All That Remains for Us to Consider in the Wake of the Death of Yakub Memon

Yakub Menon was murdered yesterday morning. Apparently it was his birthday. When his brother Suleman and his cousin Usman met him on Wednesday afternoon his words to them, as reported in today’s Indian Express, were – “Agar woh mujhey mere bhai ke gunahon ke liye sazaa de rahe hain, toh mujhe kabool hai. Par agar unko lagta hai ki mein gunehgaar hoon aur sazaa de rahe hain, toh yeh galat hai. Main bekasoor hoon.” (If they are punishing me for the sins of my brother, then I accept this verdict. But if they are punishing me because they think I am guilty, then it is wrong. I am innocent.)

Just because someone issued a stamped and signed order, or because someone weighed Yakub Memon precisely, or because others had prepared a sandbag to test his weight against a rope that was especially prepared and oiled for the occasion, or because he had been examined by a doctor to ascertain his health, does not mean that the event presented as his execution in the newspapers over the last couple of days was not a pre-meditated murder.

What is a murder?

A murder is a deliberate act that takes away the life of a human being without any due or justifiable cause. Yakub Menon, the man who was hanged yesterday in Nagpur Central prison, did not, under any stretch of imagination of what constitutes justice, deserve to be so killed. Not even under the colonial statues that currently provide for Capital Punishment in Indian law, in which I do not have an iota of faith or confidence. Not just because they are liable to be misused. not just because they are used disproportionately against the poor, against minorities and the defenseless. Not just because the death penalty has never acted as a deterrent against violent crime, but also because I, like many other people, believe that the state should not be given the right to take away the life of those under its power.

But even under this flawed, bad, stupid law, the evidence against Yakub Memon, as presented by the CBI (the prosecuting and investigating agency in this case) in court, did not qualify for what is called ‘the rarest of the rare’ offense that merits its application. The prosecution evidence, amounted, at most, to demonstrating violations of the provisions of the Arms Act by Yakub Memon. That, as pointed out by the journalist Maseeh Rahman, is the kind of offense for which Sanjay Dutt is, and deserves to remain in prison for the remaining term of his sentence. It cannot under any circumstance, be seen to be ,justifying the proclamation of a death penalty.

It needs to be stated, once again, that Yakub Memon sought to hand himself over to agencies of the Indian state with the conviction that in doing so he would be aiding the cause of justice. He did not do so in order to save himself, or some of his family members, as is being put out by some, because nether he, nor any other member of his family was in any danger at all, at least while he (and they) remained in Pakistan. The fact that his brother is apparently safe and sound in Pakistan till this day shows that Yakub too, would have been secure, and alive, had he chosen to adopt the course that his brother, Tiger Memon, had elected for himself, and advised Yakub to follow.

I recently heard several people say in a television channel (on NDTV during a programme anchored by the high priestess of the ‘middle ground’ – Ms. Barkha Dutt) say that he came from Pakistan, and made himself available to the Indian authorities, because he and some of his family members were in ‘discomfort’ in Karachi. What was this discomfort? They had a mansion, they had carte blanche from their ISI handlers to live as they saw fit. They even had access to finances and capital for starting up new lives and businesses. They were also sufficiently at large and at liberty to consider leaving Pakistan for Dubai, and to think of retuning to India, on Pakistani passports, with Indian visas. Neither their lives, nor their mobility can be seen to have been restricted in any way by their handlers. Was it mere ‘nostalgia’ for Bombay that made them take the supreme risk of exposing themselves to the vengeance of their Pakistani handlers? Does the city of Bombay or Mumbai or any city in india, or the world, deserve such generous doses of suicidal nostalgia? Do sane and rational people willingly endanger themselves and betray their own brother for the sake of Bhel Puri, traffic jams and the pleasures of Juhu Beach?

What the television commentators gloating over Yakub Memon’s execution are willing to overlook is the fact that the only rational explanation for the ‘discomfort’ that Yakub Memon and his family experienced can have to do with their remorse. We need to also remember that Yakub Memon began his co-operation with Indian agencies even while he was in Pakistan. His gathering of valuable evidence, (including photographic and video evidence) can only have stemmed from the confidence that this risky undertaking would go a long way in substantiating his claim that he and some of his other family members were innocent and did not bear any direct responsibility for the Bombay bombings. He was willing to act against his own brother in order to establish his innocence.

Am I making this up, or did Yakub Memon ever speak about his (and his family’s) motives for returning and handing themselves over to Indian law enforcement authorities ?

Even as recently as yesterday, a PTI report published here, for instance, in the Deccan Herald newspaper states that “Yakub had claimed he came back to surrender as he felt tortured by remorse.”

A Times of India report, also published after his hanging yesterday, reminds us of Yakub Memon’s outburst in court on September 12, 2006.

Here is a relevant quotation.

“Yakub Memon, who was hanged on Thursday for his role in 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts, had reacted with an angry outburst saying “innocent people are being called terrorists” when a TADA court here had pronounced him guilty on September 12, 2006.

After hearing the verdict, he had said, “We do not want to engage lawyers to argue on quantum of sentence…13 years have passed and innocent people are being called terrorists.”

“We have already been branded as terrorists and shall face the consequences,” said Yakub, the younger brother of absconding accused Tiger Memon, when he was convicted along with his brothers Essa and Yusuf by designated Judge P D Kode.

In another incident prior to the judgement, Yakub had lost his cool one day and ran menacingly before the then TADA Judge J N Patel saying: “Tiger was right in telling me that I should not go to India with family as we would be hounded.”

[ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Yakub-Memon-on-conviction-Innocents-are-being-called-terrorists/articleshow/48278304.cms ]

How can the same man claim to be innocent of the bombings and claim remorse at the same time ? Who feels remorse for what they believe they have not done? In other words, what was Yakub Memon feeling remorse for? Clearly it was remorse, not for the bombings themselves, but for not doing anything to report what he had come to know about the identity of those behind them, which in this case included his own brother, Tiger Memon. The manner of Yakub Memon’s return clearly indicates that he was disturbed by the consequences of not doing the right things – that is – not reporting what he knew about the crime and those who had committed it. We cannot avoid considering the possibility that Yakub Memon thought that silence in the wake of knowledge of who exactly perpetrated those atrocities amounted to a kind of complicity. The ‘torture of remorse’ that Yakub Memon said he experienced clearly has a relationship to the difficulty of living with this specific kind of complicity. This is the complicity that renders culpable anyone who lives passively, in silence, with the knowledge of wrongdoing that they do not seek to address by an act of naming the culprit. In civics lessons in school, we are taught that this is good and upright citizenship. It is also the opposite of the time honoured principle of Indian politics, called ‘Bhai-Bhatijavad, the doctrine of shielding your brother, father, son, nephew, no matter what horror they may have perpetrated on to others. Yakub Menon may have taken the lessons of civics, as taught in our schools, too seriously, even as had neglected to pay attention to the lessons of politics, as taught in our streets, cabinets and legislatures.

Yakub and his relatives (other than Tiger and Ayub) had probably wanted to make a clean breast of things, in order to clear their own names, and perhaps to atone, and grieve, in their own way, for those who had died or been injured because of the bombings. Yakub Memon was probably a man who wanted to live for the rest of his days, and eventually die, with a modicum of honor and dignity intact. That is why he was willing to risk the wrath of his Pakistani custodians by gathering valuable evidence about their role in the bombings and also betray his own brother. He was willing to place the demands of his conscience over and above the ties of blood and the constraints of convenience.

Contrary to what has been screamed by some panelists from every Television studio, to hang Yakub Memon, is precisely NOT to do justice to the survivors and relatives of those who died in the Bombay Bombings. It is to insult the memories of those who died, because by hanging Yakub Memon, the Indian state admits firstly, to its incompetence in terms of bringing to book those who were actually responsible for this atrocity, and at the same time, secondly, it punishes the one person who went out of his way to actually aid the course of justice in this case. To punish the wrong man is not to do justice, but to magnify the quantum of injustice many times over. The survivors and victims of the Bombay bombings have been cheated, not recompensed, by yesterday’s hanging.

It is irrelevant now to ask which Indian agency, or individual official, gave Yakub Memon which guarantees or offered what kind of quid pro quo. Those who knew about these things, such as the late B. Raman (who was in charge of those who handled him for R&AW while he was in Pakistan) have had their (belated) say.

The CBI may now turn around and say that they never gave him any assurances, and they may well not have, because the job of giving assurances to people such as Yakub Memon was not theirs, but of other agencies, which are more accustomed to doing such things, because they operate in clandestine and secretive conditions. All this is actually besides the point now.

[ Yes, even B. Raman said that Yakub Memon had his share of guilt, as pointed out on NDTV by Madhu Trehan, but he also clearly implies that his actions subsequent to his return to India should be seen as reasons for setting aside the death penalty.

Judicial convention on the matter of awarding capital punishment ought to consider whether or not the defendant feels remorse, and whether or not the defendant has acted on the basis of that feeling to aid the course of justice. This is the corollary of the principle that determines the gravity of punishment in proportion to the degree of remorselessness and pre-meditation on the part of the accused and his motives for a crime.

H.S. Bedi, a retired judge of the Supreme Court must have been motivated by precisely these considerations (in the wake of B.Raman’s posthumous revelations ) while expressing his considered opinion that Yakub Memon did not deserve death. Additionally, Justice Joseph Kurien has raised significant points about due process while questioning the undue haste in awarding the death penalty even though all available judicial remedies in this case were yet to be exhausted. The fact that a three judge bench of the Supreme Court did not give these opinions or the petition presented by a number of eminent citizens their due weight is deeply unfortunate, and does not bode well for the future course of justice under the auspices of the Supreme Court as it is currently constituted. ]

What remains for us to consider is that the the Indian state apparatus (and lest we forget, the apparatus of a state includes its judiciary) has just awarded death to a man, who, to all intents and purposes, acted in a manner motivated by his horror and disgust for wanton terrorism.

What remains for us to consider is that not a single person has been punished in a befitting manner for the violence that shook Bombay in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, which took many more lives than the bombings that the Memons are accused of having a hand in. And the responsibility for this lies equally with successive Congress as well as BJP-Shiv Sena governments in Maharashtra. The Sudhakarrao Naik led Congress government that was in power in Maharashtra at the time of the Bombay riots of December 1992-January 1993 (or any subsequent Congress or Congress-NCP government) was as diligent in prosecuting those guilty then as the BJP led government has been with regard to punishing those guilty for the Gujarat killings of 2002.

What remains for us to consider is that the CBI is not yet able to muster any meaningful prosecutory response to the demolition of the Babri Masjid – (the act that unleashed the spiral of violence that included the Bombay killings of 92 and the Bombay bombings of 93) – a case it has been investigating for more than two decades now.

What remains for us to consider is that the NIA, under the present regime, has now reportedly started to go ‘soft’ on the prosecution of ‘Hindu’ terror groups. What remains for us to consider is that those responsible for the carnage of 1984 in Delhi are still at liberty.

What remains to be considered is that a Bal Thackeray can spend decades giving speeches and writing editorials that hold out naked threats of violence, and have murders and rioting occur in the wake of these threats, and still be given a state funeral, and that a Yakub Memon can hang after risking his life and reputation to implicate his own brother because of the violence that may have sickened him.

What remains for us to consider is that in this country, one man’s bloodlust earns him a gun salute, and another man’s remorse earns him the gallows. The caprice that marks this distinction has less to do with the gravity of the offense than it has to do with the identity of the accused. Get bail if you are Maya Kodnani or Amit Shah, hang if you are Afzal Guru or Yakub Memon. The equation is transparently simple.

What remains for us to consider is that the appeal to stay the execution was turned down with a reference to the  Manusmriti , which I suppose, will be looked up to for inspiring guidance the next time a matter related to a caste atrocity comes up for hearing.

What remains for us to consider is that that elusive thing called justice has now been shown up to be a sham in India, and that from now onwards, no one who is sane will have any reason to consider co-operating with any covert or overt organs of the state in this country if they want to see justice done, especially in the wake of what are called terrorist atrocities.

What remains for us to consider is that the manner of Yakub Memon’s death will not be a deterrent, but rather act an incentive to those who want to persuade young Muslim men that terrorism is the only option available to them as far as obtaining ‘justice’ in this country is concerned.

Someday in a future that now seems remote, some of the men who gloated over the gallows this morning may yet face judgement. Today, they will go about their business, saying “justice has been done”. Some day in the future they may be bleating for mercy, and if we can, I hope that as a society, we will be in a place where we shall find it possible in ourselves to grant them the mercy that is their due, (as much as it is for every person) in place of the forgiveness that they do not, and will not ever deserve. Mercy is not the same thing as forgiveness.

Some of them are murderers, almost all of them are accessories and accomplices to murder. The accessories to murder sit in high office, or, they are the chorus around those who do so. They are courtiers, politicians, journalists, judges, men and women of substance and standing. They appear on television, they waste our time. They shouted themselves hoarse because they wanted to be aroused by the spectacle of Afzal Guru’s death, and they have shouted themselves hoarse again, in the run up to the murder of yesterday morning, Time and again, when it comes to the crunch, some of them even say, “We don’t necessarily believe in capital punishment, but this time, this man must hang”. Their arguments for life are always abstract, but their passion for judicially mandated murder are always and unfailingly, tellingly concrete.

Was it their chieftain who issued the orders that killed a drugged woman on a highway ? And on another occasion was it this same man who is said to have smirked on the phone when a mob was threatening to kill Ahsan Jafri who was still talking to him. That mob killed Ahsan Jafri. They cut him down in front of his family.

Unlike Yakub Memon, the man at the other end of that telephone line has never given himself an occasion or an opportunity to consider remorse. We all know who he is. He worried instead about the fate of puppies who come under the wheels of automobiles on their inexorable drive along history’s highways. He was exonerated, or so they say, by the highest authorities, and now he talks to us every sunday on the radio. He wears bespoke suits, he is dapper, he is loquacious when he wants to be, and he is silent when he needs things to quieten down. He wants to clean things up, he says. Does his obsession for cleanliness have something to do with the fact that he knows that we can smell the stench of the morgue he presides over ?

When his time comes, (remember, it came for Pinochet) if it comes, if cold cases turn warm because time has cooked them, some of us will still draft the petitions that will need to be drafted, to spare even him and his cronies a tryst with the hangman. (Hoepfully, by then India will have said goodbye to Capital Punishment, sparing us the responsibility of asking for mercy for a man who only disgusts us.) But we will ask for mercy, if we have to, not because we believe that he and his cronies are innocent, but because we do not wish to have the blood of even murderers on our hands. We will say, ‘Let those who rejoiced when undeserving men went to the gallows, be spared the fate of those who hung. Let them live, and consider the gravity of their crimes, till their hearts give way, or their brains turn to mush, or their livers collapse under the weight of their misdemeanors.”

In asking for mercy, we will not ask be pleading for pardon. We will simply ask that these violent and unscrupulous men to be allowed to live out the remainder of their evil in solitude. That, we believe, will be their greatest punishment. To live and remember Yakub Memon, Afzal Guru, Ishrat Jahan and all those who died in vain, in the course of the realization of judicial sentences and extra-judicial assassinations, for no reason other than to assuage the bloodlust that some judges are getting monotonously accustomed to calling the ‘collective conscience’ of this land.

The fabric of that fabled ‘conscience’ has now worn way too thin from repetitive and systematic acts of semantic abuse. The hanging judges no longer give any attention to the meaning of the words they utter, nor does the current President, the last port of appeal, consider the meaning of his silence when faced with the call for clemency. They, the highest echelons of the judicial and the executive powers in India, are both prisoners and jailers of this fiction that they call the collective conscience.

Perhaps it is time for us to request another reprieve, to demand that at least this collective, the citizenry of this unfortunate and bloodthirsty state, be given a break from the charade of this thing called its conscience. That may be the only thing that will redeem us of the blood of Yakub Memon, which, as of yesterday morning, now stains us all.

24 thoughts on “All That Remains for Us to Consider in the Wake of the Death of Yakub Memon

  1. kaif

    Excellent write-up. Very moving. The moral questions you illuminate are, I believe, the most significant part of this debate which seems to drown too often in technical details of adjudication and investigation. I also totally agree about the media’s ‘high priestess(es) (and priests) of the middle ground’ who make the debate superficial by forgetting to ask the fundamental questions you raise.

    But I am afraid here we are talking among ourselves, the converted. A very large number of people in the real world and on the social media are not interested in debating with us. I have tried to discuss the matter with them often but one only gets back a lack of interest in a genuine debate, and hysterical, paranoid statements. That is the problem with the right-wing – you cannot hope to engage with it and show it the value of your perspective.

    I also wonder how you see the large crowds of people who attended Yakub Memon’s funeral. I empathise with their sense of victimisation but also find it hard to entirely be comfortable with a certain ghetto mentality that this seems to reveal.

    1. Dear Kaif, thank you for your thoughtful comments. Yes, I think we all need to ask more fundamental questions, and to keep asking them. And I am not pessimistic about the outcome of our persistence. I have been writing about some of these issues since as long ago as 2001, in the wake of what used to be called ‘The Parliament Attack’ Case, when I first started thinking about the simplistic way in which these issues were presented in the media. At first it felt a bit strange to be one of very few voices. But over time, I have seen many people begin talking about these questions with an increasing degree of sanity. And while I am not at all interested in converting anyone, leave alone our right wing zealots, I am interested in broadening the terms of conversation along these issues, and I feel that this happens through constant effort, that many of us make. I am interested in reaching out to the skepticism that is quite natural, even amongst people who do not think of themselves as radical in any way. I think the numbers of such people is growing, and that is a reason of hope for me. Earlier, there were hardly any voices that spoke out in favour of the abolition of the dealth penalty, now many do. So much so that even those who speak in favour of this or that hanging have to preface their statements often by a ritual “In principle I am opposed to the death penalty”. I see this as a sign of progress. We need to keep opening out this space in public conversations.

      I did see the reports of the large crowds that attended Yakub Memon’s funeral. What I appreciate is the dignity and restraint with which this crowd behaved. It is a real contrast to the obscene jubilation and triumphalism that is often a hallmark of the aftermath of executions (when people – who support the hanging, make a public spectacle of themselves). Yes, I can see what you mean by ‘ghettoisation’, and it comes with the attendent dangers of a sullenness (which if it is not engaged with) that can only make for greater alienation, particularly amongst young men who feel picked out and humiliated. I think that the ruling dispensation actually wants that. And that is why, we must all, regardless of our public and private identities, break all attempts at silencing conversation by talking about these matters with as much sanity and passion as we can muster. Thank you, again, for your response.

  2. anasuasen

    Absolute nonsense and trash!!! — He is equally guilty –he did facilitate the blast — try to write such bullshit when your your child,mother or someone close is killed in the blast

  3. A very fine article. If Yakub is a murderer then we should also examine the role of indian judiciary. Because if someone is killing millions and millions are killing a single is same truth. Merely i found capital punishment is only about manifestation of a paralyed state and structure.

  4. Curried Ribs and Worried Libs

    We knew we must grieve, but now you have told us shown us how. This was complex and beautifully considered:

    “We cannot avoid considering the possibility that Yakub Memon thought that silence in the wake of knowledge of who exactly perpetrated those atrocities amounted to a kind of complicity. The ‘torture of remorse’ that Yakub Memon said he experienced clearly has a relationship to the difficulty of living with this specific kind of complicity. This is the complicity that renders culpable anyone who lives passively, in silence, with the knowledge of wrongdoing that they do not seek to address by an act of naming the culprit. In civics lessons in school, we are taught that this is good and upright citizenship. It is also the opposite of the time honoured principle of Indian politics, called ‘Bhai-Bhatijavad, the doctrine of shielding your brother, father, son, nephew, no matter what horror they may have perpetrated on to others. Yakub Menon may have taken the lessons of civics, as taught in our schools, too seriously, even as had neglected to pay attention to the lessons of politics, as taught in our streets, cabinets and legislatures.”

    But also the rest. May we always be merciful, but never forget.

  5. Somnath

    Contrary to what is sought to be purported, B Raman did not say that RAW entered into a quasi plea bargain with Yakub Memon. All he said was that in his opinion, whatever Yakub did post being arrested qualified him for clemency. That is one opinion, an important one at that, but as good or bad as opinions of numerous other people involved in the investigation.

    Most tellingly, Memon or his lawyers too did not bring out any such angle during the multi decade long trial process. They in fact pleaded complete innocence! It seems that while Caesar wasn’t claiming, post facto wives are claiming shades of grey!

    The facile comparison with the perpetrators of Mumbai riots too are somewhat strange. Yes, perpetrators of the Mumbai riots haven’t been brought to book. Ditto for those of 1984, and the perpetrators of the pandit exodus from Kashmir in 1980! Just as Bal Thakrey spent the rest of his life as a free man, so is Tytler, Yasin Malik has spent the last 25 years being feted as some sort of Kashmiri Gandhi! If anything, the Indian state is rather secular with its double standards on riots and rioters.

    Conflating communal riots with terrorism is an old bugbear. But that doesn’t make Yakub Memon innocent.

  6. Nitin

    Do you have access to all the facts when you make a claim Yakub Memon felt “remorse”. Sure he might have felt something. But how do you know with such surety that it was “remorse”? Did Yakub say he felt remorse? Did someone match what he felt with the precise evidence of emotion you attribute as the fundamental causal motive why he came to India? I am not sure whether Yakub Memon felt remorse and therefore he came to India. It’s also not clear what were the precise causes which made him decide, “Okay, let’s go to India”.

    Aren’t all state formations based on Thanatos or some sort of bloodlust. I find your singling out of the Indian state amusing. Can you point out one state in history which is not based on bloodlust?

    Then there is the troubling issue of state apparatus. The Indian constitution clearly points out only the executive, all institutions controlled by the executive, the parliament, provincial legislative assemblies and all local bodies form the part of the state. All branches of judiciary are outside the state.

    You claim judiciary is also part of the state apparatus. On what grounds do you make this claim?

    If you want to stick by your contention that Indian state has a bloodlust and judiciary is also party of the state then would you go after judiciary in the same manner in the case involving six citizens charged of carrying out the Akshardham case?

    Remember it is the same Indian judiciary which, on the very day when the present executive was sworn, held, in a case involving six persons accused of 2002 Akshardham temple attack, that, “the present case does not show that the sanctioning authority had applied its mind to the satisfaction as to whether the present case required granting of sanction. The prosecution had failed to prove that the sanction was granted by the government either on the basis of an informed decision or on the basis of an independent analysis of fact on consultation with the Investigating Officer. This would go to show clear non-application of mind by the Home Minister in granting sanction.”

    Which judicial system, and in your view, complicit with the state, and part of the state apparatus would dare to label the executive as someone who may not apply his mind in discharge of his duty?

    and lastly the most disturbing feature of your write-up. The reason why I write “most-disturbing” is because of the following facts.

    Modi, the dapper, suit wearing,sometimes loquacious, sometimes silent, the man on the other end of the phone-line choose, Dr. Mahesh Sharma, as the man to represent Indian culture.

    Dr. Mahesh Sharma believes with all his heart that “Lord Rama is the “soul of the nation” ( http://www.firstpost.com/politics/rama-soul-country-mahesh-sharma-1847443.html ). Not so long ago, Dr. Mahesh Sharma’s secretary was, Ravindra Singh, who you invited as a guest of honour, for an art exhibition, that you had created and had shown in a Government of India, Ministry of Culture held institution called the National Gallery of Modern Art just last December.

    What I do not understand is why would a man of your beliefs, someone who believe with all his heart and soul that the Indian state is blood-thursty, incompetent and unfortunate, and have argued time and again for the dissolution of all forms of state, have shown visceral hatred towards Hindu nationalist ideology would not only use all state institutions, state privilege but also invite as guest of honour important functionaries of the state especially who do not publicly dis-associate with the views of their political masters.

    Have you paused and considered for a moment that you appear not as a person whose heart is at the right place but as a deeply cynical being.

    Someone who in one professional capacity as an artist/entrepreneur would respectfully bow, and happily smile in front of Hindutva ideologues and their state flunkies but in another professional capacity, on some other occasion, decry the same state with all rhetorical flourish reminiscent of inter-collegial debates.

    I am really sorry sir but I find it very hard you agree with your beliefs, base my trust and judgement on someone as compromised and as much part of the state, state apparatus and establishment as you are.

    1. Dear Nitin Jain, thank you for your considered comments. Here is a quick set of responses.

      1. You ask – how I know Yakub Memon felt “remorse”. I rely on the information put out in a PTI report carried by major newspapers that said he did. I have linked to this article in my post. That is as good, or not, as anyone using any quote from any newspaper or media channel to say that he did not feel remorse. However, I have not seen a statement attributed to him saying that he did not feel remorse.

      2. I have never said that other states are not based on some kind of originary violence that is sought to be legitimized through much myth making. I am not making an exception for India. Anyone who reads what I write, either here, or in short posts on Facebook will know that I have no ‘favourites’ as far as the nation-state’s rampage across the world goes. The history of the nation state form, regardless of where it manifests itself, is, I believe, drenched in violence. It is the very latest from of systematic repression in class society, which is a small fraction of the history of the human species. I still retain the hope that in our long journey to the future, we will transcend, both this form (the nation-state), Capitalism, and class society itself.

      3.On what grounds do I make the claim that the judiciary is the part of the state apparatus. On a fairly commonsense grounds of how the state has come to be seen in Critical Theory – here for example is the entry for the ‘Repressive State Apparatus’ in the Oxford Dictionary of Critical Theory – “French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser’s concept for what is known in contemporary political discourse as ‘hard power’, i.e. a form of power that operates by means of violence. It is usually accompanied by what Althusser termed the Ideological State Apparatus, which is a ‘soft power’ concept. The Repressive State Apparatus consists of the army, the police, the judiciary, and the prison system. It operates primarily by means of mental and physical coercion and violence (latent and actual).”

      4. I have made no implicit or explicit reference to the gentleman you invoke – ‘the minister of culture’. Indeed, I am a part of an artist collective that did exhibit at the National Gallery of Modern Art this year, and yes, the secretary of the department of culture, Mr. Ravinder Singh, was one of the principal invitees, along with others, such as Mr. Okwui Enwezor, director of the Haus Der Kunst, Munich, and Artistic Director of the ongoing Venice Biennale. Invitations such as these are issued, not by the exhibiting artists, but by the director of the National Gallery of Modern Art. I feel that it is perfectly reasonable for a professional civil servant, who is not a political appointee, and whose term of office has no relationship with the term of office of a minister, be a guest at the opening of an exhibition at an institution such as the NGMA. The NGMA is a public institution, run on tax payer’s money, it has a history prior to even the formation of a ‘ministry of culture’ in this country, and it is not, and should not be seen as, the fief of this or that minister, or this or that government. As a tax payer, which I am, and which I hope you are, I would like to see public institutions in the field of culture and the arts, represent a variety of different practices, styles, opinions. I see our exhibition in this public institution, in the same light in which i see our practice, or me personally, being called upon to lecture in a public university, say Jawaharlal Nehru University, DelhiUniversity, or Jadavpur University. That is what universities, museums and public institutions in the field of education, culture and the arts are supposed to do. If they did not call upon a variety of opinions, practices and modes of presentation they would be failing their mandates, and actually, failing us, the tax payers who are paying for them. A diverse culture, with room for dissent is something we should see as a right, not a priviledge. I hope that if you are an artist, or a scientist, or have artist or scientist friends, and if your/ their work is good enought, regardless of whether you are a nationalist or not, the public, myself included, will have the benefit of viewing, reading, thinking about what you, or anyone else for that matter thinks about and produces.

      That said, I must add, that there was nothing in the terms of the exhibition, or in the way that the director or staff of the said public institution engaged with us, that in any way made us feel that we would have to be ‘careful’ about the content of our work as artists. Had that been the case, we would never have agreed to show our work. As of now, the NGMA is a democratic, open, public space, as every museum, university, art gallery, library and laboratory, should be. I hope it remains that way. For the health of an open and democratic cultural and intellectual life, we must all ensure that public institutions, which are being threatened everywhere, do not succumb to political pressures, and remain open to all voices, regardless of whether they are affirmative, or critical, of the status quo.

  7. I heard an argument that “Judiciary applies a set of laws to the set of facts placed in front of it to reach a verdict.” Making it sound like an objective process. If that objective process in 23 years is incapable to read this larger story, the one that you just told us, it least qualifies to be the custodian of such a complex society which gloats every second about its diversity.

    I am no lawyer, no judicial expert, not even a hater of the guy in bespoke suits. I am but a sincere citizen who was awake with pride at that odd hour of the night when they opened the gates of supreme court, only to go back to work next morning with deep disappointment.

    His lawyers were not arguing anymore. They were only pleading to buy some more time for a person who could have had an “alternative” story as compelling as the one you just told us. “Alternative” to the understanding of the court, which must be seasoned enough to acknowledge the multiple possible biases in any hearing. Your story may not be true. And let’s say it is not at all true. But if this is what you were telling, how can any rational human being living in a liberal democracy deny you 2 more weeks? (Leave apart a bench of qualified judges who will take pride for rest of their lives in having sacrificed their sleep for a few hours because some one would die otherwise a death that they consciously scheduled, “incidentally” on his birthday?). 2 weeks after 23 years will still remain just 23 years. And the priestess keeps questioning time and again to the attorney general in a tv interview, what if people keep knocking the doors of chief justice at the middle of the night for every death sentence. Seriously! big deal?

    May be the lawyers of Memon were not “clever”, may be they felt “helpless” with the legal options in hand. May be the judges also understood that the existing law can not read through between the lines to understand this story, which only can be good for a best selling novel or a blockbuster movie. In any case, our law is to empower us and not to render us helpless. Judges do not make law. But they can at least postpone a wrong doing, or a doing which you have an iota of doubt- may be wrong, or at least in a setting where the consequences can not be reversed.

    I have not read manusmriti. But I have read the simple story of the mongoose and the snake in panchatantra. Before at least a human being was killed, I only hope it stuck to our judges that the act was clearly in haste. I am not sure if our society is mature enough the understand the subtlety of emotions in a criminal’s head before his execution. It hardly matters to an insensitive society if the accused felt remorse, if he was mentally prepared to die before he was hanged (Say, like in deadman walking). We feel hanging is only to deter others from similar crimes, which we have researched evidence, is not true.

    Yakub told us with some hope, why he thought he should not die. And we, will never be able to tell him again why we thought he should die. In the haste of that night and forever, we have therefore, failed as a people.

  8. manya

    Plz get your facts right he was not surrendering.he had come to kathmandu for discussing the idea with his counsel nut was advised not to surrender and was fleeinf to karachi but before he could board he was picked up by nepal police.
    he may not have been involved directly but being the CA he was looking after accounts and managing funds coming from pakistan and he did see to it that funds were distributed for utilization of getting logistics and planting of bombs
    U are just writing anything sanjay dutt true was having arms in possession but he did not cause death of hundreds.
    N about naming maya kodanani and amit shah have they been pronounced guilty by any court of law, one cant just on basis of baseless allegations talk like this.
    Stop fooling people with lies and please stop this hindu muslim hatred. The youth doesnt belive in hindu or muslim and neither does a bomb or a terrorists bullet.
    One last question would you be still talking all this if your father mother brother sister or a relative was killed in the mumbai blast.
    would you have still supported him.

      1. As far as I know, Maya Kodnani is out on bail. See – the following article in the Hindu by Rahi Gaikwad, published on July 30, 2014

        Gujarat HC grants bail to Maya Kodnani

        http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/gujarat-high-court-grants-bail-suspends-sentence-of-maya-kodnani/article6264567.ece

        The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday granted bail to and suspended the sentence of Maya Kodnani, former minister accused in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riots case.

        A division bench of Justices VM Sahai and RP Dholaria granted a condition bail to Ms. Kodnani on the grounds of her ill health and merits of the case.

        The court considered the medical certificate of Ms. Kodnani, which said that she was suffering from a serious illness and not responding to treatment. The bench also observed that there were certain “contradictions and improvements” in the statements of witnesses who had implicated her in the case.

        The Naroda Patiya massacre took place on February 28, 2002, as part of the overall riots in Gujarat in the aftermath of the Sabarmati Express train burning incident. Over 90 people were killed and several people were injured in the incident. A special investigation team (SIT) court had convicted and sentenced Ms. Kodnani to 28 years imprisonment in August 2012.

  9. ceedeer

    Somehow this big lie ‘Memon surrendered to CBI’ is being propagated non stop! The same Majeeh Rehman and B Raman have said that he was in the quoue to board a plane to Karachi when he was arrested by Nepal Police! If my knowledge of geography is good, I belive Karachi is in Pakistan and not a suburb of Delhi!!

  10. preeti chauhan

    Indeed a very fine article and very well argued. did not know why is it so troublesome but the write up bares it for us. It is the guilt and helplessness of being party to his execution, it stains us all.

  11. Sundar BN

    Erm, was Yakub Memon guilty of being accessory before the fact – if that’s the correct phraseology – of murder and mayhem ? Did he aid and abet in orchestrating bombing innocent folks to Kingdom come? If he did, is that culpable homicide amounting to murder? If he had no part to play in this mass butchery, then he shouldn’t have been in prison at all.

    I observe no wailings with regard to his being imprisoned : only his hanging. Apparently because he was a mere consignee of weapons of mass destruction and not unlike sunil Dutt, rather naive and unknowing.

    Does it imply that, it is a given, that his imprisonment was just? Why was he imprisoned? Why is it that his brothers – his ilk I mean, not his siblings – didn’t protest his imprisonment and try to get him out? Was he sentenced to death much much earlier? Why was it that our moralists were certain that his death sentence would be commuted to life and thereby justice, served? Why was it that, this state organised murder, not protested when he was sentenced to death? Why only now? As the sole custodians of morality and ethics – that’s how this facade appears – shouldn’t these naysayers have poured out their hearts nearly a decade ago? Or, were they certain that death sentences passed by Indian courts are but eye candy and that in the fashion of prathiba patil, the mercy petition would gather dust?

    Osama orchestrated the murder of 3000 folks in the Twin tower blasts but Osama himself wasn’t there. Yet, the usOFa, had him shot in his head by its Navy SEALS. Several Nazi criminals architected the gas chambers and human experiments in Auschwitz and Dachau to name a few. The people directly involved in this sadism were others. Were these architects later hunted down and terminated for war crimes?

    I ask ‘cos it was said that – I do hope memory serves one right – that this man was the brains behind the various placements of the explosive devices. I shan’t ask what he felt when little babies were torn apart limb from limb because of these bombs. I shan’t ‘cos, y’ see, Am not sure that this man was involved in these murderous machinations. From all that we’ve read he appears to have been rather angelic. Maybe, because he was literate – a CA.

    There’s a movie called The Silence of the Lambs. In that there’s this rabid serial killer who weeps uncontrollably for his victims. His face is shown distorted in mortal agony. He’s sorry he has to imprison, maim and murder women. So much repentance that even Judah Iscariot would’ve approved.

    Remorse is good. Yes, and a telling argument against capital punishment. But not imprisonment for decades.

  12. Peres

    The author states: “The prosecution evidence, amounted, at most, to demonstrating violations of the provisions of the Arms Act by Yakub Memon.”

    And again later the author writes: “They had a mansion, they had carte blanche from their ISI handlers to live as they saw fit. They even had access to finances and capital for starting up new lives and businesses.”

    A bit strange, isnt it? Pakistan’s ISI is so generous that they hand out mansions and finances for such ordinary and innocent souls as those who merely violate the provisions of the Arms Act? And even provides carte blanche to live as this person and his family sees fit! Those handlers at ISI must be naive and fools indeed if they provide such generosities to such innocents as Yakub Menon!

  13. Nivedita Menon

    Justice P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan, who upheld Yakub Memon’s death sentence in 2013, also wrote a judgment in 2011 explaining why Dara Singh – convicted of burning to death the Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor children – did not deserve the death penalty.
    They said: “In the case on hand, though Graham Staines and his two minor sons were burnt to death while they were sleeping inside a station wagon at Manoharpur, the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity.”

    (From Aniket Alam’s Facebook page.)

  14. Somnath

    One other point, the crowd gathered during memon’s funeral wasn’t really “peaceful and dignified” by construct.

    It was ensured by an equal amount of police bandobast led by thenCommissioner himself.

    The disturbing fact was that a terrorist was sought to be given some kind of a martyrs’ funeral, by the chaps who had gathered.

  15. Fully endorse Shuddhabrata Sengupta’s views which eloquently express the anguish that millions of us feel over this travesty of justice, as he has delineated with his characteristic brilliance.
    But there is hope: A large number of senior lawyers including Anand Grover, Prashant Bhushan, Nitya Ramakrishnan, Vrinda Grover, Yug Mohit Chaudhry, T.R. Andhyarujina and others put up stiff resistance.
    And this resistance backed by a growing civil society — despite the curbs by the quasi-fascist regime — is here to keep at it.
    Professor Anup Surendranath has resigned as Deputy Registrar of the SCI as he has stated for the world to see on his facebook page (and the SCI’s lame attempt at damage-control through a statement issued on Sunday is contemptible).
    Although sections of the media — especially the TV channels — bay for blood, there are also many thoughtful and sober analyses.
    Let us also, while mourning for the tragedy that has befallen our republic, be inspired like Brecht’s Mother Courage, to chin up and carry forward the struggle.

  16. Murder? How somebody can say it is murder? Why people are inclining more towards such people? I really don’t understand…

    Somebody may say Eye to Eye is barbaric. But what is happening? Recently 2 Indians are kidnapped by IS terrorists? How many of people are really thinking about these people?

    On top of that why media want to give such a high importance to bad in the society while they almost forget what good is happening in the society. I strongly say people are talking in favor of convicted just because of the media only.

    Convicted people are becoming heroes in this country. What a pity. Recently one politician is openly ask for RS seat to Memon’s wife.

    Just look at Nirbhaya’s case. Rogues are enjoying still with govt money and more Nirbhaya cases are happening in this country. If they dont get punishment , after few years such people and Media would say “Bechare, inko chodna chahiye, in logon ke punishment already Jail mein ho chuki thee ”

    If somebody says killing an evil is murder, yes I openly say I support that murder.

  17. This article is exactly what India needs. A few common men to speak up when they should and not fear backlash. Every single word echoed the sentiments of thousands on this issue. Unfortunately, not a lot of us have the capacity to go against a raving, lunatic herd. I’m not ashamed to say it, the thought of this man’s hanging still keeps me from sleeping at night. His interviews, his conduct as gathered from people who knew him spoke of an educated, remorseful man who’s wife and daughter as well deserved much better. That the provokers of this whole bloody affair have yet to be brought to justice pains me too deeply for words. But if the rules of the universe are anything to go by, eventually justice shall be served.

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