Memon & Kalam: A look at the choices that make us who we are




By Aishwarya Nag Choudhury

The Supreme Court of India rejected Yakub Memon’s mercy plea and upheld the death warrant. His lawyers made a last minute attempt on Wednesday night, camping outside the residential office of the Chief Justice of India seeking a last minute appeal.

Past midnight, a bench was constituted to further look into Memon’s punishment so that a final decision could be reached. The bench differentiated between this case and another case involving a couple from Uttar Pradesh and decided that the UP judgement was taken in ‘haste’ and thus the death penalty could be avoided. However, Yakub had exhausted all his legal remedies and therefore his death warrant could not be stalled.

Today, with the execution of Memon, the nation bid farewell to two strikingly different personalities, both with extensive knowledge of arms and ammunitions. One served as a teacher, a scientist, and a revered president. The other is responsible for terror attacks and creating a communal divide. Both are Muslims.

The last rites of the former President APJ Abdul Kalam and the execution of Yakub Memon are being extensively covered by the media. While the nation gets continuous updates, a closer look at the situation explains why neither religion, nor weapons have anything to do with the choices one makes in life. Social beliefs are carefully constructed to suit our personal belief systems and resources are used only in accordance with it.

The ‘Missile man of India’, APJ Abdul Kalam, was an example to the country in many ways. Kalam was a man of vision. Few could see the potential of the nuclear bomb beyond mass destruction. He was referred to as the ‘people’s president’ for a reason. He was accessible and down to earth, making a number of public appearances, unlike any other president before.

Kalam was a boatman’s son from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu. His journey to become a scientist and an engineer started from there. In a long line of presidencies, Kalam stood out. His books Wings of Fire and Ignited Minds offered us aphorisms about progress, dreaming, and thinking, when he so often also had simple advice that resonated. Kalam stood for the nation’s aspirations.

Yakub Memon was an Indian terrorist convicted for the 1993 serial blasts in Bombay. The brother of Tiger Memon (one of the prime suspects in the blasts), was a qualified chartered accountant and an owner of a successful meat export business ‘Tejrath International’. Memon was executed today morning according to the warrant passed by the SC. The Supreme Court rejected the last mercy plea of the convict.

In many ways, the comparison of the aforementioned figures are impossible, but when the question of faith perpetuating violence is raised, one might see clearly that it is just a matter of choice. Here in question are two educated individuals who have chosen their life paths.

Kalam, a weapon engineer, used them as ammunitions not against innocent people or other countries, but to ensure security, development, and progress for the nation. He never imagined violence to have religious or moral sanctions and understood the value of weapons as ‘necessary ammunition.’ Memon used the same ammunitions to claim the lives of numerous people and breaking their families forever. Moreover, he tried to justify his actions on religious grounds.

Two men of the same faith, having expertise on ammunitions, but lives devoted to different philosophies elucidates the importance of choices. The tribute to Kalam’s death and the execution of Memon has more to reveal when looked at in comparison rather than isolation. It teaches us that finally it is our choices that make us who we are.