ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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After the Hanging

There is no closure; we must ask again why what happened did happen.

The hanging of Yakub Memon on 30 July 2015 was only the fourth case of a prisoner executed with judicial warrant in the past 11 years. Some people have asked, what is so special about the state taking a life through a proper judicial procedure when, for comparison, 14,231 people are known to have died in judicial or police custody just in the first decade of this century. In other words, almost four people are killed every day, extralegally, by the state while in its custody. This is a veritable bloodbath which remains largely unrecognised, though sometimes individual cases of custodial death are reported and become political issues. 

If the power to take a citizen’s life is one of the extraordinary powers which states vest in their sovereignty, then the Indian state is a veritable mass murderer. In the run-up to the hanging of Yakub Memon, there were media reports of studies which showed that more than nine out of every 10 persons awarded the death penalty in independent India belong either to a lower status caste, or are members of a religious minority, or happen to be poor. This ratio would, if anything, be further skewed if the socio-economic profiles of those who die in custody are added. 

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