Afzal Guru was a Kashmiri. Kashmiris are Indians. His complicity in the attack on Indian Parliament was established, as admitted by Supreme Court, on circumstantial evidence. While admitting that the evidences were only circumstantial, the Court confirmed the death sentence awarded to him. He was hanged on 13th January 2013. This was in direct contravention of a past ruling by the same Court. Almost exactly six years before, on 17th January 2007, a bench of the Supreme court unanimously ruled that “there are authorities for the proposition that if the evidence is proved by circumstantial evidence, ordinarily, death penalty would not be awarded“
Quoting that authority, the Court had earlier commuted the sentences awarded to a man accused of rape of a minor girl and her gruesome murder.
What is pronounced by the Supreme Court is law unless it is turned down by another pronouncement. If there is a pronouncement reversing that ruling, I have not heard of it.
On 16 November 2006, President Pranab Mukherjee returned seven cases of mercy petitions for review. His predecessor, Pratibha Patil, had commuted death sentences of 35 criminals – those who raped and killed five-year olf girls, teenagers, Four of those pardoned had jointly gruesomely massacred an entire family of seventeen. Earlier than that, when mercy petitions were forwarded to President APJ Abdul Kalam, he asked the government why it was that only people from the marginalized sections of the Society faced capital punishment. President APJ Abdul Kalam, Patil’s predecessor, was against capital punishment although prompted by the cabinet, he rejected the mercy petition of Dhanonjay Chatterjee, a security guard who raped and killed a little girl while she was alone in the building. Some of his writings show that he regretted the decision forced on him. Circumstantial evidence points to the possibility that the most popular and non-controversial President who ever occupied the Rashtrapati Bhavan was not given a second term was bolstered by the political necessity to hang the man from Kashmir with nothing but circumstantial evidence produced by an incompetent and corrupt police force
On 16 November 21012, President Pranab Mukherjee, returned for review by the Home Ministy government’s recommendations to reject the mercy petitions of seven accused, including that of Afzal Guru When the recommendations came back without a change, the constitutional law made it necessary for the President to reject the petition. The life and death of men and women hung on the thin thread of legal niceties. Those who raped killed were pardoned; but those who might have taken part in killing by circumstantial evidence were to hang.
None of those who took part in the killings of hundreds in Bombay (other than Yakub Memon) was hanged; Bal Thackeray who exhorted Hindus to kill Muslims was honoured all through his life and death. Those who were responsible for the 1984 genocide of Sikhs roam free. Rioters who caused the death of Muslims and Hindus in 2002 under Mr. Modi’s govenrnent too escaped the noose by a wide margin – though a few including a minister in Modi Government were convicted. The state Chief Minister Mr.Narendra Modi, now the Nation’s Prime Minister said that he entertained no guilty feelings; he would have felt sad even if a puppy were to get killed.
There were loud cries for and against hanging Afzal Guru. Intellelctuals and eminent lawyers were against it. Time reported: “Khurram Pervez, a social activist in Srinagar. “Still he became the hero … [Guru] has lived in [the youth’s] heart as they have themselves witnessed everything. His death has only cemented the belief of hatred and radicalization among Kashmiris.”
Hindu-extremist Bharatiya Janta Party’s spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said:
“Those who are supporting Afzal by demanding that he should not be hanged are not only acting against public
sentiment in the country but are giving a fillip to terrorist morale”
(Times of India, 23 November 2006)
The afternoon before hanging, Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Afzal’s home State, was informed on phone by the then Union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde that the convict would be hanged and that the death warrant had been issued. Abdullah told Shinde that it was a political execution. The Congress government had in mind Hindu votes in the general election that was due next year. It did not help. 74% who voted for Guru’s hanging also wanted more hanging – it is not unlikely that many of them had Yakub Memon in mind. For the better or the worse, Congress ploy didn’t work this time.
On 9th February 2013, Afzal Guru was secretly hanged and buried. At that, he had jumped the line by 28 convicts who were awaiting the noose. There was a big hurry. Hindu versions of Islamic extremists were baying for his blood.
On 6th March 1992, a huge horde of Kar Sevaks (roughly, hand-volunteers) mounted the dome of an ancient and little used but already controversial mosque, Babar Masjid, with axes, pick-axes and other implements and weapons and brought it down. The act was encouraged by the speeches of LK Advani, a leader and permanent Prime-Minister-in-Waiting, senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi, Chief Minister of the State Kalyan Singh, former Rani of Gwalior Vijay Raje Scindia, firebrand-in-saffron-clothes Uma Bharati, and Sadhvi ( meaning Saint) Ritambara. Perhaps speeches and a chariot-expedition (Rath-Yathra) by Advani across the Country gave the maximum fillip to the dangerous act.
What followed was spontaneous riots all across the Country (not to mention Bangladesh, where thousands of Hindus were killed, mutilated and burnt – which inspired Taslima Nasreen’s poignant novel Lajja (Shame). In Bombay, where Muslims have a sizeable number, a leaderless mayhem of riot and arson started, which resulted in a well-organized retribution launched by Bal Thackeray, already feared in the state of Maharashtra for his gangster-like ways supposedly designed to protect Maharashtrian interests. Nearly six hundred Muslims, and half that many Hindus lost their lives – often in the most heinous conditions. A Commission instituted by the government and headed by former Supreme Court Justice Srikrishna squarely blamed Bal Thackeray, his Shiv Sena and other Hindu zealots. When the line of findings of the Commission became obvious In 1996, the Shiv Sena Chief Minister disbanded the Commission, but at the instance of the Prime Minister AB Vajpayee (a noble statesman among the communal zealots) was resumed. The report that was finally placed on the table of the Assembly never saw the light of the day.
The worst-known Muslim counterpoise to Thackeray’s Shiv Sena was the D-Company, headed by Dawood Ibrahim, a former policeman. Dawood was perhaps a few steps ahead of Thackeray in extortion and murder and other rackets. It is quite probable that he sponsored the Tiger Memon gang (real name Ibrahim Mushtaq Abdul Razak Nadim Memon) team with quite a few Muslim men to execute a massive retaliation. Inevitably, Tiger Memon’s family got involved. Chhota Rajan, a minor Hindu partner in crime with Dawood, separated from the “Company” and was later hounded by the Company. Incidentally, Dawood’s trusted finance manager was a Hindu named Sharad Shetty, whom Rajan killed after escaping a murder bid by Dawood gang.
The coordinated bombing of Bombay by Tiger Memon’s gang was of a scale that no SIS or Pakistani militants trained by ISI or Boko Haram could replicate. (Click to watch the video if you have the stomach). Tons of RDX and weapons like AK56, grenades and ammunitions were landed in Raigad on the West Coast and transported by road to Bombay,some 112 kilometres away. Five policemen (All Hindus) and at least three customs officers (one a Hindu) facilitated the landing of the move by closing their eyes – in return for 780,000 rupees each. So much for love of one’s own Country. Those were the ones that figure among the 100 convicted. They were as much accomplices – even worse donsidering their job – as Yakub Memon, but got away with a few years in prison.
Two days before the actual blast, a man named Gul Noor Muhammad Sheikh (‘Gullu’) “sang like a canary” to the police of what was going to happen. He was earlier apprehended by the police while he landed in Dubai allegedly after training in Pakistan. Gullu squealed about the impending bedlam – probably naming those involved, and the nature of the operations on the anvil. Police chose to ignore the tip – those who did, which included then Defence Minister Sharad Pawar, were never questioned.
D-Company (or whoever) did not ignore the squeal. It advanced the date of the bombing from April to a couple of days after the revelation – on March 12, 1993. Ten underlings were entrusted with the task of placing bombs in 13 strategic places – Five Star hotels, crowded bazaars, Stock Exchange, Passport office and a bank. Grenades were thrown at a Fishermen’s colony, International Airport and a bus. The bus attack alone resulted in the death of 90 people. The total pogrom that lasted two hours and ten minutes; 257 persons including women and children lay dead; several hundreds were injured.
The impending operation was so well known that film actor Sanjay Dutt, a former drug addict and son of the famous (and noble) film celebrities Sunil Dutt and Nargis, ordered and procured at least two AK-56 rifles, RDX, grenades, revolver and ammunition. When things got hot, Dutt got his underlings to destroy them who obediently did and were caught as well. 129 people were accused and a 100 were convicted for the attack.
Dawood Ibrahim and his lieutenants in crime escaped abroad – presumably to Pakistan en route Dubai – before the operation. (Watch Yakub’s confession in the interview). At a later date Dawood Ibrahim made public statements that he was a patriot, that though guilty of other gang crimes, he did not organize planting of the bombs. He phoned senior advocate Ram Jethmalani that he was willing to surrender provided he would not be tortured and that he would be retained under house arrest and not housed in a jail. Jethmalani conveyed this to the authorities – including Sharad Pawar. The response was that it was too early; conditional surrender could not be accepted. Jethmalani was not asked to negotiate the conditions. Thus a golden opportunity to get at the root of the operation and to put an end to the menace of operations by D-Company (which goes on till date) was conveniently,(and quite profitably for many) lost.
Jethalani made it clear that ‘they’ do not wish to bring Dawood to India. Why don’t they demand his extraditions proceedings, he asked. His interview with the ABP News was an indictment on the government of the day.(Click the image for full interview)
Why was the Don’s offer of surrender not accepted? He held too many secrets. Too many politicians, bureaucrats and police officers apart from film personalities were on his pay roll. At least two upcoming actresses died by suicide or murder; two live in voluntary anonymity. . Dawood continues to finance Hindi films at exorbitant rates of interest, arranges extrortion and decides which builder would buy building materials from whom. When Dawood’s daughter married Junaid, son of Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad, many Indian celebrities, journalists and politicians were invited but perhaps only sent them good wishes. FBI and Interpol attended uninvited presumably in disguise.
India accepted the conditional extradition of one of the gangsters, Abu Salim. The conditions were that he would not be tortured nor face capital punishment. He was convicted for his direct involvement in Bombay blasts and several other murder cases – but escaped the noose. He lives in relative comfort in Arthur Jail and had married a woman – who claimed to be his ardent fan – while in jail.
18 months after the blast, Yakub Memon returned to India. His story, later corroborated by B. Raman, then of the Indian intelligence organization R&AW, is that at Kathmandu in Nepal he was assured of a fair deal and was coerced to surrender. When he landed at Delhi,with his family he was arrested by the police who took credit which, every court knows, is their wont. Yakub claimed in an earlier interview with Madhu Trehan that he had no contact with his older brother Tiger Memon; he could possibly not have spoken to him for more than a hour at a stretch in his (adult) life.What is more important, Yakub made startling disclosures about Pakistan’s direct complicity in the crime that resulted in the death of 257 innocents.
The interview is interesting.
Yakub is said to have confessed to participating in the blasts to a police officer, which he later retracted on the ground that it was made under torture. The Supreme Court in its long judgment commented adversely on confessions to police, quoting the eminent former judge,VR Krishna Iyer. Krishna Iyer in an article published after his retirement termed POTO (Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance) under which Yakub was convicted as State Terrorism that would lend legitimacy to (private) terrorism.
However fair the jurisprudence of a court might be, a government can thwart the moral nature of a judgment, which is what happened in the case of Yakub Memon. After deliberating for a few hours in an apparent display of extreme fairness in the wee hours of the morning of 30th September, the Court ruled that there was no reason why Yakub should be given further fourteen days for preparing for his hanging. So by design or coincidence, the man was killed by the State on his fifty-third birthday. He had, certainly by design, superceded some three hundred fifty persons on the death row in the Country. His hanging was done three days after the death of APJ Abdul Kalam, the former scientist-philosopher-teacher-President who had appealed to the Law Commission to abolish death penalty on the ground that “Man can’t take away life given by God”. Ironically, a few Hindu godmen bayed for Yakub’s hanging and smacked their lips with glee when the deed was carried out.
Yakub was pushed ahead of a queue of some 350 convicts who were awaiting the noose. Two of the convicts who were due to be hanged were spared the noose because they had served more than 20 years. Surinder Kohli, who raped forty children or more (figure given out by Nithari villagers) was not hanged because the President did not reject his appeal within 3 years. Moninder Singh Pandher, the man who made Kohli procure those children for his first use is still walking free because FBI could not find any evidence against him. My driver from Nithari believes that FBI would burn in God’s crucible. He believes, like his fellow villagers, that Rupees twenty-eight crore exchanged hands before FBI suddenly came to that finding.
Hindu reported : “Retired Justice Amir Das, who inquired into the massacre of 58 Dalits in Lakshmanpur Bathe village in Jehanabad in 1997, has stated on record that BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi and C.P. Thakur, were responsible for instigating members of the Ranvir Sena, an armed private militia of landowning upper caste men, to commit the murders”. The entire lot of murderers were aquitted; the instigators continued as top leaders of the current ruling party, BJP.
Referring to the appeal of over three hundred intellectuals to the President not to hang Yakub, Sakshi Maharaj, a ‘Sadhu’ (divine person) in saffron clothes said : “Those who oppose Yakub Memon should go to Pakistan“.
If anybody suspected that Yakub’s hanging had something to do with religious bias, that was nailed with that pronouncement.
Sakshi Maharaj (His name means Witness -Cook. Sakshi means witness; Maharaj is an honorific accorded to Brahmin cooks) is now a member of Parliament in Mr. Modi’s party. This is what the renowned Indian Express had to say about him:
“Along the way, Sakshi Maharaj has had several criminal cases lodged against him. He is an accused in Babri Masjid demolition case and named in the murder of Sujata Verma, a BJP leader, in 2013 at Etah along with his brother and two nephews. He was in Tihar Jail on rape charges but later acquitted. In 1997, his name had figured in the murder of BJP MLA Brahmdutt Dwivedi, who too hailed from Farrukhabad“.
So you know who hangs, and who doesn’t. Afzal Guru’s hanging alienated Kashmiris even further than before – their gradual alienation has been the result of unimaginative policies starting from 1962; this one topped the list in bitterness.. Guru’s family’s got the information two days too late; they were not even allowed to see his body which was buried in secret.
Yakub’s family can at console themselves that they were told of the impending hanging, and were allowed to bury the body beside his father’s grave.