The debate on whether there should be capital punishment in our country shall continue even after the Thursday morning execution of Yakub Memon, convicted for his role in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. Memon’s hanging was a foregone conclusion after he had exhausted all the legal remedies available to him and could have been only put off had the President accepted his last minute appeal. But Pranab Mukherjee, one of the most experienced politicians in the country, is not somebody who would have chosen to act on his own and against the advice of the government. Therefore, those glued to television screens on Wednesday night waiting for a miracle to happen were incorrect in thinking that the State at the eleventh hour was going to overturn the considered view of the Apex Court, thereby casting an aspersion on the fairness of our judicial system.
Those who supported Memon till the very end did so because they genuinely thought that there should be no death penalty for anyone in India given that more than 100 countries all over the world have abolished the capital punishment. Their argument was that there was no evidence that death penalty served as a deterrent for others wanting to carry out similar acts. Terrorism cannot be checked by sending perpetrators to the gallows. However, they are at a loss in putting forth any counter correctional prescription on what course of action should be taken if a person was charged and convicted for waging a war against one’s country?
The circumstances in countries where death penalty has been abolished or taken off the books differ from those prevalent in India. Many would say that Israel, which has fought a long war against terrorism, does not have capital punishment and the last person who was executed there was Nazi war criminal, Eichmann somewhere in the 1960s. However, Israel’s example is not applicable to India, as it adheres to stringent measures in dealing with its enemies and those who oppose its laws and its citizens are eliminated mercilessly without any contemplation. Israel has won its battles against most of the Arab states that have tried to foist their religion or philosophy on the Jews and has always emerged victorious primarily because it enjoys unflinching support from the United States and its European allies.
Western superpowers have different rules when it comes to dealing with countries such as India and its neighbours. The US, for instance, uses Pakistan to pursue its agenda against militant and Islamist groups in Afghanistan and at the same time wants to have good relations with India, primarily because it is a huge country with enormous human resources that can be used to counter China at some stage or the other. The US always shows sympathy whenever Islamist terrorists from across the border strike in India. It, though, could do much more to exert pressure on Pakistan to stop sponsoring terrorism in India.
There are many who fear that Yakub’s execution could have wide ranging ramifications and lead to a situation which would encourage Pakistan-inspired terrorists to strike in our country. But one fails to comprehend how anyone could come to this inference that if Yakub would not have been hanged, Pakistan backed militants would have also had a change of heart. We have all seen in the last few decades that Pakistan has seldom missed an opportunity of striking in our country. The Sikh militancy period of the 1980s and the developments in Jammu and Kashmir all give proof beyond any doubt of that country’s involvement in acts of terror.
What is actually needed is that the state should have a policy against terror that is endorsed by all parties in the country and not one which has political considerations. The BJP-led government has to do immense work to remove the trust deficit some communities may have, given its strong ideological inclination towards Hindu organisations. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister in particular should make an extra effort to amplify their influence beyond those who support them. After all they have been elected by the people and it is their responsibility primarily that there is total unity in the country especially on matters related to terror.
While there is no iota of doubt that Yakub Memon was hanged for his role, the government must step up its efforts to bring back bigger perpetrators of the Mumbai blasts like Dawood Ibrahim, Tiger Memon and others. There have been reports that opportunities to get them back have been squandered as their return to India could unmask many influential and respectable people living in Mumbai and New Delhi.
One reason why Yakub’s execution did not get a wide endorsement from the common people is that he was comparatively a very small player in the game of death which was witnessed in Mumbai on that fateful day in 1993. Therefore for justice to be actually delivered to enable the victims of the blasts to have a final closure, the Indian state must incarcerate Dawood and his associates. Otherwise, opinion on Yakub’s hanging would continue to be divided. Between Us.