Maharashtra's 53rd birthday gift to Yakub Memon: Death by hanging

July 30, the date set for the 1993 blasts mastermind’s likely hanging should the Supreme Court reject his curative petition, coincides with his 53rd birthday as per prison records; jail officials he wept and has been chanting God’s name ever since he heard the news

The alleged mastermind of the 1993 Mumbai blasts, who famously quoted Jesus Christ when he was handed down the death sentence in 2007, may end up meeting his maker the same day he is supposed to turn 53.

Yakub was kept at the Arthur Road jail initially and, after the sentencing in 2007, was shifted to the Nagpur Central Jail. File pic
Yakub was kept at the Arthur Road jail initially and, after the sentencing in 2007, was shifted to the Nagpur Central Jail. File pic

Should the Supreme Court reject his curative petition, which it is supposed to hear on July 21, Yakub Abdul Razak Memon is likely to be hanged till death on July 30, which will also be his 53rd birthday as per prison records accessed by mid-day.

The man who hangs Yakub will be paid a princely sum of between R10 and R25 for the task and Nagpur jail officials told mid-day that when Yakub heard of his likely hanging yesterday, he wept and began chanting the name of God.

Long road
Yakub, who was arrested in 1994 from Nepal, is considered the mastermind of the blasts and has been convicted for criminal conspiracy and aiding, abetting and facilitating a terrorist act. He was also convicted for illegally possessing explosives and firearms with the intention of endangering lives under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and Arms Act.

The younger brother of Tiger Memon, Yakub was handed down the death sentence by the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court in 2007, hearing which he had screamed, “Oh Lord, forgive this man (the judge) for he knows not what he does”. The sentence was upheld in 2013 by the Supreme Court, which had called him one of the “driving spirits” of the plan.

In another major setback for Yakub, President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected his mercy petition last year. Yakub’s curative petition will be heard by the Supreme Court on July 21 and authorities at Nagpur jail said they received an order from the state Home ministry yesterday, asking them to prepare to hang Yakub on July 30 if the SC rejects the petition.

‘Helps inmates’
Yakub was kept at the Arthur Road jail initially and, after the sentencing in 2007, was shifted to the Nagpur Central Jail, where he was given no work since he was on death row.

A chartered accountant by profession, Yakub was kept in the high-security Anda Cell and, while serving his sentence, completed two Master’s degrees in English Literature and Political Science from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).

A Nagpur jail officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “Yakub has been in Nagpur jail since 2007 and was kept in the Anda Cell. In prison, his jail inmates call him ‘sir’. He helps them in their education. In 2012, he asked for work and was tasked with teaching other inmates Urdu and educating them.

He is fasting for Ramzan currently and, every time he breaks his roza, he shares his iftar food with other prisoners and even buys things from the canteen to share with them.”

“In 2013, after Afzal Guru was hanged in Tihar jail, Yakub stayed mum and kept to himself for three months. Today (on Wednesday), he heard about his likely hanging from some inmates whose relatives had come to meet them and the news spread from there.

He wept when he heard the news and has been chanting God’s name,” the jail officer said. He added, “Till Tuesday, he was locked up at high security Anda Cell but on Wednesday, soon after we got the order from the ministry, which is called black warrant in jail parlance, we moved him to a secluded cell near the faasi yard (gallows) and an officer and three constables will be keeping watch on him. Due to the roza, he has become pale we will soon take his measurement (height and weight) for the execution.”

Explaining the process of preparing for the hanging, a female officer said, “We have got the black warrant of hanging from the Home Ministry office and the convict’s height and weight will be taken. Accordingly, a gunny bag is made so that the hangman can practise daily and calculate the right length of drop beneath the trapdoor to ensure the convict dies in the first instance. The rope which is used for hanging is dipped in ghee.”

Just two choices
A senior jailer said, “In Maharashtra, there are only two prisons with gallows where those on death row can be hanged the Yerawada Central Jail and the Nagpur Central Jail. At present, Maharashtra has around 46 criminals, including Yakub, who have been sentenced to death. Of these, three are women, who are in Yerawada jail.

The Pune prison has 28 secluded cells for those on death row, all of which are occupied, and Nagpur has 19. There are no hangmen in both these jails and the prisons administrations’ have trained their own sentries (prison constables) in the procedure of hanging.

The sentry will be paid R10-25 as per the provisions of the Maharashtra Jail Manual, 1962.” Deputy Inspector General (Prison) Shahaji Solunke remained unavailable for comment.

Mumbai on alert
The city is on alert in the wake of reports of the likely hanging and the Mumbai Police has decided to increase security at all the 13 spots that were targeted in 1993 as well as other spots where David Headley had carried out reconnaissance.

Police sources said the decision of hanging Memon is likely to anger his brother, Tiger Memon, who has been hiding in Pakistan. Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria held a meeting with all his officers for more then six hours and they discussed precautions to be taken with regard to this issue as well as with Eid and Ganpati around the corner.

A terror alert has already been issued by agencies. “We have increased bandobast around all the spots where the blasts took place, like the Air India building, Bombay Stock Exchange, Zaveri Bazaar, Worli passport office and near Plaza Cinema in Dadar,” said an officer from the Mumbai Police. Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon are still wanted in connection with the blasts.

Why Nagpur?
According to an Intelligence Bureau official, Yakub’s hanging is likely to take place in Nagpur and not the Yerawada jail in Pune. The last hanging in Nagpur had taken place in 1984. “Pune has been the target of several terrorist attacks and Ajmal Qasab was also hanged there. Memon is likely to be hanged in Nagpur,” said the IB official.

Minority groups, however, alleged that there could be other motives. “Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is from Nagpur and it is also home to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters. Let’s not forget this was the same prison where around 28 mobile handsets and 15 batteries were recovered not too long ago,” said a minority leader.

Will follow SC directives: Fadnavis
Amid reports of Yakub Memon’s likely hanging by month-end, CM Devendra Fadnavis said yesterday that his government would follow the directives of the Supreme Court on the issue. “Whatever we do will be made public at an appropriate time,” said Fadnavis.

“The SC has made a decision on this issue. Whatever directives will be given by the court, the Maharashtra government will act according to that. We will provide more informa-tion on this matter when the time is right,” he added. If the execution is carried out, it will be the first in connection with the violence that rocked Mumbai in 1993.

The number of executions that have taken place in Maharashtra since Independence

The year the last hanging took place in Nagpur Central jail

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