In a letter written to the Chief Justice of India in July 1999, Yakub Memon described himself as a “good citizen of this country” who “tried to help the government in whatever small manner that [he] could”. His “humble effort and sacrifice”, Memon said, would be known after “the [Bombay blasts] case will come to its logical end”.
Sixteen years later, Memon is on the way to becoming the first accused to pay with his life for his role in India’s first major terror attack, which claimed 257 lives and injured countless others. In a twist of fate, Memon is set to be hanged on the same day that he was born 53 years ago in congested Bhendi Bazaar.
Memon, the third of six children of Abdul Razak and Hanifa Memon, grew up in Byculla and went to Antonio D’Souza School. He scored 70 per cent in his secondary Board exams and, unlike his brothers Sulaiman and Ibrahim (or Tiger), carried on with his studies. He got a Masters in Commerce from Burhani College and, in 1990, became a certified chartered accountant. With his childhood friend Chaitanya Mehta, Memon set up the firm Mehta and Memon Associates.
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“We were doing very well. We had about 200 files. We are handling income-tax, sales tax, audit and accounts management of these clients. Since then I was very busy,” Memon wrote in his letter to the CJI.
His elder brother Tiger was, meanwhile, making a mark in Mumbai’s underworld, starting off as a chauffeur for the Dossa brothers and then upgrading himself to gold smuggling — activities that Memon claims he was not aware of.
The entire family fled India before the attacks.
Memon returned 18 months later, and was shown as arrested at New Delhi station by the CBI on August 5, 1994. The family later claimed they were fed up with the continuous monitoring that they faced in Pakistan. Memon himself said he had given himself up willingly on July 28, 1994, in Nepal. He had with him a suitcase full off evidence, which included Pakistani identity cards and videos of known gangsters in Pakistan. Eight members of Memon’s family, including his wife Raheen and newborn daughter, too returned and surrendered.
“I was very happy and relaxed because after about 18 months of hard work, patience and struggle I achieved this feat. It was a difficult and risky adventure,” Memon said in his letter to the CJI.
Memon’s hopes of leniency from the Indian state and judiciary were dashed in July 2007, he was sentenced to death for criminal conspiracy by a TADA court. His appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected in 2013. Subsequently, the President declined his mercy petition.
Memon who claims to be suffering from depression, had a breakdown in court when the verdict was announced.
“Even the innocent will be made into terrorists,” he is reported to have told the judge.
“I am dependent on anti-depression medicines. It has now become a part of my life. The more I think the more I get disturbed. After all, why am I made to suffer? Only for the sole reason that the prime accused is in relation to me?” Yakub said in the 1999 letter.
He also claimed that he had been warned against returning to India by his brother, and that he had not spent a single day with his daughter since she was born. “The purpose of giving this brief about myself is to bring home just one single point. Where was the time to hate even,” he wrote.
Special TADA judge Pramod Dattatraya Kode, who sentenced Memon to death, described him as a “very educated man”, and “someone who was persistent”. The judge said Memon’s outburst in his court — seeking the “Lord’s forgiveness” for Kode who “did not know what he had done” — could not be assumed to have been spontaneous.
— With inputs from Aamir Khan