Salman Khan’s tweets in defence of Yakub Memon, set to hang for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, evoked strong reactions on Sunday even as the superstar’s father, screenwriter Salim Khan, sought to play down his comments.
Security was tightened outside Salman’s residence in Mumbai hours after he posted about a dozen tweets in which he mounted a spirited defence of Yakub Memon and said his brother Tiger Memon, believed to be in Pakistan, should be hanged instead.
“Get tiger hang him. Parade him not his brother,” Salman tweeted. He described Tiger Memon as a ‘lomdi’ or wolf and criticised him for remaining silent at a time when his brother is set to be marched to the gallows.
Tiger Memon has been absconding since the blasts in Mumbai that killed 257 people and injured 1,400 more.
Hang Tiger Memon, not Yakub in Mumbai blasts case: Salman Khan
Ujjwal Nikam, the special public prosecutor for the 1993 blasts case, criticised Salman for his tweets.
“His statement directly amounts to contempt of court,” Nikam told Hindustan Times. “The impression created amongst his followers is that Yakub is innocent. What proof does Salman Khan have?”
He added, “The country is known for its belief in the judiciary and Khan's statement has questioned it."
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, without naming Salman, told repoeters that “some people are trying to give a communal colour to Yakub's death sentence” and “this is not right”.
Shaina NC, another spokesperson for the BJP, said Khan’s remarks went against the government’s efforts to counter terrorism. She contended that Yakub Memon had played the role of a conspirator in the 1993 blasts and deserved to be punished.
As the reactions to Salman’s tweets came in, his father sought to play down the issue. Salim Khan told a TV news channel: “Whatever Salman has written is ridiculous and meaningless. Salman is ignorant of the issue and people should not take him seriously.”
Salim also said he does not support his son’s views and that his tweets were “wrong”.
Singer Abhijeet tweeted that he did not support “meaningless” Salman’s remarks. He added that all the Hindus and Muslims killed in the 1993 blasts were Indians.
Shiv Sena president said people should ignore Salman’s tweets. “Is he trying to question the judicial system of the nation?” he told the media.
Senior lawyer Abha Singh said Salman himself was a convict who was given a five-year prison term. “Still he has the audacity to say Yakub is innocent?” she said.
Senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy too said Salman himself is a criminal who is out on bail.
In May, 49-year-old Salman was sentenced to five years in jail after being found guilty of culpable homicide in a 2002 hit-and-run case that left one person dead and four others injured. He is currently free on bail.
But senior lawyer KTS Tulsi appeared to endorse Salman’s views, saying Yakub Memon had provided “very valuable inputs” about Pakistan’s role in the conspiracy behind the 1993 blasts that were verified and found to be correct.
“Nation should show gratitude to this man (Yakub) for having given us valuable evidence. There seems to be a genuine turn of heart in him,” Tulsi said.
“I agree, I think (the death sentence given to Yakub) should be reconsidered. He (Yakub) has rendered us valuable help in being able to collect evidence against Pakistan,” he added.
Veteran actor Raza Murad said the tweets amounted to Salman's personal opinion. “He has a right to express his opinion as a citizen of a democratic nation,” he said.
Actor Shatrughan Sinha, the BJP MP from Patna, said: “If he (Salman) has said this, we should try to understand his feelings.”
Twitter users sent out a flurry of posts both defending and criticising Salman’s views.
(With agency inputs)