The hanging of Yakub Memon, convicted for his role in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts that killed 257 people, has undermined belief in the Indian state’s fairness and justice system in several ways. His guilt was established beyond doubt; questions, however, remain on the morality of going ahead with the execution.

Appeals by many noted Indian intellectuals, to both the President and the Supreme Court, failed to achieve the desired result: of commuting the sentence from death to life imprisonment.

These attempts to save his life — not to set him free as you’d think if you read the hysterical tweets or heard TV anchors screaming for his blood — were fundamentally based on question marks and discrepancies as to why and how Yakub Memon came to India from Pakistan, where there wouldn’t have been a hope in hell of arresting him; the alleged masterminds of the serial blasts Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon have a safe haven there.

Raman’s views

According to B Raman, who headed India’s foreign intelligence agency, RAW’s Pakistan desk, Memon provided “cooperation, cache of documents, and information”.

On credible authority we learn that in an unpublished article penned for in 2007 (it was not published), when Memon was awarded the death sentence, Raman was deeply disturbed, as he was the one who had “handled” Memon and facilitated the CBI’s arresting him outside Old Delhi railway station in 1994. Writing in on July 24, Sheela Bhatt discloses that when Memon was sentenced to death in 2007, Raman “was in pain. He called me to share why it was very wrong on the part of the Indian establishment to allow Yakub Memon to die by decree of law. He was quite disturbed to see the deception by officers of the investigating agencies, in the Mumbai and higher courts. On August 2, 2007, at 9.39 am, I got Raman’s column in my inbox, written in bullet points and bold font, a style he was famous for”.

But he had second thoughts and asked her not to use the article as “others might escape as a result of this article if the higher court holds that the entire case has been vitiated as a result of the prosecution concealing a material fact from the sentencing court. R.” But he did allow her to use details from his article.

But such disclosures have been scornfully dismissed by a large rabble in the social and traditional media who cheered on as Memon went to the gallows, screaming that this was finally justice for the blast victims. .

Some clarity

I turned to Raman’s older brother and veteran columnist of BusinessLine , BS Raghavan, for some clarity on Raman’s role and views on Yakub Memon. Raghavan, a former chief secretary in insurgency-infested Tripura, who had also grappled with security issues for long years in the home ministry, says that after his retirement in 1994, Raman moved to Chennai and during their weekly meets they’d hold spirited discussions on security and intelligence issues.

“Ramu, who then headed the RAW desk in Pakistan, we can say was the ‘handler’ of Yakub Memon, and would go to Kathmandu and get whatever information he could get out of Memon (on the Mumbai blasts). Memon happily placed himself at the disposal of RAW, was in a ‘mood to sing’ and volunteer information on whatever was asked of him. Apart from that, he gave a cache of documents and full and comprehensive information about the ISI, how it works, etc. You can say that a kind of congenial relationship developed between my brother and Yakub Memon.”

But Raghavan categorically rules out any formal commitment from RAW to Memon.

“There was nothing like a promise or commitment in a quid pro quo sense… that as you are giving us all this, when you are convicted you will not be given a death sentence. Absolutely nothing like that. Memon volunteered, was happy to give all this information and Ramu encouraged him.”

Moral obligation

But, he adds, “there was some kind of a moral commitment, perhaps through body language or something else…I do know that my brother felt there was a moral obligation to be lenient to Memon, and not to let him die”.

As to why Memon could not be arrested in Kathmandu, Raghavan says: “No intelligence agency anywhere in the world is allowed to enter the realm of legal formalities. They work behind the scenes, they are men in masks and they have no authority to arrest or enter into any kind of legal framework.”

But yes, Raman did coordinate with the CBI, “and must have told them I will bring him on Indian soil, inform you so you can be in close proximity, and when it looks as though he is coming out on his own, you can arrest him. It’s often a kind of mock play”.

So we now know on credible authority that Raman felt the Indian state had a “moral obligation” not to hang Memon.

Anyway, Memon has been hanged, and the kind of hurry to do it — midnight session of the Supreme Court to avoid even a 24-hour delay — is disturbing. Even more terrifying was the cacophony in social and traditional media to hang Memon.

I happened to be in Ankleshwar, a small town but a chemical industry hub in Gujarat, on the eve of the hanging.

My hotel didn’t have either of the two English news channels I normally watch, so I turned to the Hindi channels. On one I caught a Muslim man asking for justice for the 900-odd who died in the post-Babri Masjid demolition riots and for the demolition itself. Hadn’t the Srikrishna Commission categorically named people, he asked.

The anchor barked… yes, he screamed at a deafening decibel level: “ Kitne saal tum log Babri masjid ka rona royenge? Ab bandh karo yeh rona. (How long will Muslims weep over Babri? Stop it now)”!

This is but one small example. It was as though we as a nation wanted Memon’s blood — and got it!