The Supreme Court verdict on the appeals of those convicted in the Bombay serial blasts of March 12, 1993 has set the seal on a long drawn out saga. It was only in 2006-07 that the designated Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court sentenced nearly 100 people for their role in the horrific serial bomb blasts that killed 257 people and injured 713. While 10 death sentences have been commuted, that of Yakub Memon has been upheld. A continuing matter of shame is that the main conspirators of the blasts, Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, are still free and believed to be in Pakistan though that has been strenuously denied. While the foot soldiers face incarceration, successive governments at the Centre have displayed utter inertia in bringing to book Dawood and Tiger Memon whose house, a sneeze away from Mahim police station, was the hub of the terror plot. In an unrivalled act of brazenness, the Memon family left the country on the morning of the bomb blasts under the nose of the authorities. Victims of the blasts are struggling with life-long injuries, and a deep sense of betrayal. Despite a designated court handling the case, the final order took 13 years and the apex court order comes 20 years after the actual event.
The conscience of the nation must be haunted by the inexorable delay in trial and conviction, the fact that the main culprits are not anywhere near facing a trial and that little has been learnt from the country’s first ever serial blast case. Though the police pride themselves on their investigation, allegations of torture have been rampant by the families of the accused and others. This was never investigated properly. The survivors of the bomb blasts feel let down by the delayed justice and by the fact that the apex court has commuted most of the death sentences. But there is some consolation in the fact that punishment was meted out to a large number of those believed to be guilty in the blasts and that while the investigation and trial did meander, they were systematic in some ways. Before the blasts, the equally horrific communal carnage in Bombay after the Babri Masjid demolition was swept under the carpet by the then Congress government. The blasts had a link to the preceding riots for which there was no special court. Cases to implement the Srikrishna Commission report which indicted 31 policemen in the riots, are pending in this same Supreme Court. Justice comes in parts for survivors in Mumbai and sometimes never at all. The “arrows,” as the Supreme Court dubbed the foot soldiers of the March 12 terror plot, may have been punished but in both the riots and the blasts, the “archers” or the masterminds who hold the arrows, have got away with murder.