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Why Yakub Memon should be spared death penalty
Yakub Memon’s death sentence reinforces the case against the death penalty. It is expedient for the political system to let him hang: his brother is the principal accused, along with Dawood Ibrahim, in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case. It is inconvenient to show him clemency. The unseemly controversy created by Muslim identity politician Owaisi, by claiming that he is being hanged because he is a Muslim, only serves to cement the political expedience working against him. If the benefit of the doubt or clemency is, in public perception, conflated with pandering to minority politics, clemency and doubt go out of the window. But there is a good reason, over and above the general argument against capital punishment, why Yakub Memon should not be hanged.
Perpetrators of the Mumbai blasts fled to Pakistan where the Inter-Service Intelligence kept them in secret custody even as Islamabad hotly denied doing anything as disgraceful as sheltering perpetrators of a terror attack.
Indian intelligence agencies considered it a coup when they succeeded in getting several members of the Memon family to come back to India and face trial. At one stroke, the Memon family’s flight to India via Dubai showed that Pakistan had been sheltering the blast accused in Karachi and that Indian Intelligence could spirit them away from under Pak Intelligence’s nose. Yakub Memon facilitated this process. The then head of the counter-terrorism wing of the Research and Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat, B Raman, wrote in an article that he considers it a valid mitigating circumstance.
Memon cooperated with Indian authorities on the strength of an assurance that he would not be hanged. If such an assurance cannot be trusted, New Delhi will shut the door to engaging another Phizo or Laldenga or any other rebel who can be persuaded to surrender to bring a conflict to an end. This should not happen. B Raman is no more. But those who facilitated the Memons’ transit to India via Dubai are around. The government should seek their corroboration and advise the president to show clemency.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.