A rush to the gallows: India’s Yakub Memon execution

The million-dollar question in India today is whether Yakub Memon will hang on July 30. Convicted in the 1993 Mumbai serial explosions, which killed about 350 people and injured over 1000, and condemned to die, Memon is now in a Nagpur jail (in the state of Maharashtra, whose capital, Mumbai, is also India’s most important financial and commercial hub) — where preparations have begun for his execution.

Memon is the only one of the 11 convicted in the undeniably inhuman bombings in the most crowded parts of Mumbai,  who is slated to walk to the gallows. The sentences of the others  have been commuted to life.

Yakub Memon 1993 arrest

Yakub Memon 1993 arrest

The two men who supposedly masterminded the blasts, Ibrahim Dawood and the brother of Memon, Tiger Memon, have not been arrested; they are said to be living between Pakistan and Dubai.

In what seems like a do-or-die eleventh-hour bid to save himself from the noose, Yakub Memon moved the Supreme Court — yet again — on July 23 challenging the “undue haste” in serving him  the so-called black or death warrant “without following the due process of law.” The court will hear his plea on July 27.

In fact, a special court issued the black warrant at the end of April, much before Memon had exhausted all legal options, and the judicial writ reached him even as his curative petition to the Supreme Court was pending.  The law is very clear on this: no black warrant till the man convicted to die has no more legal avenues to explore.

Such haste in the case of Memon indicates in no uncertain terms that the Maharashtra government (law and order is a state subject), run by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is bent on throwing the noose around him on July 30.

The order to execute Memon came  despite strong representations for leniency.  In an article written many years ago by the late B. Raman — a respected officer of the Research and Analysis Wing who helped Memon return from Pakistan in 1994 — and which was published by Rediff.com only the other day, he said: “I was disturbed to notice that some mitigating circumstances in the case of Yakub Memon and some other members of the family were probably not brought to the notice of the court by the prosecution and that the prosecution did not suggest to the court that these circumstances should be taken into consideration while deciding on the punishment to be awarded to them … In their eagerness to obtain the death penalty, the fact that there were mitigating circumstances does not appear to have been highlighted.”

Raman also wrote that Memon “cooperated with the investigating agencies and assisted them by persuading some other members of the Memon family to flee from the protection of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Karachi to Dubai and surrender to the Indian authorities … The cooperation of Yakub constitute, in my view, a strong mitigating circumstance to be taken into consideration while considering whether the  death penalty should be implemented.”

If Raman’s hitherto-kept-under-wraps article has added to the growing doubts about the severity and unfairness of the punishment being meted out to Memon, a statement by Asaduddin Owaisi, chief of the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, alleging that Yakub has been given capital punishment because of his religion, has fuelled the fire.

Both Raman’s view and Owaisi’s outburst have merely added to the  fears that India’s minorities had been harbouring against the BJP and its staunchly Hindu allies — a discomfort that has been growing since the rise of their influence in the political arena.

Persecution against religious minorities (notably Muslims and Christians)  has been on the rise. In early 1992,  Hindu  mobs demolished the historic Babri Mosque in Ayodhya (state of Uttar Pradesh), saying  that the land should be used for building a Ram (Hindu god) temple.

In 2002, hundreds of Muslims were butchered in the state of Gujarat as a retaliation for the murder of 59 holy Hindu men travelling by a train in the region.   India’s present prime minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of the state then, and he was blacklisted by the US and denied a visit visa for many years.

It is not just Muslims who have had a trying time in India. So have Christians. In January 1999, an Australian Christian missionary, Graham Stuart Stains, and his two young sons. aged six and 10, were burnt alive as they were sleeping in their station wagon in a village in the state of Odisha.  Stains was accused of trying to convert the local population to Christianity.

In the years that followed, there have been many instances of churches being desecrated by radical Hindu groups, and Christian nuns being raped.

The America-based Human Rights Watch accused the  BJP government of failing to stop atrocities on Christians. The organisation regretted that onslaughts on the  community had increased since the party came to power.

Given this unease among India’s minorities, a fair deal to  Yakub Memon could work wonders to restore the confidence of India’s minorities.

But the government appears mulish in its resolve to hang Yakub Memon.

 Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic, who has worked with two of India’s best regarded daily newspapers, The Statesman in Kolkata and The Hindu in Chennai for 35 years, and who now writes for the Hindustan Times, the Gulf Times and The Seoul Times.

Categories: Asia Times News & Features, South Asia

Tags: , , , ,

  • Gopal Kannan

    Mohammed Yakub Memon
    is a Pakistani agent & dreaded terrorists who was operating in India for a
    long time, at the behest of Pak’s ISI & who was involved in killing hundreds
    of innocent people in Mumbai in 1992. Unfortunately, he & his associates
    were supported by some Indian national & local political parties who were
    & are still hand in glove with such terrorists for obvious reasons.

    It is astonishing & shameful
    that some news channels & news agencies like, ‘THE HINDU’ group of
    publications, ‘TIMES NOW’ group of publications, ‘NDTV’ group, the ‘SUN TV
    NETWORK/PUBLICATIONS’ & last but not the least your esteemed agency, ‘FIRSTPOST’,
    have come out openly in support of this dreaded terrorist, whose group is
    directly sponsored & supported by India’s no.1 enemy called Pakistan.

    It should be With the
    passing of every day, it is becoming increasingly clear that, in the name of ‘FREEDOM
    OF SPEECH’, ‘FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION’, & to uphold the now rotten terminology
    called ‘SECULARISM’, you people either have directly or indirectly fallen into
    the enemy’s trap or you too have a good amount of share in the catch that these
    terrorists as individuals or as groups benefit from, by pulling our India down.

  • N_Jayaram

    Excellent article. Each and every word of it. Thanks Mr Bhaskaran and thanks Asia Times.

  • namah

    yakub is a gujju speaking sunni muslim…don’t make up stories.

  • Imbid Limbid

    Gopal did not say that he is not ‘gujju speaking sunni muslim’. How does it make any difference? What language he speaks and what religion he practices and his sub-caste makes no difference. He is a terrorist and he is responsible for 13 high intensity bomb explosions that killed more than 250 people. He HAS to be hanged.

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    Yakub Menon earned this punishment. Having stated that, in a nation who knows the worth of Martyrs, like the Mahatma, the danger always exists that Yakub Menon the terrorist will also become a Martyr to those who intend to harm.
    When the news makes his impending death sentence an object of coverage, it may just elevate his death to that level to those who follow this path.
    That maybe one reason why unlike India China makes sure such issues are not made into world news.

  • Praful R Shah

    The problem is Hindus are soft hearted. This crime happened in 1993 and this is 2015 i.e. 22 years later. If you follow the Muslim tradition, the hanging is next Friday after judgment. I use to avoid Mosques on Friday when I lived there. It was public execution. Thanks God it is not in India.

  • Praful R Shah

    There is no perfect judgment and punishment. Blaming BJP Govt. is full of crap. There were cases languishing in courts and police as Congress dragged it feet. May be ship to Saudi Arabia. Let them do the honor.

  • Che Guvera

    The 1992 riots in Mumbai were initiated by Shiv Sena post Babri Masjid demolition. BJP & Congress also supported the HIndu Rioters. The Mumbai police openly killed the innocent Muslims. The Sri Krishna report clearly has mentioned the involvement of state but thanks to anti-Muslim judiciary not a single Hindu was convicted. To avenge the injustice the Memons did this unfortunate act. Yakub surrendered on his own will and thought Indian Judiciary will do justice. But now his mentors ISI will be having the last laugh as he is awarded the death sentence. To be a Muslim is to live in terror in India.

  • Che Guvera

    And Babu Bajrangi, Kodani, Sadhvi Pragya all are saints and shall be worshipped as Heroes??

  • namah

    what I am trying to say you unable-to-read-between-the-lines moron is that he is just a normal money making gujju (not unlike PM – who says he takes multi-nation trips to save money!)

    he might have been a shady chartered accountant, that is all.

    HE IS NOT A TERRORIST, HE DID NOT KILL. HIS BROTHER DID. INDIA NEEDS A SCAPEGOAT. Nothing to do with him being a muslim or otherwise. Basically he did NOT want to stay in pakistan since he believed he was innocent.

    if someone really did do acts of terrorism, he would NOT come back.

    how difficult is this for anyone in india to understand? you are all such idiots? i cannot believe this same culture gave the world the vedas, upnishands, ramayan, mahabharata, geeta, and so much more, where is the brain capacity of indians?

  • Che Guvera

    The Minorities have seen the soft-heartedness during Gujarat riots wherein pregnant woman foetus was cut open and burnt alive, children as small as 3 years raaped & burnt alive. I pray that your family shall get such type of soft-heartedness to feel the pain. And the person who orchestrated all this instead of being hanged is occupying the most powerful position in India.

  • Che Guvera

    Your explanation will fall on deaf years as people like Gopal Kannan have never being at the receiving side of injustice. Once they have a taste of how it feels then only they will understand the pain.

  • Che Guvera

    Prabhakaran was a martyr as he stood against Sinhalese oppression… When oppression exceeds certain limits you bound to have a peoples resistance.

  • PSJ

    You are presenting one side of the story…. It was minority that burnt women and children of peaceful Hindu pilgrims at Godhra. Where was your soft-heartedness when thousands of native Kashmiri Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs were mercilessly raped & killed and evicted from their own homeland. Did you take out a single rally to protest it .

    In 1971 more than 2.4 million Hindu were killed and 200,000 Hindu girls were raped in Pakistan. Read this:


    I’m awaiting your reply , please reply to me after reading this post If you don’t trust my link read this PAkistani NEwspaer:


  • Ram Kumar

    Yes, Baboon Memon is going to hang and suffer a painful death. And so will other terrorists, and anti national traitors can go jump in a lake. Deal with it, this is India and we will kill and mercilessly slaughter the terrorists and enemies of humanity. What the hell can you do about it? You can go to hell and f off.

  • Ram Kumar

    He will die a painful death. Deal with it you filthy lefty muslim crap.

  • namah

    by opposing Yakub’s sentence does it mean that I don’t oppose other such instances? where did I say that? of course millions of hindus have suffered because fanatics in the muslim religion, i know that, but still do we have to kill yakub in response to all that?

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    Yes like Brindanwale. Psychotic Indira goes ballistic on the Golden Temple, kills thousands of Sikhs, along with Brindanwale and that is one reason Khalistan continues to live among the Sikh community. Like Prabhakaran brute force cannot extinguish the desire for freedom and liberty. God only knows how many Martyrs are there in the separatist movements of Kashmir to the North Eastern states of India.

  • Brabantian

    Hindus should consider that death penalty today is largely a Muslim practice. About 88% of the world’s 200-odd nations no longer do this horror, and 2/3 of the ones that do it, are Muslim.

    Ancient India betrays its heritage not only by having death penalty, but by doing it in such barbaric way, the mediaeval & British colonial hanging method which in fact is often slow strangulation, taking as much as an hour for the victim to die.

    A glorious forgotten fact is that it was in ancient India FIRST that sovereign states abolished the death penalty, well over 1200 years ago (over 2000 by some accounts) … As dharma religions spread by their lustre, scholars from across Asia studying at Nalanda, Buddhist Japan and Daoist China, followed the example of states in India, & at points abolished death penalty too … all a millienium before ‘Western Enlightenment’ abolitions of the 1800s began to occur!

    Hanging is always slow strangulation, taking 15 minutes to an hour for the person to die – although sometimes the neck is broken in a drop mercifully introducing coma – but this is not reliable and often fails to happen, creating an hour of torture as a human being swings on a rope. And it takes longer for smaller people to die … amid the many hangings in Iran, witnesses observe that petite women struggle longer, strangling to death slowly before the crowd.

    Tho grim to bystanders, the most merciful methods of death penalty are beheading or the bullet – this is fact. The USA has shown that lethal injection sometimes is an hour-plus torture ordeal. Other killing methods also have gone terribly wrong. Beheading is a mercy, as is a bullet to the back of the head, or the firing squad (best with a handgun back-up for a coup de grace if the firing squad are off-target).

    If India feels as if too poor and frightened a country to yet dispense with the death penalty … at least it should dispense with the British colonialist torture-hanging horror. Bullets or beheading would be a merciful improvement … but I pray that India will move to an even higher level, in line with its glorious ancient past.

    Europe is now death-penalty-free in line with India’s dharma heritage passed on through the stoics to Europe’s enlightenment. In old Europe, hanging was the torture-method for commoners, beheading was the merciful method for aristocrats. This is why the French revolution introduced the guillotine … giving all citizens executed the quick, merciful death once reserved to aristocratic & royal favour.

  • Imbid Limbid

    The courts have convicted him again and again. Don’t you believe in Indian courts? Idiots like you believe in Indian media that receives massive funding from ISI and other terrorist organizations.

  • Imbid Limbid

    People like you will not understand until you become a victim of terrorist attack. When your family member dies miserable and painful death in front of your eyes, and you read in newspaper that the terrorist who killed your teenage son or daughter or your parents is “innocent” then you’ll realize what it feels when to let go people like Yakub Memon. I hope you get to experience this situation.

  • Imbid Limbid

    Bull shit.

  • namah

    google ‘The Innocent Project’, then talk about trusting police, courts, etc.

  • Che Guvera

    Gentleman I am not asking terrorist to go scot free. Tiger should be hanged. I know you wont trust but can you trust the words of an ex-RAW officer. Read the article of Mr B. Raman on Rediff to know the truth.

  • Che Guvera

    A terrorist to a state is a freedom fighter for the oppressed. The rule of the world is
    ” Kill a few you are a murderer
    Kill a thousand you are a conqueror”

    The quantity of people killed matters

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    ” Kill a few you are a murderer
    Kill a thousand you are a conqueror”

    Generally speaking if that fighter is fighting for a new homeland then you are right. But terrorism comes in many forms. Even the Mahatma/congress party and the Satyagraha (active nonviolenc) was not accepted by London. the Mahatma was seen as an agitator and being a subject of an Empire his actions were treasonous. Traitors usually get capital punishment.
    It is the nature of a nation (or Empires) to fend of internal divisions. It is also the nature of people to demand their own governance even if it is simply based on “self determination”. Remember the Mahatma did not have a laundry list of grievances to demand home rule for India. his was simply based on ‘self determination”

  • Che Guvera

    If Sunny leone goes to an Indian court and files an affidavit stating she is a virgin, I wont be surprised to see that judgement is passed in her favour.

    Dont forget the great Indian courts have convicted innocent Muslims in the following terror cases wherein actually RSS was involved
    1) Hyderabad Bomb Blasts
    2) Samjhauta Express
    3) Malegaon Blasts
    4) Ajmer Dargah

    No Indian media dared to ask to fire all the investigators and the judges for such erroneous decision.In fact its very clear that the moment a terrorist incident happens its concluded without any investigation that Muslims are behind this.

    Considering this its very clear that Yakub is being sent to Gallows for just being a Muslim. If he had been a Hindu he might have become a Prime Minister

  • Che Guvera

    Agree. If India holds a referendum on secession, then half of India would be lost. In short India is held together by the power of the gun. Ask Kashmiris, North East Indians and they can tell tales of army abuses,rapes & fake encounters.

    The way this world is designed is that what a powerful does is always right. A powerful always does the victimization of the victim for e.g. would rape a virgin girl and accuse her of being a prostitute.
    Needless to say they get away with this all the time.

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    Got your comment. I will keep it short.
    I learn from history. that is one issue
    Nothing is permanent, least of all nations, Empires and power.
    Going by recent history
    the Germans believed their Reich would last a thousand years and they were very efficient. It hardly lasted 20.
    The colonial age of Empires best seen in the British Empire. it took the Congress Party over 50 years to dismantle it (outside of other factors) and India/Pakistan were born on the dying carcass of that Empire. That empire was around 100 years old.
    The Soviet Empire, once the nemesis against the US/NATO alliance lasted around 85 years. then it too collapsed
    India is only 68 years old. the Sikh Empire lasted longer, so did the British and the Ottoman Empires (the last dismantled by the British and the French in 1916 under the Sykes/Picot agreement)
    All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. the harder you hold onto power the faster you lose it.

  • Che Guvera

    So with the rise of Hindu fascism in India and their absolute grip on power do you think India will prosper or fail?

  • Imbid Limbid

    I trust judges more than ex-RAW officer. Secondly, for one ex-RAW officer might have supported clemency for Yakub, there are thousands of RAW, and police officers who believe that he should be hanged.

  • Bhupen Vaghmar

    There are Gujju speaking Pakistanis, a famous one is Javed Miandad

  • Bhupen Vaghmar

    Why are you tolerating this persecution then? Why don’t you agitate and represent your proofs to Indian system and UNO and other human rights bodies to cure the injustice. Why are you silent sufferers?

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    Got comment. You are addressing different issues.
    Hindu Nationalism is one issue. Has little bearing on her economic rise or failure, even less bearing as a unit.
    Continent sized nations like India can do both. They can show indicators of great achievement in many broad indicators while simultaneously showing failure in others.
    As for the issue of a nation’s capacity to hold together it has little to do with her prosperity. Scotland almost got her independence. Since the NO vote won the Scottish Nationalist Party not only rapidly grew but now are a dominant voice in Westminster. their main platform is the independence of Scotland and the Scots are doing very well.
    When India got her independence from the British Empire she had one of the most advanced infrastructures of any nation at that time. Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and New Delhi were advanced cities in the 1940’s and the subcontinent was the recipient of all the modern aspects of Europe and the US.
    The Punjab that demanded Khalistan in the 1980’s was and is one of the most prosperous states in India.

  • Ramesh

    I completely agree with you Namah.. He may have done some financial deals for other menons. My presumption is he aware of hawala operations, but may not be aware of Bomb blast operations till that is done. So he thought of surrendering to get his name cleared. Unfortunately he met tragic end despite given assurances of some leniency. Dawood and ISI must be having party tonight.

  • namah

    trust the officer who was involved with the case! not thousands of RAW officers who had nothing to do with him!

  • Imbid Limbid

    There are hundreds or thousands of officers INVOLVED in the case who wanted him to be hanged. Only one officer wanted clemency for him. Okay? Got it?

  • namah

    names? give me names?