21.3.13

Mumbai Blasts and Selective Justice

Yakub Memon

On March 21, 20 years after the Mumbai blasts, the Supreme Court pronounced its verdict: Yakub Memon sentenced to death; commuted in the case of 10 others; actor Sanjay Dutt gets five years in prison. An anti-terror court had in 1993 awarded death sentence to 12 people, including Memon. Dutt had been sentenced to six years jail term for illegal possession of a 9mm pistol and an AK-56 and had spent 16 months in jail after his arrest in 1993. He was, however, acquitted of the stringent charges under TADA.


Sanjay Dutt


Those were the days of TADA, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, the horrific provision that transformed every suspect into a terrorist. It made the prevalent context of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ redundant. It gave more powers to the police, without any responsibility.

And today as the courts pronounced the verdict, a man who in fact assisted in nailing the real culprits is to be hanged to death and one with a pistol and an AK-56 goes back to jail. If Yakub Memon had not mentioned Pakistan, our intelligence agencies would be going on their regular spins to Dubai.

Advocate Ujjwal Nikam said that the death sentence for Yakub Memon would send a strong message to Pakistan about the consequences of hiding Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon. He is either an optimistic or a deluded man. He said something similar when Ajmal Kasab was hanged. And things have got no better. Worse, seven years ago he had stated that if Sanjay Dutt had informed the police then the blasts would not have taken place because he “knew that the three AK56 rifles he received from Samir Hingora, Ibrahim Mussa and Abu Salem on Jan 16, 1993, were part of a consignment meant for terrorist acts.”
Three guns were going to cause blasts across the city? And what was the huge consignment in Shiv Sena MLA the late Madhukar Sarpotdar’s house for during the riots that preceded the blasts?

In what is an extremely ironic situation, Sanjay Dutt played the role of a tragic gangster in Vaastav, a film produced by Chhota Rajan. Rajan was the second most important man in D-Company, helmed by Dawood Ibrahim, who was responsible for the 1993 Mumbai blasts. This film was made later. By then, Rajan had split from Dawood because he discovered his patriotism for India, a country he does not live in. He continues to conduct his underworld operations mainly from Bangkok, quite conveniently managing illegal activities in his home country.

Dark comedy aside, the verdict is abuse of law. While Yakub Memon and Sanjay Dutt will be seen as the pivots, we need to take a look at how the process of justice in this case took place.

In 2009, four of the accused were ordered to spend 50 years in prison or until they turned 65, whichever was earlier.

Let us look at their crimes carefully. After the Bombay riots, in March there were bomb blasts in several parts of the city organised by the underworld. These four men were a mofussil part of the operations. They already served over 17 years in jail after they were arrested under TADA.

This is what they have been accused of doing:

  • Salim Mira Shaikh was charged with helping land arms and explosives at Dighi jetty in Raigad, which were later used in the blasts.
  • Niyaz Shaikh was accused of acquiring training in Pakistan and also conducting a recce of the BMC building, which he did along with others.
  • Shaikh Ali smuggled and packed arms and explosives and recruited people for the blasts.
  • Moin Qureshi was accused of hurling grenades at the fishermen’s colony in Mahim but was spared the death rap for being a minor at the time of the incident; he was 17 years old then.

These were prompt arrests. At least three of the accused can be said to have merely assisted in the process of organising, and the fourth threw grenades at the fisherman’s colony. There is no mention of how many deaths that caused.

We have had a long incubation period on the riots report by Justice Liberhan. Where are the accused in that and what is the status of their arrests? There is rarely any talk about the riots; there is no loss of property “worth Rs 27 crore” and therefore useless to an economically-varnished India.

If we want fairplay, then play fair. During the riots cops were assisting in the process and shooting at random, shooting innocents only because they knew who stayed there. And what about the goon ministers who possessed arms? What about recruiting kar sevaks? How do you think people died during the riots – out of fear or did they commit suicide?

The CBI has got traces and footprints everywhere, but it chooses packers and movers to pick on. Had they not got a sentence at all, it would be different, but they have served the term. Incidentally, if TADA is defunct, should not these guys be tried all over again under the new law?

The problem is that we have two sets of justices operating always, whether it is on grounds of religion, caste, class, or fame.

***


For web-waves, Sanjay Dutt has become the face of ‘justice prevailing over celebrity’, quite forgetting that they are lapping up this case because of his celebrity. To suggest that he will be let off or this is what he gets for hobnobbing with terrorists is such a limited view, when the police force has relied on the underworld for their ‘encounter’ killings.

Besides, his father Sunil Dutt was a Congress MLA, and a socially-conscientious person; that did not get his son freedom. In fact, Bal Thackeray had famously said then that Sanjay was a “good boy”.  Yet, there were different standards for the riots’ cases. The Sena’s Madhukar Sarpotdar did not possess one AK-47, but several arms. And if any of you had visited those areas you would know what devastation was caused by the way he incited not only the public and his henchmen, but also the police. What sentence were those MLAs awarded?

In 2007,  the special TADA court Judge P D Kode had made some bizarre remarks in his judgement. Here are a few:

* Kode also observed it was an "eminently dangerous act" as the weapon possessed by Dutt was capable of mass destruction though the accused had not used the weapons.

* Dutt acquired the weapons to "protect" his family in the aftermath of sectarian violence that erupted in Mumbai following the demolition of the Babri mosque in late 1992.

* Kode said the character of the accused is very important while considering if they deserved relief under the POA (Probation of Offenders) Act. He pointed out that apart from possessing the weapons, Dutt was a close acquaintance of Anees Ibrahim and attended a party hosted by Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai.




One has to only go through the archives of newspapers and TV news in good old national Doordarshan to know who enjoyed his hospitality.

As regards guns, the poor in the bastis could not get weapons so they learned to make petrol bombs or wanted to. They were scared. You would be if each time you stepped out you were asked to drop your pants and show that you were circumcised, what the great Shiv Sena chief called “katuas”.

Finally, the judge had said that the crimes committed by Dutt and his friends were not "anti-social, ghastly, inhuman, immoral or pre-planned" and did not cause any harm to the general public.

When you keep weapons as protection it is pre-planned. If, according to law, you possess weapons, it is anti-social. How do you define “ghastly”? When the barrel of the gun looks ominously into a face?

We shall wait to see a verdict passed along the lines of anti-social, ghastly, inhuman, immoral, pre-planned in the Bombay riots case, too.

Therefore, this is not just about celebrity. Sanjay Dutt has already spent a year and a half in solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit. Who is culpable for this? The State? The Judiciary? They say that these months will be counted as part of the jail term. I want to know how being put in an ‘anda cell’ is the same as this? He was exonerated from terrorism charges, then how does the state compensate for that?

Let us use this example to show the complete arrogance with which the government and justice system operate. Let us raise these questions about the thousands of under-trials in our prisons, about those who are arrested for ‘terrorism’, about encounter deaths. Let us make someone accountable.

And that someone is the Government of India. The Judiciary. The Police. Don’t tell me I am “sympathising” with criminals, because a criminal is not answerable to me or you. The government, the judiciary, the police are. They are public servants. The Supreme Court Verdict is unfortunately a case of pinning the poster boys and hounding the scapegoats.

As for the ‘watchdogs’, it would be good for them to remember that those who prefer selective justice are the real anti-social elements.

(c) Farzana Versey

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Also How Realistic is Black Friday? - the film based on the Mumbai blasts.  

13 comments:

  1. Personally I feel sorry for a brilliant fellow like Sanjay Dutt. But he should have been brought upswith some love for our nation and his partents should have made sure that his friends circle was from good families and not from the underworld. Had he have any respect for law or love for India, he would have prevened Mumbai serial blast.

    ReplyDelete
  2. FV

    I didn't know Sanju baba was such a heartthrob of yours!

    Sexist comment? I guess it is still better than the vengeful rant of 'bombing = riot' logic.

    Can robbers claim pardon because their poverty was caused by govt policies? Should a naxal convicted of murder be let off because land reforms were not implemented or were subverted? Can Sarpotdar cite mass street namaz (a violation of law) as ajustification?

    Do you accept Godhra or Babri or Mathura as reason for Gujarat 2002? If not, please refrain from justifying one crime with other.

    Did I hear 'kriya - pratikriya' somewhere? Or is there a sekulaar synonym for it?

    The sentence has been confirmed by SC. If the judge was biased against Muslims, it would not have taken 20 years.

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  3. Hindi SMS:

    Unlike Digvijay Singh who referred to him as a "kid" or Justice Katju who in seeking pardon for him mentions his little children as a consideration, my piece is not about humanitarian grounds.

    You say, "Had he have any respect for law or love for India, he would have prevened Mumbai serial blast."\

    Was he the mastermind? Did the Intel agencies not have love for India when they can't prevent terrorist attacks despite prior warnings?

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  4. F&F:

    Is Uma Bharti your heartthrob that you rule out her incendiary role in the 1992 Bombay riots?

    If you must know, then no Sanjay Dutt (I am not as familiar with him as you are to call him Sanju baba) is not a heartthrob.

    I'll skip your simplistic 'analysis', not to forget this gem: "Can Sarpotdar cite mass street namaz (a violation of law) as a justification?" (You gather arms because people are praying in the streets? They had maha-aartis to protest, remember?

    Anyhow, since this piece is about other people too, read this if you have not:

    http://www.indianexpress.com/news/a-tear-for-yakub-memon--------/208589/

    It is convenient for some to oppose the action-reaction when it suits them and root for it at other times. No one is justifying anything; the details are there.

    "The sentence has been confirmed by SC. If the judge was biased against Muslims, it would not have taken 20 years."

    This shows what prism you are looking through. It took 20 years not because there was one bench, but because there were several stories. And, just fyi the convicted are not all Muslim, just as the victims of the blasts were not and of the riots preceding it were not, but primarily were targets.

    There is no escaping this fact/ None at all.

    ReplyDelete
  5. FV,

    Thanks for the 'A Tear for Yakub Menon' link. I confess my eyes remained dry!

    ReplyDelete
  6. FV

    Talking of gems, here is another one:

    QUOTE: "... the fourth threw grenades at the fisherman’s colony. There is no mention of how many deaths that caused.."

    Innocent because he missed the target? Or he deliberately mis-aimed out of compassion? :)

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  7. My heart goes out to yakub memon and his family. I'm just hoping that a miracle can save him!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I don't know all the details of these cases, but reading your articles it seems and trying to understand what's going on it seems to me that the government was unable to catch the real killers. So they are going after others who are not directly connected to the blasts but who did some illegal things or seemingly illegal things that helped the actual killers. The high profile of Sanjay Dutt seems to help them because they can use him to say we apply the law equally even though his actions were driven more by carelessness than criminal intent? Not just that there are a lot of innocent people sitting in the jail accused of crimes they did not commit and this is clearly a major violation of justice.

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  9. Reddy

    QUOTE: ".. there are a lot of innocent people sitting in the jail accused of crimes they did not commit and this is clearly a major violation of justice..."

    Do you mean Lt Col Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya?

    QUOTE: ".. actions were driven more by carelessness than criminal intent.."

    You mean keeping hand grenades in house? How would you then describe selling motorcycle to a fellow RSS activist without receipt? Or is mere association enough to damn a person?

    Let us hear your sekulaar views. By the way, Dutt and Pragya were both of roughly the same age at which they are said to have undertaken the actions in question. Sadhvi's father was not an MP.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sai:

    You have understood most of it, although there are people here who will pick on that!

    "The high profile of Sanjay Dutt seems to help them because they can use him to say we apply the law equally even though his actions were driven more by carelessness than criminal intent?"

    This is absolutely true. However, I do believe other cases need to be addressed with equal fervour. The problem is that not only in this case but in most, there are more suspects than criminals who get trapped.

    Let us not forget that cops are promoted based on 'head count'.

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  11. F&F:

    I suppose your eyes were really dry, so you have chosen to quote selectively. Just to help you, here it is:

    Moin Qureshi was accused of hurling grenades at the fishermen’s colony in Mahim but was spared the death rap for being a minor at the time of the incident; he was 17 years old then.


    These were prompt arrests. At least three of the accused can be said to have merely assisted in the process of organising, and the fourth threw grenades at the fisherman’s colony. There is no mention of how many deaths that caused.


    PS: In your reply to Sai, you compared Dutt's case with Sadhvi Pragya & Lt. Col. Purohit. Please note their prefixes and professions. A woman of religion and a man from the army. In the latter case, for all talk about how we must respect our Forces, we need to introspect. Besides, why are the Malegaon blasts not considered a terror attack? How do you know it was only selling of a bike, but are darned certain that possession of arms in Dutt's case was to facilitate terror? Have you anything to say about the arms found in SS MLA Sarpotdar's house during the riots preceding the blasts?

    PPS: Indeed, Sanjay's father Sunil Dutt was an MLA. Yet, he was in solitary confinement for 18 months. Forgot?

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  12. FV,

    You have always been dismissing me as a right-wing Modi enthusiast, though I have stated a number of times that I am neither pro nor anti Modi. Please show me one instance where I have said that the rioters were right or the bomb blasts were a Pratikriya or something.

    I have also said that my personal opinions are of little relevance.

    What I try to do is extract the sekulaar logic from the complex (!) contortions that pass for arguments and apply it in the reverse direction. Usually, it leads to a dropping of sekulaar gloves!

    For example:

    QUOTE: ".. for all talk about how we must respect our Forces, we need to introspect.."

    Isn't this gross generalisation? Will I be right if I conclude that such statements are intended to undercut faith in army?

    Can I say something like: "For all the talk of respecting Islam, we need to introspect.."? Will this be a sekulaar statement? If not, can I say 'double standards'?

    ReplyDelete
  13. F&F:

    If you aren't a rightwing supporter, why is it that you don't comprehend secular logic at all? It is good to question it, and indeed I have done so too, but you fall into the same trap of branding people. (The dropping of secular gloves could be a fist, mind it!) Besides, aren't some called jihadis? Isn't it possible that one is also working in the “reverse direction"?


    {QUOTE: ".. for all talk about how we must respect our Forces, we need to introspect.."

    Isn't this gross generalisation? Will I be right if I conclude that such statements are intended to undercut faith in army?}


    You comment in your personal capacity, as I write in mine. I don't think my statements would have any such impact. And, there is a need to introspect within and about the army. We do know it is as flawed an institution as any.

    {Can I say something like: "For all the talk of respecting Islam, we need to introspect.."? Will this be a sekulaar statement? If not, can I say 'double standards'?}

    It is interesting that you bring in Islam in apposition to the army! However, the real serious questions about Islam, since you insist on it, have come from the secularists. Not the name-calling level from rightwing groups. I have said it here that we need to introspect. But, I will be keen on seeing someone ask this of other faiths too, for that reveals double standards more than just baiting with a ‘k' instead of a ‘c'...

    ReplyDelete

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