A little over a week back Sanjay Dutt, the so-called ‘khalnayak’ of Bollywood, convicted in an arms case of the 1993 Mumbai bombings, was given an early release from jail on account of his good behaviour. He was welcomed pompously by the media and his fans like a victorious Caesar returning to Rome.
Nobody talked about Zaibunissa Kazi.
Kazi, now 73, was arrested for the same offence as Dutt and was awarded the same quota of punishment. And yet there is an inconsistency in the leniency delivered by the apex court.
Kazi, who is suffering from various ailments including a malignant tumour in the kidney, thyroid issues and cholesterol, has had her plea for mercy rejected by the previous and the incumbent governments. She is serving her five-year sentence in Yerwada jail. Even former Chairman of Press Council of India and retired Justice Markandey Katju appealed to the President of India and the Governor of Maharashtra to pardon Kazi as well on humanitarian grounds. “I am of the firm opinion she also deserves a pardon,” he wrote. “I make no distinction between a celebrity and a non-celebrity.”
Dutt, possibly due to his family’s political affiliation, somehow managed to be acquitted under the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). Such wasn’t the case with Zaibunissa who was instantly stamped with the tag of a terrorist.
Zaibunissa’s involvement in the ammunition hoarding case still remains unclear. It is reported that Zaibunissa agreed to go to the police station on April 17, 1993, for being questioned about Abu Salem, who had posed to her as a real estate agent. Within two days she was booked and arrested under TADA.
“Ramdev and a section of Sanjay’s supporters in the BJP, including his lawyer Hitesh Jain who is also an RSS activist, have been instrumental in securing the actor’s early release,” reports The Telegraph.
Dutt has received numerous paroles and furloughs. He has comfortable spent 155 days of his sentence at home. He received a parole in August 2015 for 30 days for his daughter’s nose surgery which was extended to 60. He even got parole to attend New Year celebrations. He had his sentence reduced from six to five years of jail. He went to jail in May 2013 and was back home for the first time on furlough in October. Now he is being released 103 days early on grounds of good behaviour.
Unlike Dutt, Zaibunissa Kazi won’t be getting a hero’s welcome whenever she is released. She will forever be outcast as the woman who aided the bombings. Kazi’s daughter Shagufta also applied for her mother’s early release on grounds of good conduct and medical history earlier this January. She hopes that it won’t be rejected this time around.
Dutt’s early release is not in question here. The question is that does Zaibunissa Kazi, who is already suffering enough deserve a pardon any less than him just because she is not a celebrity with political connections? How long will we ignore the accountability of the actions of celebrities? How long will the Salmans and Sanjays of B-town keep getting away?