… That Is The Question
It has been more than two decades but the Friday of March 12, 1993, is still fresh in the minds of those who had the misfortune of witnessing one of the most terrible acts of mankind against itself. Back in 1993, little did India know that Black Friday, as it notoriously came to be known as, was, in fact, an ominous first act in a series of terrorist attacks that would continue to plague the nation in the coming years. On that fateful Friday, 13 blasts ripped through Mumbai reducing the lively financial capital of the country to a macabre death scene. On that day, a seething India vowed to find and punish the orchestrators of the heinous crime.
Today, after an emotionally exhausting wait of 22 years, as the ultimate verdict of the case finally unfolds, India vacillates between sending a convict to the gallows and giving a second chance to a man who, they feel, deserves it. Yakub Memon, well-read Chartered Accountant and brother of one of the masterminds behind the blasts, charged with machinating and abetting the crime, waits in Nagpur’s high profile central jail, pinning down all his hopes on a desperate, eleventh-hour plea to the Supreme Court of India. This high-profile execution, India’s third in this decade, has been fraught with controversies and twists ever since it was confirmed and it seems that as the appointed date, which is also, ironically, the convict’s 53rd birthday, approaches, emotions run high in the minds of Indians as they stand divided on whether Yakub’s crime demands a punishment as severe as death.
At a superficial first glance, Memon’s case seems quite straight forward. He was a co-conspirator, if not the prime convict, of a gruesome plot against humanity that brought about the deaths of 257 people and wounded countless others and should therefore, be subjected to the severest of punishments. In 1999, Yakub, in a letter to the CJI, claimed that he had no idea about his brother’s actual motives and that he indirectly and unknowingly became a part of a conspiracy that he would never have supported on his own. But how much faith can we put into these claims? Moreover, can India, a country that has been repeatedly targeted by terrorists, afford to hand out second chances? Wouldn’t that showcase India as a nation with a lenient attitude towards terrorism? With more and more eminent personalities showing mercy towards Memon, people have begun to speculate whether the judiciary is punishing Memon in lieu of his brother Tiger Memon, the real culprit. On the other hand, the charges against Memon are pertinent and to the point- his role in the crime as a central person is indisputable. In a recent article by the Times of India, former SC judge Markandey Katju contends that the decision of executing Memon is, in fact, “a gross travesty of justice”. 22 years ago, hundreds of innocent lives were brutally disrupted as a consequence of Memon’s actions. Hasn’t justice been denied to these hundreds of people for the past two decades? Don’t they deserve some kind of closure?
Not to Hang
Memon’s return to India in 1994 to surrender and ‘clear his name’, as he claims, was considered foolhardy by his elder brother Tiger. Naïve Memon, who had faith in his honesty and his country’s just judicial system, nevertheless returned, only to find a country that hated him. In a posthumously published article, the late RAW official B. Raman, who was in the very thick of bringing Yakub Memon back to India, asserts that he felt that Yakub does not deserve to be hanged since he was only unknowingly involved in the crime and had, moreover, turned into an informant for the Indian government supplying important evidence in connection to the blasts. Yakub’s demeanor is highly in contrast with the ‘terrorist’ tag that he has been given. Being the only educated member in his family, Yakub pursued his education while in prison too and has earned two masters degrees in the past two years. Former SC judge Markandey Katju is of the opinion that the evidence against which Yakub was found guilty is, in fact, very weak. What is more, Yakub is the only convict in the 1993 blasts case who has been handed the capital punishment while the main perpetrators live blissfully in hiding. In this distorted game of crime and punishment, does Yakub’s crime warrant its punishment?
India’s opinion: An Antithetical Dichotomy
The horde of vociferous comments against articles that criticise the execution of Yakub Memon and the hullabaloo that Twitterati created when Salman Khan tweeted in support of the convict, state the obvious: India wants retaliation. Yes, revenge is sweet but two wrongs do not make a right. India’s intense ‘an eye for an eye’ attitude comes with its baggage of pros and cons. If the nation does go ahead and execute Yakub, does it indicate the emergence of a new India that has decided to deviate from the teaching of ahimsa that the father of our nation so advocated? Are we, in fact, coming to terms with ourselves as a new, aggressive nation that goes by the bold undercurrent of ‘No Mercy’?
Disclaimer: This article neither supports nor criticises the execution of Yakub Memon. The objective of the article is to analyse the various aspects of the case and to urge readers to think and form their own opinions. To each, his own.