As I write this, I do not know if Yakub Memon will be hanged on July 30) or granted mercy. But of one thing I am sure – his faith in the Indian system of justice has been betrayed by the politics surrounding the serial blasts of 1993.
There was a remarkable statement that Prime Minister Narasimha Rao had made when he visited Bombay soon after the blasts – there is no point in punishing the hands alone. We have to get at the brains.
Having reported on the blasts as they happened and having followed the case over the years, I am certain Yakub was not the brain – not even the hands. He was just unlucky enough to be the brother of the brains – and the manager of Tiger Memon’s silver smuggling business. And so far, no one appreciates the fact that had it not been for Yakub’s leap of faith in Indian jurisprudence, we would never have been able to establish the complicity of Pakistan in that case. I had no sympathy for Ajmal Kasab when he was arrested – he was Pakistani, besides that fact, he had done little to help establish his country’s guilt in the 26/11 attacks, except to have lived long enough to speak the truth. I was not among the lynch mob who clamoured for his execution, without even a summary trial, because I did not want my country to be counted among the banana republics who execute people at mere whims and fancies.
But I was very satisfied when he was quietly hanged in Yerawada prison in Pune.
Then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told me his toughest task had been to keep the intention of hanging Kasab under wraps for nearly a fortnight. “We were so afraid word of it would leak to the media and somebody would rush to court and get a stay order and we would have to begin the process all over again.”
Similar was the quietness with which Afzal Guru was executed – even though there was an inimical CM (Omar Abdullah) who had to be taken into confidence, then Union home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde managed to extract silence from the Jammu and Kashmir government.
It is a measure of the immaturity of both the NDA government at the Centre and the Maharashtra government, that they felt compelled to announce the imminent execution of Yakub.
Of course, that has opened the doors to exactly what Chavan was afraid of in the case of Kasab. But, under the circumstances, I think it might be just as well.
For, obviously, there seems to have been a breach of promise to Yakub by successive governments and investigating agencies – many reports suggest that even then Union Home Minister SB Chavan had admitted had it not been for Tiger Memon’s brother, India could never have established Pakistan’s hands and brains in the blasts. That, I do believe, is a mitigating circumstance.
But, that apart, I wish to ask what about those involved in the preceding 1992-93 riots ? FIRs were registered against many, yet only one Sena leader ever had to pay for his crime –Madhukar Sarpotdar, who did not even kill anyone, but was caught with arms and ammunition in a notified area. For a similar crime, film star Sanjay Dutt has gone to jail for five years; Sarpotdar’s one year sentence was suspended.
So, while I think Salman Khan, too, should go to jail – in the drink driving case– I do not quite agree with his victimisation by the BJP and the Shiv Sena, who are demanding his arrest merely because he has articulated exactly what a very erudite prime minister of India did – we must get the brains (Tiger and Dawood Ibrahim), there is no point being satisfied with just cutting off the hands. Unless that happens, I do not see how Indian justice will be served in full measure.