Yakub Memon’s Hanging: The Reactions

Yakub Memon’s Hanging: The Reactions

Calling out the hypocrisy and the untruths in the debate around the issue. 

Yakub Memon was hanged in Nagpur twenty two years after the crime. When the date of Yakub’s execution was coming close, and his family and lawyers were filing mercy petitions along with many others not related to the accused, there was a lot of debates on varied topics.

One debate that surfaces from time to time, especially before any such execution, is about capital punishment itself. It has been a thought of many that capital punishment is a very medieval practice, something like the “stone to death” in some Arab countries. People also have philosophic thoughts that giving and taking lives is not a human’s job and that God alone has the monopoly in such a business. Others often quote Gandhi saying that eye for eye will finally leave everyone blind. Argumentative as we are, there’s no offence in any such debate.

Socrates had pointed out, when a debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser. But interestingly, in all the debates that we’ve been having lately, the outcome is always like that in litigations over Intellectual Properties in the US, undecided, with each party claiming victory over the other. But one party has been always seen using slander more on the other.

Here, the slanderer is more often than not the class comprising the ones you would see ranting against the increase in the communal forces in India since last year, the judiciary being hijacked, the country being run by extremists, the state of affairs of the minorities being pathetic, etc. etc. Whatever be the topic, finally a reference to the aforementioned themes close to their heart would be dragged and inferred as a causative factor to everything.

It reminds of something in Bengali which’s humorously referred to as a “Gorur Rochona”, an “Essay on Cow”. It’s about a kid, who has memorized an essay on a cow but is asked to write one about something else, say a dog, in the exam. He somehow drags a reference to the cow, by saying, say, “cow is also a domestic animal, like a dog” and then continues with the essay on cow which he has prepared.

It’s interesting to see how the ‘cow’ is dragged into everything, even this particular case of the execution of Yakub Memon.

Let us study some of the reactions from the connoisseurs of “Gorur Rochona”.

One of persons who perhaps lamented the most is Mani Shankar Aiyar. “The travesty of justice,” he said, “will lie in [Yakub’s] losing his young and promising life, not because he was directly involved in taking life, but because he happens to be the brother of the main culprit, “Tiger” Memon, who is still hiding out, well away from the grasp of our investigating authorities.”

His lament is not unexpected, given that he has lamented many a times in the recent past, especially at the travesty of democracy when a chai walla went to become the Prime Minister of our country. What an audacity! Isn’t it?

“Hence, the petition that Yakub Memon be spared the noose of death,” Mani Shankar continues with his lament, “for a crime that was master-minded by someone else to communally divide the country. The President will decide. He might wish to bear in mind Portia’s famous words in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.”

The underlying theme is that, all such travesty is only because the chai walla has taken the hot seat. And in this particular case, he has reasons to say so because of the religion of the person concerned.

Yakub, who was hanged at an age of 53, is “young” with a “promising life”.

Mani Shankar seems to have a penchant for such things like glorifying terrorists. He saw the Charlie Hebdo attack as an obvious backlash to the west’s war on terror. And he is not alone, perhaps, in undermining an act of terror as an “obvious backlash”.

A professor of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics has also said the same thing in reference to the 1993 Bombay blasts.

“The 1993 blasts were a heinous act of terror,” she writes, “that came at the end of an equally heinous set of communal killings that tore Bombay apart in December 1992 and January 2003 but you would be hard pressed to find any mention of this context in any reporting of Yakub Memon.”

She quotes the Sri Krishna Commission as saying, “One common link between the riots of December 1992 and January 1993 and bomb blasts of 12 March 1993 appear to be that the former appear to have been a causative factor for the latter.”

Well, that’s true. Newton has said the same long time back, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. But what’s interesting here is how the “cow” is being brought into the essay. All the arguments finally point fingers to the Hindutva extremists and Hindutva terrorists. Henceforth it metamorphoses into the regular rants against the increase in the communal forces in India since last year, the judiciary being hijacked, the country being run by extremists, the state of affairs of the minorities being pathetic, etc. etc. It’s as though, Yakub is very justified in doing what he has done because it was just a backlash against the acts of Hindutva terrorists and hence he shouldn’t be hanged.

Internet is full of such laments. One of the posts a day before Yakub’s execution said, “I mourn the loss of a life today… Tomorrow, on his birthday, Yakub will breathe his last. The blood thirsty public will be quenched until the next Muslim asks for his life to be spared… The truth seems to be that until and unless you are bajrangi, you cannot survive being a bhaijan in this country…”

This particular post has summarized many things. It’s a sort of a good précis of multiple themes, all predictable though, from a particular stable for whom anything bad that happens to India, or has happened in the recent past, is due to the rise in the Hindutva Power, the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Gujarat riots and so on. And in saying so, they would like to benevolently absolve the likes of Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon of their crimes.

Aren’t we mixing too many things? Getting away with capital punishment is one thing and equating that to communalism is altogether different. Few years back the hanging that shook everyone in Calcutta was that of a rapist, Dhananjay, who was a Brahmin. No one even for once had referred to him as a Hindu Brahmin going to the gallows. Why then should Afzal Guru or Yakub Memon be seen as Muslims? Do rapists and murderers have any religion? Mazhab, qaum, these words can’t be applied so simplistically.

Are we saying that Yakub was innocent? Are we saying that the Indian judiciary has made a grave mistake in convicting an innocent? From what little I understand of law, and from what I could make out from the verdict (the full text is available online), there was enough evidence against him about his involvement in the murder of so many people. And by the way, where was it mentioned by the judge that he would be hanged just because he is Tiger’s brother? Did any judge say such a thing? Where from did Mani Shankar and others get this idea? Isn’t that a travesty?

The statement that only a bajrangi can survive as a bhaijan in this country seems to be very clichéd. It says of the apparently pathetic condition of the minorities in India. It’s again like dragging a cow in an essay of dog. It sounds so ironical, given that the real bhaijan is not a bajrangi in India, but Salman Khan, who has allegedly killed all sort of living organisms from deer to humans and is still seen as a bhaijan by millions of Indians. Isn’t that an extraordinary thing that the same Indians, who are being said as blood quenchers of Muslims, have totally ignored the crimes of another Muslim? The same people would quench for the blood of the Nithari killers, had quenched for the blood of Dhananjay Chatterjee (the Calcutta rapist). I don’t think Indians are so stupid as to equate these with religion.

It may be argued that often ‘justice’ depends on religion and caste. Babu Bajrangi and Kodnani are murderers. But they are out on bail. When was the last time a Hindu terrorist was given capital punishment? It may be asked.

If Babu Bajrangi and others are out on bail, so are the murderers of the Kashmiri Pandits in J&K and the Pandits are among the largest displaced communities in the world (discounting the displacement due to the partition of India). The one who was the main force behind the mother of all communal riots in India, The Direct Action Day in Calcutta in 1946, Suhrawardy, was never tried for abetting the biggest communal pogrom in Indian subcontinent and later had a street named after him in Calcutta in independent India. The perpetrators of the anti-Sikh & Godhra riots, Bhopal Gas tragedy and many more were never tried. Scot free are the perpetrators of Tuktuki Mandal and likes in Bengal, with the alleged tacit support of TMC.

Murderers roaming free cut across religions. It’s a fault of our system. Having said that, we can’t take a stand that just because other murderers are free, we should let go some other murderer.

Nathuram Godse was hanged in one of the fastest trials in independent India. The killers of Rajiv Gandhi are also Hindus (or may be converted Christians, I’m not sure) who would be hanged someday. The killers of Indira Gandhi were also not Muslims. So we can’t say that our judiciary is biased against the Muslims in granting death penalties.

Anyone who unleashes terror is a terrorist. So Yakub or Afzal or Murugan or Satwant or Beant Singh are all the same. Others have been hanged or would be hanged. So why not Yakub or Afzal?

Sudipto Das, an IIT alumnus, is an author, musician and columnist. His debut novel The Ekkos Clan published in 2013. Trained in western classical music, he is the founding member of a music band Kohal. During the day, he works as the VP Engineering in a semiconductor firm in Bangalore.

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