On March 12, 1993, a series of explosions rocked the financial capital of India, the city of Mumbai, killing more than 250 people and injuring more than 700. One of the main architects of the worst bloodbath that India has seen, Dawood Hasan Ibrahim Kaskar, along with another mastermind Tiger Memon, has been a guest of our neighbour Pakistan for many years now.
On September 02, 2013, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told journalists in New Delhi that underworld don and India`s most wanted fugitive, Dawood, will have to face justice. In a statement brimming with confidence, Shinde said that one by one, all of them would be brought back to India.
Yes, the Home Minister has all the reasons to be on cloud nine. After all, during his tenure some of biggest terror names, Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives Abdul Karim Tunda, Abu Jundal and Fasih Mohammed and Indian Mujahideen’s co-founder Yasin Bhatkal have been apprehended by our security agencies. It is also during his tenure, the government took the decision to send Mumbai attack accused Ajmal Kasab to the gallows.
However, one just has to go back in time to realize that two decades has passed since the serial blasts in Mumbai, and India’s repeated request to its neighbour to hand over Dawood and his cronies back, has fallen on deaf ears. And it is not just 1993 serial blasts, the `D-Company` boss is also suspected of having provided logistical support for the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. So even as our Home Minister makes statements, which may sound reassuring for a while, the mafia don is safely ensconced in Pakistan and living a luxurious life there, under the patronage of the Pakistani Army and the ISI, the proof of which the Indian authorities reportedly have and which was recently corroborated by terror mastermind Tunda.
In fact, in the past the government faced criticism for not being aggressive enough in pursuing UAE to hand over Dawood to us. Also, the government may have bungled when after the 1993 blasts, Dawood had reportedly called reputed lawyer Ram Jethmalani, saying that he wanted to surrender. Dawood is said to have laid certain conditions – that apart from 1993 blasts, he would not be charged with other cases of the past and that throughout the duration of the trial he would not be put in jail but would be under house arrest. The government of the day did not agree and Dawood later shifted to Pakistan. One wonders, if this story is true, whether the government of the day could have said yes to his demands and then later gone back on its promise when Dawood had landed on Indian soil, however unethical it may have seemed.
In noted journalist S Hussain Zaidi`s book – `Dongri to Dubai: Six decades of the Mumbai Mafia`, which chronicles the life and times of Dawood and is a detailed account of the underworld in the city, the mafia don is quoted as saying in an interview that he gave to the author that he had nothing to do with 1993 blasts. He also said: "Once the Government of India withdraws false cases against me, I will catch the first flight to Mumbai." That was in September 1997. It`s 2013 now – it seems unlikely at the moment that his flight will ever land in India.
Thus, while the security agencies and Shinde must be applauded for the good work done in recent times, the Home Minister needs to be reminded of the fact that much water has flown under the bridge since then and a section of people in India, call them cynics if you want, may not share his optimism. Especially, the families and friends of those who died in the terror attack and who may never feel a sense of closure till the real perpetrators of the crime are brought to their knees, just like one saw in the film, ‘D Day’. Directed by Nikhil Advani, ‘D Day’ is a realistic and well made spy thriller, in which RAW sends its agents to Pakistan to capture a terrorist wanted back home. Even though the makers of the film said that it was a work of fiction, the character played by Rishi Kapoor, is unmistakably based on Dawood.
In real life, the very idea may be preposterous, but in reel life, cinematic license at times gives you the freedom to narrate a story which the audience hopes and wishes would come true one day. For example, there is a scene in the movie where Indian spies, played by Arjun Rampal and Irrfan are able to capture Rishi Kapoor behind enemy lines and call their boss, the RAW chief (played by actor Nassar). The expressions on the faces of all the three characters almost makes one wish that it was not fiction that was being played out in front of you but breaking news being flashed on your television screens.
There is another scene in the movie where, after Rishi Kapoor is brought back to India, Arjun Rampal shoots him in the head at close range and kills him in cold blood, rather than put him in jail and on trial, like it was done with Kasab. Though, India is a land where rule of law is upheld and where everyone is given a fair trial, Arjun’s move is probably indicative of how the young India thinks and the aggression and firmness with which it wants the government to deal with terrorists and with Pakistan for giving support to those outfits who are out to destabilize the country.
So, while the Mumbai Police must be applauded for cracking and painstakingly establishing the involvement of the Memon family and Dawood in the blasts, apparently as a ‘revenge’ for the atrocities committed on the Muslims in the city’s 1992-1993 riots, after the demolition of Babri mosque, the fact is that the mafia don remains a thorn as far India is concerned.
Post Script: Two decades after the serial blasts, on March 21, 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of convict Yakub Memon, brother of Tiger Memon, and commuted death sentence of 10 convicts to life term, while life imprisonment of 16 out of 18 convicts were also upheld. While handing out the verdict the apex court observed that that Yakub and ‘others’ absconding were ‘archers’ and rest of the accused were ‘arrows’ in their hands.
At this time it may seem like mission impossible but just like in the movie, the whole of India is waiting for the day when the ‘archer’ – Dawood Ibrahim - is brought back to India and is made to pay for his crimes.