Balanced and Mature: How Urdu Media Reported Yakub Memon’s Hanging

The Quint finds that Urdu papers chose fact &balanced reporting over politicking in coverage of Yakub Memon’s hanging

Published31 Jul 2015, 12:57 PM IST
4 min read

What did Urdu papers say on the day that Yakub Memon was hanged? The enquiry itself is ‘loaded’. One could be accused of presuming that Urdu papers and their readers, mainly Muslims, would likely be sympathetic to Yakub Memon.

So, do we plead guilty of our bias and not attempt the story… or do we make the enquiry and demolish a perverse presumption once and for all? 

Here is what we found…

Like every other publication in the country, Delhi-based Urdu newspaper Sahafat headlined Yakub Memon’s execution with Yakub ke liye poori raat jaaga aadha Hindustan” (Half of India stayed awake for Yakub). The lead story this morning read:

Perhaps, for the first time in history, the Supreme Court was open for work through the night. Deliberations on Yakub’s death sentence started at 12 AM and concluded at 5 AM, as half the Nation stayed awake for the final judgement.

Senior counsel Prashant Bhushan and twelve other lawyers approached Chief Justice HL Dattu at 12 AM and tried to save Yakub with another petition, but the Supreme Court rejected the appeal.

Balanced and Mature: How Urdu Media Reported Yakub Memon’s Hanging
Balanced and Mature: How Urdu Media Reported Yakub Memon’s Hanging

Yakub’s lawyers had appealed for 14 days’ time on the basis that he has the right to file a mercy petition on his own behalf and that the copt of the President’s rejection had not yet been received.

The newspaper also teased their other stories on the front page with the following headlines:

1. Yakub Memon laid to rest besides his father’s grave.
Mumbai police had advised the Memon family to have only close family members at Yakub’s last rites, but thousands joined them in Mahim.

2. Prashant Bhushan disappointed with the judgement.

3. People who have the mindset of vultures have won: Yakub’s lawyer Shyam Keswani.

4. The government should show haste in other cases of violence: Congress members speak.

Mumbai-based Inquilab dedicated Page One to Yakub Memon with the headline Hazaar Mukhalafaton Ke Bawajood Memon Ko Phaansi De Di Gayi” (Despite Thousand Appeals, Yakub Memon Hanged)

The newspaper had a photograph of Yakub Memon along with a timeline of the events that led to his execution.

On the left, the paper published an article on the SIT report on the Naroda Patiya investigation (part of the 2002 Gujarat riots) with the headline and photo that read: “Maya Kodnani was leading a gang of rioters: SIT”

Balanced and Mature: How Urdu Media Reported Yakub Memon’s Hanging
Balanced and Mature: How Urdu Media Reported Yakub Memon’s Hanging

The second headline says Yakub Memon was hanged on his birthday by the same hangman who executed Ajmal Kasab.

Jail authorities sent a birthday cake for Yakub Memon who reportedly got emotional, but it was unclear whether he ate the cake or not.

The third story details the late night Supreme Court proceedings and how the decision remained unchanged.

The fourth story on the page quoted Yakub’s lawyer Anand Grover - “This is disappointing news for all the people who were expecting Justice”.

Inquilab also curated an op-ed by Network 18 Editor-in-Chief (Publications) R Jagannath that questioned the validity of death penalty for Yakub Memon when Rajiv Gandhi and Beant Singh’s killers were still alive.

Lucknow based Rozana Rashtriya Sahara headlined the story with a simple “Yakub Ko Phansi” (Yakub Hanged).

Balanced and Mature: How Urdu Media Reported Yakub Memon’s Hanging

The first story spoke about the funeral procession that was “attended by thousands amidst a high police alert”

Two of Yakub’s brothers - Yusuf and Anjum Memon, who were convicted in the 1993 blasts case, are serving life sentences and could not attend Yakub’s funeral.

The newspaper also quoted CPM leader Sitaram Yechury and Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan commenting on how Yakub Memon was wrongly executed.

Hyderabad based Munsif also had a direct headline - “Yakub Memon Ko Nagpur Jail Mein Phansi De Di Gayi”

Jail authorities were initially reluctant to hand over the dead body after the post-mortem. Yakub’s bother Suleman filed an official request and the body was handed over only after the Memon family agreed to certain strict conditions.

The report also talks in detail about Yakub Memon’s final moments.

Memon wanted to meet his daughter for one last time, but having lost all hope, he had to make do with a phone call. He looked happy and satisfied after the phone call... Yakub cried inconsolably when he met his brother Suleman in jail.

Despite a government advisory, the paper carried a photo of Yakub Memon’s dead body.

For the record then, the Urdu papers’ reportage on Yakub Memon’s hanging was balanced, objective and mature. As good or bad, biased or balanced as any other media on the day.

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