A day after 53-year-old Yakub Memon was hanged at Nagpur Central Prison on 30 July for his pivotal role in the Mumbai serial bomb blasts of 1993, which killed more than 250 people, Mumbaikars were simmering in anger primarily at what they described as the callous attitude of a section of the print media in allegedly “glorifying” the terrorist as a martyr. Amid all this, a Samajwadi Party leader from the city pleaded with his bosses for a Parliamentary seat for Yakub’s widow Raheen Memon. Farooq Ghosi was removed from the position of Mumbai vice president of the SP for this, but was not expelled.
A famous radio jockey reflected the common Mumbaikar’s sentiment, when she proclaimed during her show on Friday morning, “It is a sad day for Indian democracy when a mainstream newspaper dedicates four pages to the hanging of convicted terrorist Yakub Memon and only one page to the funeral of late President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.”
“He was not hanged for being a Muslim or for his brother’s sins. He was hanged for his involvement and key role in the 1993 serial blasts,” wrote another Mumbaikar on Facebook, responding to a newspaper link about the hanging.
“It’s disappointing to see newspapers dedicating so many pages to Yakub Memon’s hanging and just one page to Kalam’s last journey. This is clearly an attempt to award martyrdom to a criminal at the cost of a national hero. It’s important that as readers and citizens we express our concerns,” said a Mumbai-based executive.
Pune-based content developer Milind Verlekar went to the extent of discontinuing the subscription of a bunch of mainstream newspapers and convinced his entire building to follow suit. “These people will not understand any other language. Memon was no martyr, he was sentenced after the completion of due process of law. He was a terrorist,” he said.
“The trial in this case went on for nearly 20 years. Yakub was sentenced to death in 2007. It was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2013. Nothing has happened suddenly. Why wasn’t there any sustained campaign then? Everything in this case has been done according to the due process of law. He was given every legal opportunity to defend himself. The Supreme Court found no merit in his clemency petition and upheld the death sentence for him,” said advocate Ashish Mehta.
“We can debate about whether we should have death penalty or not. But creating sympathy for Yakub Memon is abhorring,” tweeted Rajiv Khandekar, executive editor of a leading Marathi news channel.
When a newspaper posted the alleged last words of Yakub Memon on Facebook, the backlash from the digital community was quick. “You say he said this, while the other newspaper says he said something else. On the day of his hanging, you ran an editorial opposing death penalty to Yakub. Today, are you trying to put words in the mouth of a dead person, is a question I want to ask,” wrote one Harshad Mane.
As for Farooq Ghosi, despite a backlash from within the Mumbai unit of the SP, he remained unfazed. While the party’s Mumbai president, Abu Asim Azmi claimed on Saturday that Ghosi had apologised and withdrawn the letter, Ghosi said his demand had not changed.
On Friday night, Farooq Ghosi told The Sunday Guardian, “Memon’s wife is innocent. She is so scared and helpless now. Her social status has taken a beating because her husband was declared guilty and hanged. Samajwadi Party has always stood by the poor and helpless. So, I have proposed to Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) that she should be helped by the party and should be given a parliamentary seat.”
When asked if he had approached Raheen Memon with the proposal, he said, “I don’t even know her. I haven’t seen her, haven’t met her before. I only read about her in the newspaper, and felt bad for her.”
After facing opposition from within the party, he told this newspaper on Saturday afternoon, “I haven’t withdrawn my letter. But several party members called me and said that I was raising the demand at a wrong time, that I was rushing it, and that this could be misconstrued. They told me this is not the right time to raise the matter. I respect their opinion, but I stand firmly by my thoughts. I have posted the letter requesting a Parliamentary seat for Raheen Memon, to Netaji today,” he said.
Sometime before this conversation, Abu Asim Azmi told the newspaper that Ghosi had withdrawn the letter and had apologised. “Whatever he said was his personal opinion. It is not the party’s stand. We were all unaware about this. He hasn’t consulted any one of us. He has now said he has withdrawn the letter. He has apologised,” he said.
Earlier, on Friday, Azmi expressed his shock at the news. “What are you saying? How is it possible?” he had asked this correspondent.
Hanging him for his brother’s crime?
Among contradictory media reports about the last words of Yakub Memon about his guilt, it is important to read the 790-page Supreme Court judgement of March 2013, reasoning the upholding of death sentence of the key accused “without whom the conspiracy would not have seen the light of the day.”
In its 790-page judgement passed on 21 March 2013, the Supreme Court has held: “The conduct of A-1 (Yakub Memon), which may be very relevant for ascertaining his dominant position in commission of the crime. The following conduct of the appellant (A-1) along with the co-conspirator family members may be relevant:
“a) The confessional statements of various co-accused make a mention that Tiger Memon has instructed them to stay in touch with A-1 for further instruction. Meaning thereby, A-1 assumed the role of Tiger Memon in India during his absence.
“As an outcome, Tiger Memon gave the commands to A-1, who in turn had passed them to other accused thereby signifying the trusted position that A-1 has obtained from Tiger Memon, apart from being just a younger brother.”
The judgement further said, “Moreover, A-1’s role was limited not only to the extent of correspondence between the masterminds and all other accused but he was also entrusted with task of handling the explosive bags and for their safe keeping, which is again revealed in the confessional statements of various co-accused persons. Furthermore, he was actively involved in hawala transactions for the purpose of facilitating the blasts on 12th March 1993.
“Besides, he acquired tickets both for Dubai and Pakistan for transporting the appellants to the respective places for the purpose of training and coaching them in envisaging their participation for the blasts in Bombay.”
Most importantly, the Supreme Court’s final observations were, “Essentially, A-1’s deeds can’t be viewed distinct from the act of Tiger Memon, hence, both owe an equivalent responsibility for the blasts. They were the architects of the blasts, without whom the plan would have never seen the daylight. From this conduct, it is not hyperbole to state that, he was one of the ‘driving spirit’ behind the plan of the 1993 blasts.”