'Raman knew everything and was privy to all the details of Yakub's movements.'
- MUST READ: B Raman's unpublished column from 2007 Why Yakub Memon must not be hanged
"It is brave of B Raman to speak the truth, I admire his courage. We intelligence-wallahs are always accused of doing hanky-panky but here is an Indian Police Service officer who put down his version honestly. I totally believe what Raman says, I have no reason to not believe him," A S Dulat, former chief of Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency, told Rediff.com
Yakub Memon, the March 12, 1993 Mumbai blasts convict sentenced to death, has moved the Supreme Court, seeking a stay on his execution which is expected July 30, which is also his 53rd birthday.
President Pranab Mukherjee has already rejected his mercy plea, and the Supreme Court has dismissed his curative petition.
Mr Raman, a former additional secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, in his unpublished column from 2007 that was published by Rediff.com on Thursday, July 23, argued that Yakub Memon did not deserve to be hanged.
'I was disturbed to notice that some mitigating circumstances in the case of Yakub Memon and some other members of the family were probably not brought to the notice of the court by the prosecution,' Mr Raman wrote in his column, 'and that the prosecution did not suggest to the court that these circumstances should be taken into consideration while deciding on the punishment to be awarded to them. In their eagerness to obtain the death penalty, the fact that there were mitigating circumstances does not appear to have been highlighted.'
Mr Raman, who headed the Pakistan Desk at R&AW during Yakub Memon's return in 1994 and was intimately involved in the operation, also revealed that Yakub Memon had been flown to Delhi in a government plane from Nepal.
'In July 1994, some weeks before my retirement, he was informally picked up in Kathmandu, with the help of the Nepal police, driven across Nepal to a town in Indian territory, flown to Delhi by an aircraft of the Aviation Research Centre and formally arrested in Old Delhi by the investigating authorities and taken into custody for interrogation. The entire operation was coordinated by me,' Mr Raman wrote.
'Further, (Yakub) cooperated with the investigating agencies and assisted them by persuading some other members of the Memon family to flee from the protection of the ISI in Karachi to Dubai and surrender to the Indian authorities. The Dubai part of the operation was coordinated by a senior officer of the IB, who was then on deputation to the ministry of external affairs. Neither the R&AW nor I had any role in the Dubai part of the operation.'
Mr Raman's version thus puts a question mark on the basis upon which Yakub Memon was awarded the death penalty.
Another former RA&W chief Vikram Sood told Rediff.com, "Raman had lots of credibility."
In fact, the publication of Mr Raman's column has stirred a debate over how a criminal could be sent to the gallows on the basis of information that was incorrect.
So what next in the Yakub Memon saga, when the very premise upon which he was convicted has fallen flat after the publication of Mr Raman's version?
So far, none of his colleagues in service, or in retirement, has questioned Mr Raman's credibility or the authenticity of what he has said.
The Indian Express on Friday, July 24, published Mr Raman's version, along with his colleague and now retired R&AW officer Vappala Balachandran's opinion.
'I was aware of the case, but I was not present in the country when the event happened and when he (Yakub Memon) was finally brought in. I was then on a special assignment outside the country and held the rank of a special secretary. Raman was a close friend and if he has said this in writing, then it has to be correct.'
'But at this stage, when the event has gone through so many judicial layers, it would be incorrect for me to say anything on this matter... Raman at that time was asked by (then Maharashtra chief minister) Sharad Pawar's office to assist in this operation, and I am aware that he helped in everything. Raman knew everything and was privy to all the details of Yakub's movements. He had assisted the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Mumbai police and he did that in the capacity he was assigned. I read the piece just late evening, and I can only say if Raman has written it, it has to be true.'
"I think Raman's version must be correct because look at the way he has done it," Dulat told Rediff.com, "He was the officer, so he had a dilemma over speaking the truth or not. But, in the end, he settled for speaking out. See, ultimately, you have to be honest to yourself."