By MARIA SYED
In last 11 years, India executed three convicts who were handed down capital punishment by the country’s highest court – and call it coincidence or a strategy, all of them were Muslims.
On 14 August 2004, Dhananjoy Chatterjee, convicted for the rape and murder of a teenage girl was hanged at Alipore Central Jail in West Bengal on his 42nd birthday.
On 21 November 2012, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, a Pakistani national convicted for his role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, was hanged in Pune’s Yerwada Jail.
On 9 February 2013, Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri man who was handed down death sentence to what apex court ruled “satisfy the collective conscience of the nation” over his role in the 2001 Parliament attack case was hanged secretly inside Delhi’s Tihar jail.
During this period, hundreds of death sentences were handed down by various courts in the country and scores were commuted to life.
But on Thursday morning, Yakub Abdul Razak Memon was executed in Nagpur jail, taking the number of people executed during last decade to three.
Memon was convicted in 1993 Bombay blasts that killed 257 people. The blasts are seen as a reaction to anti-Muslim riots across the country that began with the demolition of Babri Masjid by Hindu zealots in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The execution was carried despite the country’s top jurists, politicians and activists appealing the President of India to have mercy on Memon.
Former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju called Memon’s death sentence a “gross travesty of justice” as the evidence based on which he had been found guilty was “very weak”.
“This evidence is retracted confession of the co-accused and alleged recoveries,” he said and added that “everyone knows how confessions are obtained by the police in our country by torture.”
“I have full faith in the judiciary. I ask for pardon from the government of India for Yakub so his death sentence can be commuted,” Rahin, wife of Memon, said two days ahead of the execution.
On the day, Supreme Court dismissed the petition, the apex body confirmed its decision of commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment of three persons convicted of killing former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The apex Court dismissed the curative petition filed by the Centre which was seeking a review of the decision in February last year.
Centre’s curative petition said that the victims in the former Prime Minister’s assassination case were not heard before commuting their death sentence.
In February last year, the Court had commuted the death sentence of three persons – Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, citing the 11-year delay in deciding their mercy petitions.
Not many would believe that these executions are just a coincidence as at least the trials in two of these cases, involving Yakub Memon and Afzal Guru, have been criticized by jurists and activists.