Jyoti Punwani:

The only saving grace of this sorry shameful tale of appeasing mob
sentiment is that so many of our best minds have stood up against it.
Jyoti Punwani  · Today · 08:30 am

Had Narasimha Rao had the guts, he would have acknowledged publicly in
July 1994 that the only educated member of the infamous Memon family
of Mahim had decided to return and help the government with evidence
of Pakistan’s hand in the March 12, 1993, bomb blasts in Mumbai. The
prime minister would not have cared about the howls of indignation
that would have emanated from the Bharatiya Janata Party-led
Opposition and from the families of the 257 people who died in the
blasts. Yakub Memon and his family would have been arrested, but their
bail petitions would not have been contested by the Central Bureau of
Investigation – an understanding reportedly given to Yakub Memon’s
first lawyer Shyam Keswani.

Had President Pranab Mukherjee had the guts, he would have accepted
Yakub Memon’s second mercy petition – the only one filed by him (the
first had been filed by his brother). The president had enough grounds
to do so, both legal and ethical, spelled out in the letter written to
him last week by a galaxy of retired judges, including some from the
Supreme Court, eminent lawyers, artists and academics.

Had the Supreme Court taken the advice of one of its own former
judges, Justice HS Bedi, it could have sent the death warrant back for
a fresh look or looked at the new evidence itself, given the
revelations being made over the last week. After all, it wasn’t some
rookie activist lawyer giving the advice – it was a judge who had
himself handed out a death sentence.

A ‘travesty of justice’

But all of this could have happened only if those with the power to
show mercy, considered Yakub Memon worthy of it. Imagine a man coming
back full of hope and faith in his country, a man who risked his life
to gather proof against his own brother and the powerful Inter
Services Intelligence, a man who convinced his family to come back
too. Now imagine all of them thrown behind bars, rapidly
disintegrating. Yet, that man never lost faith. “The investigating
agencies have complete knowledge about me,’’ he wrote to the Chief
Justice in 1994.  “I am a good citizen of this country. I have tried
to help the government in whatever manner I could. In fact, when this
case will come to its logical end and the truth will unravel,
everybody will come to know about my humble effort and sacrifice. If
my story is known, I’m convinced the court will set me free.”

Yakub Memon’s daughter, whom he wanted to be brought up as Indian, and
with whom he could never spend even a year, says he never stopped
telling her that he would come home. Political activist Arun Ferreira,
who was in Nagpur Jail, told Scroll.in that Yakub Memon would never
join any protest because he didn’t want anything to spoil his spotless
record and come in the way of his freedom.

Former Supreme Court judge Markandeya Katju has called Memon’s
conviction a “travesty of justice’’. If his conviction can’t be undone
– Justice Bedi felt it could – doesn’t this man at least deserve
mercy? Or is the baying for his blood too much to risk ignoring? By
ruling parties, maybe. But by the courts?

The only saving grace of this sorry shameful tale of appeasing mob
sentiment is that so many of our best minds have stood up against it.
And hardly any of them is Muslim. That counts, because Yakub Memon’s
fate is irretrievably tied up with him being a member of the Memon

If the March 12, 1993, blasts were motivated by religious revenge,
there’s also a long list of savage crimes committed by persons
motivated by Hindutva. What of the men who gang-raped Bilkis Bano,
killed 14 of her family members, flung her three-year-old daughter to
the ground, smashing her head in the Gujarat savagery of 2002? They
were sentenced to life. Did the “collective conscience’’ of the nation
want these accused to hang?

We don’t know because there was no baying for blood in these cases.
Not that there should be. The death penalty spells revenge, not
justice. But the fact is such a clamour becomes loud enough to be
noticed only when made by the majority community, it would seem.

A travesty

There’s yet another travesty in Yakub Memon’s case – the date of his
execution, which seems to have acquired some sacrosanct value looking
at the way everything is being hurried through. July 30 is his 53rd

So we watch helplessly as a man whose culpability – or at least the
extent of it – even judges are not convinced of, is hung from the

The Shiv Sena might celebrate as it has in the past. The BJP might do
so too. Meanwhile, the Mumbai police has as usual asked Muslims to
keep the peace, as if they are the only ones who pose a threat to it.