Mumbai: Seven years after terrorist Yakub Abdul Razzak Memon was hanged to death on his birthday, a political row has suddenly erupted over the purported ‘beautification’ of his grave at the Bada Qabrastan in south Mumbai, here on Thursday.
Following an uproar, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered a probe into the matter, said Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar this afternoon.
Memon, 53, a CA, was found guilty and convicted for his role in the March 12, 1993 Mumbai blasts, and hanged in Nagpur Central Jail on July 30, 2015, after all his pleas for pardon/clemency up to the President were rejected.
The original earthen grave, where Memon was buried, recently got a face-lift with a gleaming marble grave coming up there, amid lighting and apprehensions that the terrorist’s final resting place would soon become a ‘mazar’ (mausoluem).
Earlier in the day, the Mumbai Police yanked off the lighting arrangements in Bada Qabrastan, as a grave political dogfight erupted between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena for allegedly allowing the revamp there.
Blaming its bete-noire and ex-ally, BJP Spokesperson Ram Kadam questioned why the ex-Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray kept silent when Memon’s grave was being converted into a shrine.
“Thackeray was the (then) CM and during his period the grave was turned into a shrine… This is their patriotism and love for Mumbai? Thackeray, Sharad Pawar and Rahul Gandhi should apologise to the people of Mumbai,” Kadam demanded.
Hitting back Sena Spokesperson Dr. Manisha Kayande dismissed the BJP’s allegations and said when Memon was hanged, the BJP government was in power both in the Centre and state – here Devendra Fadnavis was the CM and also home minister.
“Why did he allow Memon’s body to be handed over to his family… What prevented the BJP government in the Centre and State to formulate a policy on how to deal with the mortal remains of terror convicts or other dreaded criminals,” Dr. Kayande asked.
Congress Chief Spokesperson Atul Londhe said that during the UPA tenure, two dreaded terrorists were hanged but their bodies were secretly disposed off to prevent their graves from becoming a rallying point in future.
While Afzal Guru was executed in February 2013 in the Tihar Jail of New Delhi, Pakistani extremist Ajmal Kasab was hanged in Yerawada Central Jail in Pune.
“The BJP which was in power then, had deliberately given Memon’s body to the family for elaborate funeral… Their intention is to create communal divide… Even when the Al-Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden was killed, his body was dumped in the sea…,” Londhe pointed out.
Several other BJP leaders like Chandrashekhar Bawankule, Ashish Shelar and Kirit Somaiya and Sena leaders like Aditya Thackeray, Ambadas Danve and Kishori Pednekar indulged in the political slugfest over the grave makeover.
Despite repeated attempts, the trustees of the Bada Qabrastan were not available for comments on the matter.
Incidentally, besides Memon, the graveyard is also the final resting place of Bollywood legends Suraiya, Mehboob Khan, Nargis Dutt, Ismail Merchant, Shyama, ex-smuggler-turned-politician Haji Mastan and others.