Shiv Sena, Congress rebut BJP on Yakub Memon grave row, blame Fadnavis
An officer of Mumbai Police said the LED light fixed to beautify the grave appears to have been put on August 18 on the eve of Badi Raat. It was lit only during that period of time
MUMBAI: A controversy erupted over the beautification of the grave of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon on Thursday with the BJP accusing the previous Uddhav Thackeray government of giving permission to build a memorial of a terrorist and Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) parties accusing the BJP of turning a non-issue into a political one.
A preliminary probe by the police found that the beautification was being done by the Memon family for the graves of 14 family members including Yakub who were buried there. Yakub Memon was executed on July 30, 2015.
Following a report by television channels, Mumbai police stopped the beautification and LED lights put up around the graves. Deputy chief and home minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a high-level committee to probe the issue.
It began with Marathi news channels running a story on the grave of the bomb blast convict being beautified and turned into a memorial. According to the reports, the grave was beautified with granite construction and lit up with LED lights.
The BJP picked up the issue and accused Uddhav Thackeray of giving permission for the beautification of the grave during the MVA government’s tenure during the Covid-19 pandemic. It also demanded an apology from Thackeray, the former chief minister and Shiv Sena chief.
“The beautification of the grave happened during the previous Thackeray government. The chief minister and home minister regularly get briefings about the major happenings in the state. The beautification of the grave would not have happened without the knowledge of the then chief minister. It was the compromise by Thackeray (to keep the alliance partners happy) for power and also a compromise on the agenda of Hindutva. Thackeray should apologise for this mistake of glorifying the terrorist who was responsible for the killing of hundreds of innocents in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. The beautification has painted Maharashtra in bad light at national level,” said Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule.
He demanded strict action against the people responsible for the beautification and even equated it with sedition and anti-national activities.
Shambhuraj Desai, the excise minister in the Eknath Shinde government who is from the Sena’s Shinde faction, stood up in defence of the previous government. Desai, who was the minister of state for home in the Thackeray government, said they had no such information and the MVA government never supported it. “We never had any information about any such plan for beautification of the grave. We never supported it then or will not support it now.”
Fadnavis, who heads the home department, asked the police to probe the issue through a high-level committee. The committee will find out whether there were any security lapses or whether the government was kept in the dark by the police.
“Fadnavis has announced plans to constitute a high-level committee of senior police officers. The committee will probe whether there was any lapse on the part of intelligence, whether the government and the chief minister were kept in dark or no action taken by the government despite having got information,” said forest minister and BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar.
Deputy commissioner of police Zone-2 Neelotpal Basu said that the police have initiated an inquiry into the matter.
Another senior police officer said that preliminary inquiry has revealed that marble tiles were placed on the grave for beautification of the grave around three years ago by the Memon family which owns the portion of land where Memon’s body was buried.
The portion of land, apart from Memon’s grave, also has graves of 14 other members of the Memon family, police officers said.
The LED light fixed to beautify the grave have been put on August 18 this year on the eve of Badi Raat. It was lit only during that period of time. Since then, it was not lit, a senior officer said.
The officer added that the halogen lights were placed for the entire graveyard and not a particular grave.
After the controversy erupted, the Mumbai police removed LED lights around Memon’s grave at Bada Kabarastan outside Marine Lines railway station.
Officers of the LT Marg police station will record the statement of Memon’s family and the trust members who look after the maintenance of the burial ground and will also check if any suspect tried to beautify the terrorist Memon’s grave with a malafide intention.
The Shiv Sena and Congress rubbished the barrage of criticism from the BJP camp, demanding that the BJP explain why the Memon family was allowed to bury the convict at the location in the first place.
Shiv Sena leader and leader of opposition Ambadas Danve asked why the then government led by Devendra Fadnavis handed over Yakub’s body to Memon’s family after his execution in July 2015.
“The allegations levelled by BJP against us are baseless. The question here is why the body was handed over to the family. The beautification of the grave with the help of granite and marble was done five years ago. The ward in which the grave is located is controlled by a BJP councillor. BJP should answer if their leaders were responsible for these developments. We are demanding strict action against the people responsible for it.”
Congress chief spokesperson Atul Londhe also charged the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government for allowing a grand funeral of Memon back in 2015. “Why did BJP allow a grand funeral for Yakub Memon when they were in power in the state as well at the Centre,” Londhe said countering allegations made by the BJP over minority appeasement. He slammed BJP for doing politics of religion and questioned their stand on former BJP leader Ram Jethmalani’s letter to waive Memon’s death sentence.
Leader of Opposition in the assembly Ajit Pawar said the entire effort to flag the beautification of the grave was part of the BJP’s policy to create such issues to divert people’s attention from the real issues; inflation, unemployment and farmer suicides. “They (BJP) cannot speak against inflation and unemployment. They are also not helping the farmers… who are committing suicide following the devastating floods in the state. This is their policy to divert people’s attention, which needs to be understood by the people at large,” Pawar said.
He also said that the media too becomes a party to such tactics unknowingly by raising questions and said, “There is no reason to give so much importance to these issues.”