| Yakub Memon
Mumbai, Sept. 14: The first to be convicted in the Bombay blasts trial, Yakub Memon today questioned the country’s justice system in court, asking why those held responsible for the riots in the city after the Babri mosque demolition had not been punished.
“Srikrishna Commission mein jinke naam hain unko kyon nahin saza dete (Why don’t you punish those named by the Srikrishna Commission' Why don’t you at least start their trial while you’ve convicted us already'” said the 44-year-old chartered accountant, voice charged with emotion.
The commission had probed the riots of 1992-93 that preceded the serial blasts of March 12, 1993, and indicted several Shiv Sena leaders, including its chief Bal Thackeray. Not only has no action been taken against them, but even a trial has not been held. As many as 900 people died in the riots.
Recording his statement on his conviction by Judge Pramod Kode for abetting the conspiracy for the serial blasts, Memon’s question swirled in the courtroom like a silent storm as rain clouds thundered outside the Arthur Road jail, bringing a heavy shower.
Dressed in a white shirt and jeans, Memon looked calm — unlike his outburst on the day of conviction of four members of the family, including himself, on Tuesday — as he rebutted the charges against him in English before triggering a political controversy.
He referred to the Srikrishna Commission while underlining the point that the 1993 serial explosions were a reaction to the communal carnage of December 1992 and January 1993 in the aftermath of the Babri mosque demolition.
In a five-minute extempore speech, Memon tried to explain that the only way to tackle attempts by terror groups to drive a wedge between Hindus and Muslims was to “break the cycle” of violence. “There are only two ways of tackling this. Either they keep fighting and cause destruction or learn to live harmoniously…” Memon said, vaguely referring to the cycle of riots and blasts.
First there were the Bombay riots of 1992-93, followed by explosions in 13 places killing 257 people, and then after the train massacre at Godhra, the Gujarat riots of 2002.
The Congress, which was in power during the Bombay riots, instituted the commission of inquiry. But, after the Shiv Sena-BJP combine came to power in May 1995, it did not at first extend the term of the commission, prompting then Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s intervention. Then it did not accept the final report.
The subsequent Congress-NCP government that promised to implement the report has not honoured the commitment even in its second term.
Memon’s statement partly overshadowed the judge’s fifth conviction in the trial — of Mohammed Shoaib Mohammed Kasam Ghansar, guilty under a section that attracts the death penalty. “Maine kuch nahin kiya. Mere saath aisa mat karo… (I haven’t done anything. Don’t do this to me),” the 43-year-old former mechanic muttered amid whispered prayers.