I had the good fortune of meeting the late B Raman a few times. He started off in his profession as an IPS officer and rose to be one of our finest sleuths. After retiring from an illustrious career at the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) which followed a stint at the Intelligence Bureau (IB), he excelled as a prolific public intellectual and commented incisively on the security and strategic issues. His concerns and interventions couldn’t have been but that of a patriot of unimpeachable integrity.
This, let me quickly clarify, is not his belated obituary. I recall all this only because Raman has been profusely invoked, lately, by the usual suspects, to save Yakub Memon from the gallows. Invoked, and that too in such distortion, that there is real risk of Raman being mistaken as someone from the very cabal that comprises these usual suspects. Take just one look at the record and conduct of these self-appointed auditors of the rights, justice, propriety, morality and national conscience, and you might want to rise in defence of someone so upright and patriotic as Raman was, more so since he himself cannot anymore.
One disingenuous stock-in-trade of this cabal is that a terrorist, in the immediate aftermath of committing a carnage, has no religion and no designated hue. But, when the same terrorist is awaiting his just wages, on death row, he mysteriously develops a “religious identity”. It also turns out, invariably, to be the same identity that is being “unfairly targeted, repeatedly”. Unless, of course, he fits the description of a “right wing Hindu”. The perversion in this argument is so apparent that despite the fact that it was Ajmal Kasab in 2012, Afzal Guru in 2013, and now, in 2015, Yakub Memon, the argument does not wash even with the uninitiated. Adding a generous dose of Sachars, Nayars and Bhushans also evokes but a yawn. This is where someone like B Raman is useful. Just a few distortions here and concealing a few facts there, has helped these self-righteous usual suspects sound somewhat credible in their shenanigans. A key distortion attributed to B Raman is that Yakub came back to India willingly and surrendered as vouched for by B Raman himself.
This is what Raman wrote about Yakub Memon’s arrest: “He had come to Kathmandu secretly from Karachi to consult a relative and a lawyer on the advisability of some members of the Memon family, including himself, who felt uncomfortable with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, returning to India and surrendering to the Mumbai Police. The relative and the lawyer advised him against surrender due to a fear that justice might not be done to them. They advised Yakub to go back to Karachi. Before he could board the flight to Karachi, he was picked up by the Nepal Police on suspicion, identified and rapidly moved to India.” This adequately debunks the surrender theory. No wonder, Yakub’s defence never invoked his “surrender” during the entire course of his prosecution to seek leniency.
On the issue of Yakub’s involvement in the Mumbai blasts of March 1993, Raman wrote: “There is not an iota of doubt about the involvement of Yakub and other members of the family in the conspiracy and their cooperation with the ISI till July 1994.”
So, on the two critical issues of a) involvement in the crime and b) voluntarily surrendering to India, there is absolutely no doubt that Yakub could neither have been promised any reprieve nor has earned any grounds for sympathy. Not, at least, from B Raman certainly.
Now, on the issue of the death to Yakub. Here, Raman, admittedly, has a point of view. He writes that: “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 may have been, momentarily, moved by the cooperation he received from Yakub post his capture. The question we must ask ourselves is that, after all, what options was Yakub left with. Being in Indian custody and confronted with a mountain of evidence, his best chance to escape the gallows was to sing, and if asked to, dance as well. And that is what he did. That is precisely what Kasab did too. What Kasab revealed about the entire plot, and also the people involved, was not ordinary. But should this be taken as a “mitigating” factor or was it an obvious last ditch attempt to buy sympathy, is the moot point.
To get an insight into how Raman thought, the following example may prove useful. In October 2006, Mr Raman had written an article (not inDailyO) on the Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s sentence, who was hanged in February 2013, advocating a deeper investigation of his case. In reply to a query from a reader Vijay Shankar, he had replied: “I have no views other than what I have already expressed. I have been of the view ‘kill them in action and not in custody, even after a fair trial, make the state-sponsor of terrorism bleed and differentiate the individuals who let themselves be used by it.’ Regards. Raman.”
It is abundantly clear that Raman was not averse to making terrorists pay with their lives. He even preferred disposing them off in encounters as opposed to judicial hangings, even after they were convicted through a due process of law. Raman, in fact, goes much further, and does not merely stop at extracting retribution from the foot soldiers. He wanted to bleed Pakistan and make it pay for its state-sponsorship of terror. That is the Bahukutumbi Raman I somewhat knew.