By Shruti Sonal:
The news channels are at their jingoistic best, showing footage of people chanting outside the Nagpur jail. Those who had questioned the decision on social media have been trolled, abused and silenced. India has successfully shown that it is no longer “soft on terror“. Yakub Memon, the lone death row convict in the 1993 Mumbai blasts has been hanged after 22 years of the incident.
What was it about this case that divided public opinion, although not equally? What was it about this case that made people tweet, even if they were in minority, against the hanging? What made eminent individuals, including politicians, legal experts and activists sign a petition to try and stall it? The Yakub Memon case was judged by different yardsticks for several reasons. Here was a man, not directly involved in the blasts, who chose to believe in the Indian judicial system and surrendered, even as his brother, the prime suspect Tiger Memon, absconded. His cooperation with the agencies, along with provision of key evidence helped in establishing a direct link with Pakistan’s ISI. Moreover, the confessions of the co-accused which formed the basis for his implication had been retracted. A report by B.N. Raman, late top official of RAW, in which he had asked for leniency for Memon surfaced. Further, in a medical report it was found that Memon was suffering from schizophrenia and thus unfit for execution. Thus, it is baffling that the 10 men sentenced to death by the trial court for planting the explosives were given only life terms by the Supreme Court on appeal, while Yakub Memon alone was awarded the death penalty.
Without going into the never-ending debate on the viability of capital punishment, the case calls for a deeper analysis. In silencing somebody willing to cooperate, haven’t we strengthened the ISI, as the message that goes out is- remain quiet and you will be spared, speak up and you will be hanged. The major argument is that the hanging will provide closure to the victims of the horrific blasts. One only wonders whether it’s an attempt to veil the failure to nab the real masterminds being the blasts, Tiger and Dawood Ibrahim. As screaming journalists’ thrusts their mikes into families of the victims, one searches for traces of those who had suffered in the preceding riots. In the world’s largest democracy, it seems that blasts are heard, while screams of riots are muffled.
Was the Memon, who was hanged, the same man who had been associated with his brother 22 years ago? Did he not pay for his association and complicity by spending over two decades in jail? Did he, in the end, become a victim of public opinion and government’s adamant efforts to curb terror? Will there ever be a similar crackdown on propagators, like Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi, of ‘saffron terror’ ? The hanging has aroused more questions than it has answered.