Actor Salman Khan has joined the growing chorus of voices opposing the death sentence awarded to Yakub Memon, brother of 1993 Mumbai blasts accused Tiger Memon.
A number of journalists, activists and at least one former Supreme Court judge have pointed out that Memon must not be given the capital punishment as he had willingly come back from Pakistan, where he was in the protection of that country’s intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
In recent days the argument against hanging him has grown after Rediff.com published a piece by former Intelligence Bureau official B. Raman, who was instrumental in bringing Yakub Memon and family back from Pakistan, where Tiger Memon had arranged for his entire family to be hidden and protected.
Raman’s unpublished piece, which Rediff has now published with his brother’s permission, suggests that Yakub and family had helped bring back evidence against Pakistan’s complicity in the blasts and they had surrendered themselves into the hands of Indian law rather than continue living in Pakistan under ISI protection.
This morning, the actor tweeted that Yakub Memon should not be hanged. The actor said Yakub's brother, Tiger Memon, the main accused in the case and who is absconding, should be sent to the gallows.
He tweeted, "Get tiger hang him. Parade him not his brother."
Brother is being hanged for tiger. Aarrre Whr is tiger?— Salman Khan (@BeingSalmanKhan) July 25, 2015
"Phasisi k phande pe chardne walla hai . Koi statement. Koi address. Kuch toh bolo k tum teh. Wah bhai ho toh aisa. Matlab. Ya khoob menan," tweeted Khan.
Khan's tweets let loose a storm of protests, with his father, noted screenwriter Salim Khan, being among them. "He (Salman) should not say anything about these kind of serious topics without any knowledge. He should not have made such a comment. Salman is ignorant of the issue and people should not take him seriously," Salim Khan said.
Following criticisms, the actor deleted his tweets and apologised for any 'misunderstanding.'
I would like to unconditionally apologise for any misunderstanding I may have created unintentionally.— Salman Khan (@BeingSalmanKhan) July 26, 2015
My dad called & said I should retract my tweets as they have the potential to create misunderstanding. I here by retract them.— Salman Khan (@BeingSalmanKhan) July 26, 2015
I had tweeted that Tiger Memon should hang for his crimes and I stand by it. What i also said is that Yakub Memon should not hang for him.— Salman Khan (@BeingSalmanKhan) July 26, 2015
In 2007, after Memon was sentenced to death by a Mumbai court, B Raman, who died in 2013, shared these thoughts for rediff.com: "I decided to write this in the belief that it is important to prevent a person, who in my view does not deserve to be hanged, from going to the gallows,” writes Raman. The late, widely respected intelligence official served as the head of the counter-terror arm of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) when Memon was located and put on trial.
In July 1994, weeks before his retirement, Raman said Yakub was informally picked up in Kathmandu with the help of the Nepal police, “driven across Nepal to a town in Indian territory, flown to Delhi by an aircraft of the Aviation Research Centre and formally arrested in Old Delhi by the investigating authorities and taken into custody for interrogation. The entire operation was coordinated by me.”
He says, "The cooperation of Yakub with the investigating agencies after he was picked up informally in Kathmandu and his role in persuading some other members of the family to come out of Pakistan and surrender constitute, in my view, a strong mitigating circumstance to be taken into consideration while considering whether the death penalty should be implemented.”
Raman points out that Memon, who had been living in Karachi with other members of his family watched over by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, had gone to Nepal to consult with a lawyer about whether to surrender.
Memon was reportedly advised against it, and was about to fly back to Karachi, when he was spotted by the Nepal police. He was then driven across the border, flown to Delhi by a special aircraft, and then arrested in the capital.
"There is not an iota of doubt about the involvement of Yakub and other members of the family in the conspiracy,” he writes.
However, he says that Memon's cooperation with the investigation merit "having second thoughts about the suitability of the death penalty.”
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court rejected the curative petition of Memon, the lone death row convict in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case.
After the Supreme Court dismissed his curative petition, Memon submitted a mercy petition to the Maharashtra governor. He also approached the Supreme Court afresh for staying his execution. If his pleas are dismissed, he will be hanged at the Nagpur Central Jail on July 30.
Meanwhile, the CPI (M) has demanded that Memon's mercy petition should be accepted as his execution would not serve the interests of justice.
Reacting to the Supreme Court's decision, CPI(M) said that unlike the main explosion culprits -- who the party said had escaped law -- Memon had chosen to surrender before Indian authorities, stand trial and provide information about the conspiracy.