One more high profile prisoner, Yakub Memon, convicted for his role in the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts, that killed hundreds of people and unleashed a reign of terror, a few months after the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya, is to be hanged next week. This is subject to the Supreme Court taking a view on his final plea for quashing the death warrant on Monday. The Apex Court, which has rejected all earlier petitions of the convict, will now go into the technical question of whether his death warrant was in line with a landmark judgement of the Court in another death sentence case. At best, it appears that Memon would only earn a temporary reprieve and his execution is a foregone conclusion, even if the date on which it would take place is not.

The inevitable hanging has led to mixed reactions from all over the country, with a large number of eminent persons speaking up for the abolition of capital punishment altogether. There is a strong plea from a section that was directly affected by the blasts in the then Bombay, that Yakub Memon’s hanging should serve as an example for anyone who tries to use terrorism as an instrument to disrupt normal life, even if the main perpetrators of the blast — Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, Yakub’s brother and a number of accused — are still at large and the Indian state has been unable to bring them back to be tried for their offence of waging a war against the country.

Late Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) official, B. Raman, who was instrumental in facilitating Yakub Memon’s surrender way back in July 1994, had expressed his anguish when the Supreme Court had upheld the death sentence, stating that it was against the assurance given by senior officials representing the state to the accused persons. In a blog written in 2007 for Rediff’s website and released by its editor after obtaining permission from Raman’s brother on Friday, the super spy, who once headed the Pakistan desk of the R&AW, was of the view that Yakub Memon should have been judged as much for his actions post 1994 as for what had happened in Mumbai in 1993.

He was of the opinion that the officials had not kept their side of the promise after Yakub was goaded into coming to India in a special aircraft of the counter espionage agency from Kathmandu and formally arrested at the New Delhi Railway Station by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Members of the Memon family, barring Tiger too had returned to India at Yakub’s instance from Pakistan via Dubai and were similarly taken into custody by the CBI.

My interest in the case had developed over the years since the “surrender” of the Memon family was an exclusive which the Time of India’s Delhi edition, where I was the metropolitan editor, had broken in 1994. The paper had received a tip-off about the imminent surrender but the political bureau dismissed it as a mere speculation, after which, the then executive editor, Gautam Adhikari, asked me and my team to look into it. It was at about 9 pm at night when my crime reporter, Shailesh Shekhar, called me up at my residence and said that he had some vital information about the Memons, which no one was willing to confirm and therefore sought my help. It took a single call to a friend in the CBI who was in know of things and who over the phone simply confirmed the surrender and declined to say anything more. That was enough and the TOI outdid all its rivals by carrying the exclusive as the first lead.

At that point of time, it did appear that the Memons had been brought here after they were given an assurance by the authorities, a fact which has been confirmed by Raman in his write-up on the Rediff website. Even if the legal relevance of the write-up may be over after the Supreme Court has completed the due process of law, it would be worthwhile to know why officials party to the assurance had gone back on their word during the trial.This kind of an attitude would contribute to lack of faith in any such surrender negotiations with any wanted person in the future.

One of the West Asian countries, which had at one time complied with requests in the past, had declined to take any further pleas for repatriation from New Delhi after a word given in the 1980s by someone who rose to become the foreign secretary, was not honoured by India.

Yakub Memon, will be hung to death, but this inevitable execution has acquired a colossal political hue. The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief, Asaduddin Owaisi is wanting to know why the killers of Rajiv Gandhi and those of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh have not been meted out the same treatment. Many countries have said no to death penalty and while the debate on capital punishment wages, the lawmakers in Parliament must discuss the issue and arrive at a carefully considered decision. Between us.

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