Blast from the past

Published on Nov 29, 2006 12:58 AM IST

Considering the circumstances in which Sanjay Dutt came to possess the weapon, he must now bear the consequences of his actions.

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On March 12, 1993, a series of 13 bomb blasts ripped through Bombay, killing 257 and injuring 1,400 persons. It was arguably the worst act of urban terrorism till then. Instead of making war on Pakistan, of whose official complicity there was a great deal of proof, India decided to take the slow and painful high road of judicially dealing with those charged with complicity in the event. The trial of  scores of accused was completed only this year and beginning September 12, the court started delivering its verdict. While Yakub Memon, brother of the principal accused, Mushtaq ‘Tiger’ Memon, was convicted along with three other members of his family, three others, Suleiman, Hanifa and Rahil Memon, were acquitted. Since then, the judge has been pronouncing the verdicts of the accused in batches. Among these have been some former policemen and customs officials who aided the smuggling of the weapons and explosives.

More piquant is the case of Sanjay Dutt — Bollywood star, son of the late Sunil Dutt and brother of a current MP — who was convicted under the Arms Act for possessing an AK-56 assault rifle smuggled by the conspirators. This weapon has never been found because it was allegedly destroyed on Dutt’s instructions. However, while Dutt has been convicted for the illegal possession of a weapon, the judge has not held him guilty of any terrorist conspiracy. Just why Dutt wanted an AK-56 is not clear. Perhaps he was living out some macho fantasy. But considering the circumstances in which he came to possess the weapon, he must now bear the consequences of his actions.

A troubling aspect of the current spate of verdicts is that the main accused, Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, have not been arrested. Many of those convicted are second- and third-level henchmen. While there is no doubt that they must pay the price for being party to such an act, society’s retribution must be proportional. Unlike certain countries that, in response to terrorist actions, have unleashed disproportionate destruction leading to the loss of innocent lives, the Mumbai verdicts reflect a balanced and civilised response that will actually undercut the cause of terrorism, which feeds on injustice and inequity.

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