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28 Jul 2015

After the Supreme Court rejected Yakub Memon’s curative petition on 21st July 2015, Memon has filed a mercy petition before the Governor and also a validity plea before the apex court. Many believe that he is cleverly using the system to buy time. Against those who are baying for his blood, it is important to remember that there are, arguably, very good reasons why he should not be hanged:

It has been reiterated by many that the facts of the case show that Memon’s role in triggering the Mumbai blasts of 1993 can, at best, be described as peripheral. To define him as the chief conspirator is quite extraordinary and a fitting reminder of the fact that judgments on terror cases are text book lessons on how majoritarian sentiments are defended through a partisan study of investigations. Yakub’s impending punishment is the satisfaction that India needs in order to punish those it cannot: his brother, Tiger Memon, and Dawood Ibrahim. Why else would Ujjwal Nikam, the Special Public Prosecutor, say that that the dismissal of the curative is “historic and would send a strong signal to the people in the country and across the border that guilty would not be spared”? But then, Mr Nikam is a fine fabricator who “concocted” Ajmal Kasab’s demand for mutton biriyani before his execution in order to halt the “emotional” wave against the hanging. 

It is patently clear that ‘terror’ has been defined to suit the nationalist political belief which holds that only the minorities and the marginalized participate in such attacks. Naturally, these attacks are against the majority. The BJP has understandably welcomed the dismissal of Yakub’s petition by the Supreme Court as an example of how “terror has no place in our society”. Needless to say, the same criminal justice system which has punished Yakub works very differently in cases of ‘saffron terror’. Most recently, Mr Randhir Singh, one of the key witnesses in the Ajmer blasts (2007) case, retracted his statement; and he did so after he defected to the BJP from the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik). Now he is part of the BJP run government in Jharkhand. Equally, while the RSS ideologue, Rakesh Mishra, defended the retraction of 13 witnesses in the Ajmer blasts as “All these cases are a political conspiracy against the RSS”, Rohini Salian , the Special Public Prosecutor into the Malegaon case, said that since the government changed, she was asked to “go soft” on the case by an NIA official. Terror cases are political cases and the decision on who is the guilty depends upon the politics of the case. For those who believe that hanging Yakub Memon is desirable as it will validate the resolve, “[the] guilty will not be spared”, it is imperative for them to recognize that such guilt has been redefined by silencing and rejecting the findings of the Srikrishna Commission’s report into the riots that preceded the serial blasts for which Yakub is being hanged. 

It is against this definition of terror that one must speak up and stop this hanging. One has to assert that Yakub’s right to life cannot be taken away as hanging him for his supposed crime committed 22 years ago is not justice; it is vengeance. One has to speak against the irrevocability of death penalty as Yakub’s trial and punishment have left behind a trail of doubts and misgivings. One has to recall what B. Raman, the RAW chief who was instrumental in securing Yakub’s arrest, had told the Rediff editor in 2007:  that the “promise given by serving officers who represent a sovereign State is non-negotiable, and that the “system should uphold what is promised by representatives of the sovereign State.” One has to emphasize that a person cannot be punished twice; that 21 years of incarceration cannot be compounded with another and extreme punishment, of death penalty. One has to highlight the fact that as a death row prisoner, Yakub has suffered tremendous mental agony. One has to protest this impending hanging as it is a glorified murder of a defenceless man who will be forced to walk to the gallows in the midst of a reprehensible drama surrounding his “last day” and his “last wishes”. 

PUDR urges that this hanging be stopped immediately and demands the abolition of death penalty.

Megha Bahl and Sharmila Purkayastha