satisfied that everything was lined up with clockwork precision, he handed a lakh of rupees to Javed Chikna and gave each of the saboteurs 5,000 rupees to see them through to Nepal. Then he hugged each one of them, promised to see them in Dubai and left for the Sahar Airport to catch the 5:30 a.m. Emirates flight to Dubai. Within a couple of hours, he was with the main co-conspirators and his family, eagerly awaiting the fruition of the unholy conspiracy which was scheduled to commence during the Friday afternoon prayers in the holy month of Ramzan.
As per the diabolical design, well before noon, the ‘harbingers of death’ began driving out of the Al Husseini building, one by one, on journeys of annihilation and destruction. Out rolled five scooter bombs, five car bombs, two motorcycles bearing men armed with hand grenades, one Maruti van that carried men with hand grenades and guns, and three men carrying suitcase bombs.
This excerpt from Let Me Say It Now by Rakesh Maria has been published with permission from Westland Books.
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