Seven years after the terrorist Yakub Abdul Razzak Memon was hanged to death, a political row suddenly erupted over the purported 'beautification' of his grave at the Bada Qabrastan in south Mumbai, here on Thursday.
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.
An earthen grave, the burial site in Mumbai recently got a face-lift with a marble grave coming up there, amid lighting and apprehensions that the terrorist's final resting place would soon become a 'mazar' (mausoluem).
While the Mumbai Police on Thursday yanked off the lighting arrangements in Bada Qabrastan, a grave political dogfight erupted between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena for allegedly allowing the revamp there.
Blaming its bete-noire, 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 apologize to the people of Mumbai," Kadam demanded.
Hitting back Sena Spokesperson Manisha Kayande dismissed the BJP's allegations and said when Memon was hanged, the BJP government was in power both at 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 at the Centre and State to formulate a policy on how to deal with the mortal remains of terror convicts or other dreaded criminals," Kayande asked.
Congress Chief Spokesperson Atul Londhe said that during the UPA tenure, two dreaded terrorists were hanged but their bodies were secretly disposed of to prevent their graves from becoming a rallying point in the 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 the bodies to the families for elaborate funerals. Their intention is to create a 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 by IANS, 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. (AA/IANS)