Sanjay’s “Crime” Not Linked With Bombay Blasts

With due respect to the hype created about film actor Sanjay Dutt having been sentenced to five-year jail term for illegal possession of weapons, only a part of news is being highlighted. Dutt’s possession of weapons is linked with the 1993 Bombay blasts case, without paying considerable importance to whether this can be accepted as factually accurate. Did Dutt really acquire those weapons because of 1993 blasts or some other factors compelled him to do so? It may be recalled that Bombay blasts were allegedly organized by Dawood Ibrahim, apparently as a reaction to the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 and subsequent Bombay riots in December 1992 and January 1993. The demolition was followed by riots across the country, including Mumbai, then known as Bombay.  

Dutt confessed to having received arms from underground criminals, from which he retained the AK-56. He also claimed that he kept the weapon as his family was under threat following Babri Masjid’s demolition. Sadly, Dutt’s stand has not been given much importance. Even though this is backed by evidence that the entire country was affected by riots following the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Equally relevant is the fact that Dutt played no role in 1993 Bombay blasts, which included a series of bomb explosions on March 12, 1993. He did not use his illegally acquired weapons to cause any destruction then or later.

 Certainly, in keeping with the Indian law and order, Dutt needs to serve the sentence awarded to him for illegal possession of weapons. At the same time, his stand on keeping them for his family’s security needs to be given more importance. If Indian security forces and police personnel could be depended upon for providing adequate security when atmosphere was tense following demolition of Babri Masjid, the riots would not have occurred throughout the country which claimed 3000 lives and immense damage to property. Nobody, whether a Muslim or Hindu, would have fallen victim to those riots. The Babri Masjid would not have been demolished. In this context, the timing of Dutt illegally acquiring the weapons cannot be ignored.  He did not possess them before the mosque’s demolition. He did not possess them before the riots affected Bombay.  

Besides, Dutt’s illegal possession of weapons cannot be linked with the series of 1993 Bombay blasts. He had acquired them two months before this fatal day, when the city he was residing in was reeling under the impact of horrible riots, following Babri Masjid’s demolition. Yes, he is correctly accused of having acquired them illegally and that too from wrong sources. But at that time, he was probably more concerned about the security of his own family than other formalities.

 Ironically, the Supreme Court pronounced its judgment regarding Dutt as a part of its decision on Bombay serial blasts. The two main accused in this case, Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon are still at large. The court upheld the death sentence of Yaqub Memon, brother of Tiger Memon. The death sentence of 10 others was commuted to life as, according to the apex court, the convicts had been behind bars for 20 years and their economic condition was weak. The court pronounced its verdict on appeals and cross-appeals filed by and against 100 people, including Dutt, who were convicted by a special TADA (Terrorists and Disruptive Activities-Prevention Act) court in 2006. While delivering its verdict, the court had said that the management and the conspiracy of 1993 blasts was done by Dawood Ibrahim and others in Pakistan. “The accused were trained in bomb making and to handle sophisticated weapons in Pakistan.” Considering that this charge does not apply to Dutt, it is surprising that the verdict regarding the accusation against him was not delivered separately.

 It is important to note, Dutt cannot be charged for being a terrorist or having played any disturbing role in 1993 Bombay blasts. His case needs to be viewed from a different angle. It needs to be linked with riots having taken place following demolition of Babri Masjid. As mentioned earlier, Dutt acquired the weapons as a means of self-defense and not for any offensive activity. The fact that he did not use the weapons in any disruptive or disturbing activity proves this further.

 Undeniably, it is not surprising that several individuals have stepped forward seeking pardon for Dutt. Yet, it cannot be ignored that when pardon is being sought it is also equivalent to tacitly accepting Dutt’s involvement in Bombay 1993 blast cases. Besides, let us also accept the fact that Indian police-system has on numerous occasions failed to provide adequate security to citizens of this country. Demolition of Babri Masjid and accompanying riots are just two major examples of this failure. Till date, numerous individuals responsible for demolition and the nationwide riots that followed it have not been pronounced as guilty. Certainly, committing series of murders is a more heinous crime than possession of weapons for protecting one’s own family. Against this backdrop, rather than secure pardon for Dutt, greater importance needs to be given to the factors which compelled him to acquire illegal weapons. His case needs to be re-examined against the backdrop of Babri Masjid’s demolition and accompanying nation-wide riots.