Monday, August 06, 2007

Mumbai Case Not Closed: Muslims

Members of Memon Family outside TADA Court

New Delhi: Although India’s special TADA court has completed sentencing in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, which killed 257 people and left 800 injured, prominent Muslims and human rights activists believe the case is not yet closed and that “real” justice is not been served.
“There is a widespread feeling that there are two standards of justice operating in India,” Javed Anand of Muslims for Secular Democracy said.
“Perpetrators of the bomb blasts have been effectively addressed while 31 police officials found guilty of overt communalism towards Muslims are still enjoying freedom. Some of them have even been promoted.”
The Terrorists and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) court finished this week delivering judgments in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts in a year-long judgment delivery process that saw at least 100 accused being convicted.
The court has slapped death sentences against 12 culprits, including Yaqub Memon, the brother of the alleged main plotter and fugitive Tiger Memon.
“The court gave death sentence to Yaqub for distributing funds and assisting acts of terror,” chief public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said.
An accountant by profession, Yakub is the most educated member of Memons, a prosperous Muslim family.
Twenty other defendants have received life terms, including his brothers Essa and Yusuf and sister-in-law Rubina.
Rubina, the first woman to be sentenced to life in the case, is accused of allowing her car “be used to carry explosives.”
They can appeal their punishments and India’s Supreme Court stipulates that the death penalty be used only in the “rarest of rare cases.”
Death sentences are regularly delayed indefinitely or commuted by the President.
Eight members of the Memon family stood trial. Four were held guilty while three were acquitted. Abdur Razzak Memon, the father who was out on bail, died in the year 2001.
Dawood Ibrahim, an underworld don, and Mustaq Memon, better known as Tiger Memon, are believed to be the masterminds of the serial blasts. Both have been on the run since 1993.
The serial blasts were seen as the direct effect of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodha on December 6, 1992 and the anti-Muslim riots that followed in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India.
The Memons had surrendered in 1994 amid leaks of a deal with the government that female members would only be questioned but not arrested and males would be arrested and helped to get bail.
None of the Memon family members is known to be part of the underworld except for Tiger.
Interestingly, Sanjay Dutt, a leading Bollywood actor, has been sentenced to six years of rigorous imprisonment for illegal possession of an automatic AK-56 rifle in 1993, two months before the serial blasts.
Blind Justice
Muslim leaders and rights advocates insist the 13-year trial is not the end of the problem, pressing for the implementation of Sri Krishna Commission report.
“The Congress government has been in power for eight years in the state of Maharashtra and there has not been a word on this subject,” said M.J. Akbar, a senior editor and follower lawmaker.
Sri Krishna Commission was set up in 1993 to probe the 1992-93 Mumbai riots.
Official figures indicate 1100 people were killed in Mumbai alone, although independent sources put the figure at more than 2000.
Justice B.N. Krishna, a sitting Mumbai High Court judge, was appointed to head the commission after many judges had turned down the offer.
The commission submitted its report on February 18, 1998, after examining a total of 502 witnesses and 9500 pages of evidence.
It indicted 31 “extremely communal” and “trigger-happy” police officials. The government of Shiv Sena a right-wing Hindu party, rejected the commission report claiming it was “politically motivated.”
When Congress government came to power, it set up a special task force to implement the report.
No appropriate action has been taken against the police officials named in the report. R.D. Tyagi, a senior police official accused of shooting nine innocent Muslims, was later promoted police commissioner of Mumbai.
Anand of Muslims for Secular Democracy says Mumbai stands as an example of double-standard justice.
“Sri Krishna Commission report talks about cause (Babri Masjid demolition and the riots that followed) and effect (Mumbai serial blasts of 1993) theory.”
He said no action has been taken against people like Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and former member of the legislative assembly Madukar Sarpotdar who openly advocated violence against Muslims in the 1992-93 riots.
“In Mumbai riots, there is no indication of serious effort on the part of the judiciary as well as the executive.”
Same Terror
Teesta Setalvad, a prominent social rights activist and co-editor of Communalism Combat, believes there can be “no peace without justice.”
“The bomb terror of March 12, 1993, must be recalled with the same horror as the mob terror of December 6, 1992, in Ayodhya, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives all over the country,” she said.
“The soul of Mumbai was forever scarred with the brute mob violence that held us to ransom from December 8 to January 20, 1993,” Setalvad said.
“Mobs stalked streets that were likened to Nazi Germany (by jurist NA Palkhiwala and Justice Bakhtawar Lentin of the Mumbai High Court). The Mumbai police connived with mobsters in mass arson, murder and even rape. Worse still, our political leaders watched as Mumbai burned.”
The prominent social rights activist quotes Justice B.N. Krishna who said the bomb blasts “were a reaction to the totality of events at Ayodhya and Mumbai in December 1992 and January 1993.”
Ms. Setalvad had recently sought information from government regarding the status of the cases against the “guilty” police officials under the Right to Information Act (RTI). She terms the revelations as “shocking and disturbing,” noting that not a single police officer has been properly charged.
In all her RTI findings, only one guilty police constable was dismissed from the service. Others have been exonerated in departmental enquiry.
The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday, August 1, sought a comprehensive affidavit on the alleged lapses by the Maharashtra government in taking action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai riots.
It asked the petitioner, the action committee for implementation of Sri Krishna Commission, and others to file the affidavit within six weeks.
“If there is complete failure of justice, it will certainly be looked into,” said a division bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan.
Navaid Hamid, secretary of the South Asian Council for Minorities, commended the move.
“The Supreme Court has done a commendable job,” he said, believing that justice for the Muslim victims of the Mumbai riots can still be served.

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