First a no-brainer: we have enjoyed watching Sanjay Dutt on the big screen. As ‘Munnabhai’, Dutt endeared himself to many. But now, as he faces the prospect of returning to jail for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, why is there a clamour for mercy, a sudden expansion of the ‘… but he is a nice guy’ brigade and demand for pardon?
The pro-Dutt brigade’s logic is clear: Dutt made a mistake, he is innocent and that he comes from a good family. Some argue that he’s suffered for 20 years and that we should let bygones be bygones because he only kept assault rifles for protecting himself and his family. And that he’s just settled into family life and has two young children to look after.
Now let’s look at the facts of the case: Dutt was in touch with Anees Ibrahim, brother of Dawood Ibrahim, the main co-conspirators of the Mumbai blasts. Despite possessing three licensed weapons, Dutt procured AK-56 rifles for ‘self protection’. Give this logic to MN Singh, the joint commissioner of police who investigated the blasts, and he correctly says: “The explanation doesn’t cut any ice. One doesn’t go running for help to gangsters for self-protection. There are government agencies to fall back on and in his case it was easy to get government help.’’ As the son of Nargis and Sunil Dutt, a Congress MP, Sanjay could have asked the government for help. And here is the most troubling question: why did Dutt keep hand grenades? The ‘self protection’ argument can hardly be used to defend this act.
Let’s look at other facts: Dutt was waiting at his Pali Hill residence for the consignment of arms to arrive. It came hidden in the frame of a car. He provided the tools to retrieve the weapons and asked his guard to stand at a location from where the car was not visible. Then there were phone records to prove that he spoke to Anees Ibrahim and importantly, the disclosure came from Dutt himself.
There were a few people including Baba Mussa Chauhan and Magnum video owner Samir Hingora who went to Dutt’s house to deliver the consignment of arms. Similarly, there were others like Manzoor Ahmed whose car was used to bring back the weapons from Dutt’s residence and an old woman — Zaibunissa Kazi — who kept the consignment in her house for a few days. Each of them — Chauhan, Hingora, Ahmed and Kazi — were convicted under Tada.
Ironically, Dutt was sentenced under the Arms Act. Why isn’t anyone asking about Zaibunissa’s parents? Or why isn’t anyone talking about the fact that she just kept the weapons and that they were not meant for her? In fact, unlike her, Dutt kept an AK-56 well after the 1993 Mumbai blasts.
I remember meeting Dutt’s lawyer in 2006 after he was given punishment under the Arms Act. Posing as Zaibunissa’s daughter, I asked him about the obvious disparities. The lawyer did not mince words: “If (Tada) was not applied to Sanjay Dutt, the people in the chain should not have been put under Tada. It’s the same chain.’’
Dutt is actually a very lucky man. He has escaped the stigma of being punished under a terror law and the Tada court judge even said he was not a terrorist. The bleeding heart brigade will do well to remember the facts of the case — their subject is not scarred for life. It’s only another three years or so that he needs to put in after which he can restart his life on a clean slate.