(Editor’s note: This article was originally published on 22 March, 2013. It is being republished in light of the Supreme Court rejecting Yakub Memon’s curative petition. Memon will be hanged on 30 July.)
Few of the 100 persons convicted in the 1993 serial blasts case reacted like Yakub Memon when he heard the verdict of the trial court. Often mildly contemptuous but always well mannered in court, the younger brother of the prime accused in the case Tiger Memon, exploded when he heard the death sentence shouting at the judge, “Oh Lord, forgive this man for he knows not what he does.”
Dressed in a white shirt and jeans, Memon demanded that he be taken out of the court, a wish that was granted with him being accosted out by police personnel. The emotional outburst was quite unlike Yakub, who was largely on cordial terms with everyone in the court including journalists, once even humourously remarking that one of them looked like a school student.
For a chartered accountant, who went from being a family man wanting to establish his family’s innocence to becoming the lone conspirator to be caught alive, Yakub’s rage perhaps wasn’t misplaced.
Yakub, who was perhaps the most suave member of the Memon family and also the most educated, finds himself on death row today after the Supreme Court upheld the sentence of the trial court. Yakub, who owned an export firm allegedly handled his brother, gangster Tiger Memon’s, funds. He was accused of having funded the training of 15 youths who were sent to Pakistan for training in the use of arms and ammunition and funding the escape of the family following the blasts.
In his acclaimed book on the 1993 blasts and the investigations, Black Friday, author Hussain Zaidi noted that after the family had bolted from Mumbai, Yakub believed that their only hope was to clear their name and the impending birth of his daughter only exacerbated his desire to return:
Yaqub realised that for his family, there would never be true freedom again. There were two choices before him: he could live with this police imprisonment by Pakistan, or he could go back to India, face a trial and try to clear his name. He decided that the best option for him was to try to make a deal with the Indian government and convince them that the rest of the Memon family was innocent. It was better to try to go back to their old lives rather than live at the mercy of the Pakistan authorities, as tales of the intelligence services killing off those who had outlived their usefulness were legion. He was especially concerned about his parents, who were now old and deserved better, and for his wife Raheen who was due to deliver their child soon. He did not want his child to live his whole life under the shadow of fear.
After reportedly meeting with a family lawyer in Kathmandu in July 1994, Yakub was set to return to Karachi after being told that he was unlikely to get much mercy if he did surrender to Indian authorities. But his being caught with multiple passports at the Kathmandu airport set off a chain of events that resulted in all the other members of the Memon family also being brought to India.
His arrest remains controversial. Officially Yakub was arrested on the morning of 5 August 1994, inexplicably from the New Delhi railway station, far away from Pakistan or Dubai where the Memon family was said to be in hiding.
Even the court while convicting him, said it wasn’t entirely impressed with the CBI’s claims that they caught him in the unlikely location. “…in real life a person cannot be said to have appeared to such a place (Delhi) from the air. It is also absurd that the investigating agency would not have carried out the investigation regarding the said aspect,” the judge noted.
The extent of the complicity of Yusuf, his sister-in-law Rubeena, brothers Yusuf and Essa in the conspiracy or whether they are merely paying for being from the same family as Tiger Memon, is something they can answer best. But no matter the extent of their guilt, they will face the punishment that Tiger Memon managed to escape by eluding Indian authorities.