By Sanjana Sanghi:
You are returning as a Gandhiwadi, but the Indian Government will see you only as a terrorist.– Tiger Memon
When Yakub Memon, gave up a life of luxury and protection in Pakistan and decided to return to India on July 14 1993, little did he know that the words of his brother, Tiger Memon, prime accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, would come true. Yakub had convinced several other family members to return as well in order to clear his name and raise his children as Indians.
The Supreme Court dismissed Yakub’s curative petition on 21st July, keeping the date for his hanging, at 7am on July 30th. The curative petition, institutionalized in 2002 served as a last ray of hope to not let the world believe that India uses death penalties nonchalantly, or as an easier but not always necessary way to tackle crime. The Supreme Court had itself recognized that some rarest of rare cases, require a reconsideration of a final judgment to set right the miscarriage of justice.
A small revisit to Yakub’s life story
Yakub was convicted and sentenced to death by a TADA Court in 2007 after being accused of orchestrating the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, allegedly helping his brother Tiger Memon, and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. In 2014, President Pranab Mukherjee turned down his mercy plea and in April 2015, the Supreme Court confirmed death penalty, rejecting his review petition. Of the 21 years he has spent in prison, 8 have been on death row. The SC decided his fate on July 21; the Maharashtra government however, had already announced the time of Yakub’s hanging. Yakub has unarguably shown good conduct in the Arthur Road Jail and also completed two degrees, an MA in Political Science and English.
Where Yakub’s story leaves us
Yakub, convicted of aiding, abetting and facilitating the attack, also brought with himself direct proof of Pakistan’s involvement in the Mumbai blasts of 1993 wherein 257 died, 713 injured, and property worth 27 crore destroyed. In a letter Yakub wrote to the Chief Justice of India, he stated that his return to India to surrender was in accordance with the desire to come clean, establishing a “faith in our government and judiciary”. An attempt to find the reason behind the haste the Maharashtra government is exhibiting instantly takes us back to the hanging of prime accused in the Parliament attack, Afzal Guru by the Congress government that argued that his death penalty was necessary to assuage ‘the collective conscience of the society.‘ It was a decision taken during the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Therefore, either gaining political capital or assuaging a collective draconian desire for bloodlust, stands as possible causal factors to Yakub’s speedy execution.
Everyone told me not to surrender. Yet I came, believing the system will treat me fairly. – Yakub at the trial.
The case brought to light the belief that hanging Yakub will bring justice for the 1993 Mumbai blasts however people are severely mistaken as suspected masterminds have still not been located or arrested.
The question of the hour remains, whether Yakub’s story stands as a deterrent for every criminal who gathers the guts to come clean and surrender, since criminal justice history in India fails to give them any reason to believe otherwise? Or does it merely suggest that Indian lawmakers know how to make good use of capital punishment as a symbol of their resolve to tackle crime and bask in the convenience that it offers, instead of devising effective solutions such as improving prosecutions, investigations, and care for victim’s families?Is punishing the family members or close associates of a criminal good enough?
Regrettably Yakub’s case takes us back to the gruesome Mumbai blasts – Of the 900 people killed, of which most were Muslim, some Hindu, and to the absence of action taken against either those who demolished the Babri Masjid or ensued the riots.
We need grave charges with concrete evidence for a case to make it to the ‘rarest of rare’ category. The charges against Yakub accuse him of participating in the military training that was given to several conspirators, landing the RDX, placing explosives and that of financing the blasts by financing air tickets of co-conspirators. While his fate has been etched in death, the fate of his co-accused was a mere imprisonment of 5 years for the same charge.
Woh sahi bolta tha, koi insaaf nahi milega, tum log hume terrorist banake chodoge – Yakub at the TADA court hearing.