On a day he turned 53, Yaqub Memon, one of the plotters of the 1993 Mumbai serial blast, saw the world for one last time. At 7 AM on Thursday morning, blind-folded and handcuffed, he was hanged to death at the Nagpur central jail, leaving behind his embittered sympathizers, relieved victims, and a tensed nation.
Yakub’s hanging has revived the debate on the death penalty with section of the intelligentsia, political class and social activists calling for ending this ”retributive” punishment. But law enforcers and security agencies feel that death penalty was the lone deterrent against terror.
The anti-death penalty lobby made on last ditch effort late Thursday night when they knocked at the door of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) around midnight and pleaded for staying the execution. Eminent advocates such as Anand Grover, Prashant Bhushan, Vrinda Grover and others told the CJI that there should be 14 day gap between the dismissal of the mercy petitions by the President and the execution of the death warrant. President Pranab Mujherjee had rejected the second mercy petition just two hours before…
The CJI called up the administrative wing of the SC, woke up judges and constituted a three-judge bench for an urgent hearing. Attorney General Mukuk Rohtagi defended the death warrant and argued that Pranab Mukherjee rejected his first mercy plea on April 11, and hence Memon could not again seek 14-day stay on his execution after rejection of his second mercy plea. The pre-dawn hearing began in the SC at3:20 am and ended 4:50 am, just before the sun rise. when the sun set for Memon forever.
“Stay of death warrant would be a travesty of justice. The plea is dismissed,” said Justice Dipak Misra after the intense arguments.
Reports said that even when the Court drama was on, the jail authorities woke up Memon at around 4 AM, three hours before his scheduled execution time. He reportedly was give a bath, a new set of clothes and light refreshments. Before being marched to the gallows he recited a few lines from the Holy Koran.
On Thursday night, Yakub bid farewell to his family members—he was allowed to meet his brother Suleman and cousin Usman.
Amid heavy security arrangements, Suleman and Usman received his body, which was later flown to Mumbai in an air ambulance for his last rites.
When Yakub, a chartered accountant by profession, was arrested in 1994, he was a 32-year-old youth. In his last picture — days before he was taken to the gallows – he looked a frail man, in a skull cap, and white kurta and pajama. In his last picture he was shown sporting a white beard and his face looked gaunt.
Yakub was charged with bring a key conspirator of the serial blast. He provided fund for arranging the logistic of the blast and also paid for tickers for those who trained in Pakistan in handling weapons and explosives.
There is a raging controversy on how Yakub landed in the hands of Indian authorities. While Yakub was nabbed in Delhi on August 6, 1994 on his arrival from Kathmandu, he later claimed he had given in under understanding with the authorities that his life will be spared.
Days before his hanging surfaced an article by a late RAW official B Raman which revived the controversy surrounding Yakub’s arrest. Raman said Memon surrendered in an understanding with central agencies.
While Yakub’s brother Essa and sister-in-law Rubina are undergoing life imprisonment as convicts in the serial blasts, his elder brother Tiger Memon and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, the mastermind behind the blasts, are still absconding.
At 5:30PM, Yakub’s body is buried at Bada Kabrasthan in Marine Lines.
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