'We can celebrate our festivals now'

Residents staying near the Arthur Road Jail heaved a huge sigh of relief on Wednesday morning, following the announcement of the hanging of 26/11 convict Mohammad Ajmal Qasab.

For nearly four years, those living in the locality had to go through security checks every time they entered and exited the area. Cars were not allowed to park near houses and policepersonnel were posted at Arthur Road Jail for Qasab’s security.

Free at last: Following the hanging of Ajmal Qasab yesterday morning, security around Arthur Road jail was relaxed, while people were allowed to walk unrestricted near the premises. Pic/Shadab Khan

“For the last four years, it has been difficult for us to even park our cars and bikes as everybody had to go through a security check. Kids were not allowed to play as police vehicles had covered the area from all sides.

We even had to take permission if a guest stayed at our homes, as they were treated like suspects by the police,” said Lakhan Waghela, a resident of Meghnagar, which is on the periphery of Arthur Road Jail.

There are around 15,000 houses in the Meghnagar area (BMC colony) including several chawls and buildings.

“There were barricades all around our houses and on the road. The ongoing monorail work only made the road even narrower,” Waghela added. However, some residents were supportive of the heightened security in the area.

“Petty thefts, robberies and even fights between local residents had stopped in the Dhobi Talao area nearby as the police were always present. Still, there were some issues like having to sign a register every time you entered the area, and not able to celebrate festivals,” said Raj Solankhi.

Police will no longer have duties at Arthur Road Jail. “Every other day, officers from 90 police stations were rotated and assigned duties at the jail,” said a police officer.

“The duty was very tedious, and if anyone trespassed, the police officer had to undergo an inquiry,” he added.

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