Nagpur: What will Yakub really die for? Has his culpability in the crimes he is accused of,been proved beyond doubt? If he had indeed engineered the blasts, would he have come back to India from a cushy life in Pakistan and Dubai and convinced his brothers to accompany him too? Would he have collected and handed over proof of Pakistan’s involvement?
I am sure the judges must have pondered on all these points, but the uneasy doubt remains that he is being hanged for being a Memon. His brother is beyond reach, so is Dawood – did our politicians and our governments decide to set an example of the Memon they had in custody?
Yakub gave up life in a gilded cage in Karachi under the ISI’s watch, to come back in July 1994 and clear his name in the case of the 1993 blasts, which had been masterminded by his brother and Dawood Ibrahim. He was followed by seven members of his family. Only Tiger, another brother Ayub, and their families stayed back.
With him, Yakub brought proof of Pakistan’s involvement in the blasts, which India could not have otherwise obtained. He thought this act would earn him a reprieve. That is what he is supposed to have bargained for – being absolved of charges against the rest of the family if Yakub handed over proof of his brother Tiger, and Pakistan’s involvement in the blasts. Instead, unable to get Dawood Ibrahim or Tiger Memon, the Indian authorities wrecked vengeance on the rest of the Memon family, arresting them all and charging them with murder.The government did not even have the grace to acknowledge that the Memons had chosen to surrender. Instead, the then home minister, SB Chavan, said in Parliament amidst much thumping of desks that the authorities had arrested Yakub from New Delhi railway station. “I’ve never seen it in my life,” wrote Yakub in his letter.
His family’s incarceration and their deteriorating physical and mental health drove Yakub to depression. In his letter, he wrote that he could not remember the events of one full year in jail when he was confined to bed. In the letter, Yakub also described his life before the March 12, 1993, blasts. It was an ordinary life: SSC with 70%, then college in the morning and work during the day, graduation, post-graduation, four years of studying to be a chartered accountant, and then establishing his own CA firm with a Hindu partner. “We were doing very well…I was very busy. The purpose of giving this brief about myself is to bring home just one single point: “WHERE WAS THE TIME TO HATE…” (upper case in the original).
In the same letter written in July 1999, Yakub Memon described himself as a “good citizen of this country” who “tried to help the government in whatever small manner that [he] could”. His “humble effort and sacrifice”, Memon said, would be known after “the [Bombay blasts] case will come to its logical end”.
His appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected in 2013. Subsequently, the President declined his mercy petition. Memon already suffering from depression had a breakdown in court when the verdict was announced. “Even the innocent will be made into terrorists,” he is reported to have told the judge. “I am dependent on anti-depression medicines. It has now become a part of my life. The more I think the more I get disturbed. After all, why am I made to suffer? Only for the sole reason that the prime accused is in relation to me?” Yakub said in the 1999 letter.
Now, 21 years later, Memon is on the way to becoming the first accused to pay with his life for his role in India’s first major terror attack, which claimed 257 lives and injured countless others. In a twist of fate, Memon is set to be hanged on the same day that he was born 53 years ago in congested Bhendi Bazaar.
Memon, the third of six children of Abdul Razak and Hanifa Memon, grew up in Byculla and went to Antonio D’Souza School. He scored 70 per cent in his secondary Board exams and, unlike his brothers Sulaiman and Ibrahim (or Tiger), carried on with his studies. He got a Masters in Commerce from Burhani College and, in 1990, became a certified chartered accountant. With his childhood friend Chaitanya Mehta, Memon set up the firm Mehta and Memon Associates.
In his letter, Yakub pointed out that nine of his 15-member family were NRIs settled in Dubai, and the rest would often visit them. On the day of the blasts, they were in Dubai, and got to know only later that one among them had masterminded them. After the blasts, the entire family left for Pakistan. “But we did not lost (sic) hopes of coming back to India and wipe out the stigma attached to our name,” wrote Yakub.
But the stigma would not be wiped out. “The prosecution is harping upon `Memon Family’ during their arguments as if there is a section in CrPC (as in Income Tax laws, while dealing with the HUF- the Hindu Undivided Family), wherein a family can be treated as a single unit. … The main reason for implicating us in the case is that we were in relation (to) and association of the prime accused. Now to be in relation to anyone is not a crime… We do not deny our relation and association with Ibrahim Memon …as a relative and nothing more.”
In 2007, having spent almost 13 years in jail, Yakub was sentenced to death by the TADA court. His brothers Essa and Yusuf, both seriously ill, and sister-in-law Rubeena were sentenced to life imprisonment. When his sentence was read out by the TADA court judge, Yakub cried out: “Forgive him lord, for he knows not what he does.” Seven years later, the Supreme Court upheld the judgement.
But, as both Yakub’s appeal and his review petition, argued by lawyer Jaspal Singh, asserted, Yakub was convicted on the basis of the statement of one approver and the retracted confessions of co-accused. The prosecution did not produce any independent evidence to refute Yakub’s assertion that he knew nothing about the blasts.
With the mercy and review petitions rejected, Yakub is left with little hope: just another mercy petition. If Yakub is hanged, the message will be clear: if you have committed a crime and have been lucky enough to escape, good for you. If you are suspected of having committed a crime but want to return to India to try and clear your name, be prepared for the worst. Far better to spend your life in luxury, even if it is in a country that is hostile to yours. Not for you the choice of bringing up your children as Indians.
Finally, Yakub Memon’s hanging will inevitably draw our attention to the original sin in the chain of events that led to the March 12, 1993 blasts: the Mumbai riots that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Neither those who demolished the Masjid nor those found guilty of the ensuing riots, in which 900 persons were killed, among them 575 Muslims and 275 Hindus, were punished, even though criminal offences were registered against the perpetrators. Two judicial commissions also indicted specific individuals for both crimes.
Among these individuals were 31 policemen, charged with extreme communal conduct against Muslims, including murder. None of them was punished. Nearly all the offenders in both events not only went free, some of them ruled the country as central ministers.
But those who took revenge for the riots, killing 257 people, were not let off. Their punishment ranged from two years to death. All death sentences, except Yakub’s, were six years later commuted to life.
When the TADA court had held him guilty, Yakub had cried out: “Woh sahi bolta tha, koi insaaf nahin milega, tum log hume terrorist banake chodoge.” What he said was right; you won’t get justice; you will make us into terrorists. He was referring to Tiger Memon’s words. In his letter, Yakub wrote: ‘’Section 20(8) and other draconian provision of this Act does not allow the Designated TADA court judge to look upon us with living and merciful eyes. On the contrary we are presumed to be guilty of TERRORISM.”
… Sunita Mudliyar Associate Editor