So Ajmal Kasab is dead. Hanged by the neck till death at 7:30am on Wednesday at Yerawada jail, almost four years to the day that he burst into Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, guns blazing. By Indian standards, justice has been swift.
Tickers of spontaneous public reactions running at the bottom of the screen on TV news channels, one supposes, reflect the general reaction to the execution. A few of them would surely strike some people as macabre. “Hurrah!” read one. “At last!” “He should have been hanged the next day!” said another.
So were some of the responses from 26/11 survivors, when they were asked if they felt a sense of closure now.”This should have happened years ago,” said a doctor. “I had in fact offered to your channel that you bring Kasab to your studio and I’ll demonstrate how he can be killed instantly by lethal injection.” “Closure?” said a lady. “I am jumping up and down in joy! The fear that I went through that night has never left me. Especially since it was also my birthday. This year I can again celebrate my birthday with complete happiness!”
Others were more circumspect. “A foot-soldier has been hanged, but has justice been achieved? No,” said a gentleman. “We have executed merely a pawn in this terrorism game, while the chief planners and perpetrators of terrorism are roaming free and every day saying terrible things about India. There is no reason why we Indians should celebrate like the Americans did when they got Osama bin Laden. If the government wants us to believe that justice has been accomplished, that’s far from the truth.”
The government had obviously worked out the timing carefully. Hanging Kasab on the anniversary (if that is the right word) of the attack would have been stupid and barbaric. But getting it done five days before 26/11/12 is a clever communication attempt. Both the Union and Maharashtra governments can even hope that the usual discussions that take place around this time every year about the massive bungling by senior Mumbai police officials that could have saved some lives, and the entirely inadequate response of the then-Home Minister would be muted. Even the callous reference to the tragedy by the state home minister, that “accidents happen in big cities” may be forgotten. Though it was the same man who made the official announcement of the execution on behalf of the Maharashtra government.
Above all, the execution comes just as the winter session of Parliament is beginning, and this session promises to be tumultuous. Reminds one a bit about the case of Yakub Memon, co-conspirator in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, who was arrested by the CBI under mysterious circumstances just before Independence Day in 1994. Mysterious, because Yakub was most probably arrested by the Kathmandu police in July and then brought to India and produced by the CBI as their catch just before then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao addressed the nation from the Red Fort).
Thus, one can’t help get the feeling that Kasab, the deluded terrorist, has lived and died as a pawn—first of evil and crazed men like Hafeez Saeed, and finally of Indian political plotters (though their interest was only in the ‘when’ of his death). His body will, of course, remain unclaimed (India has sent the customary request to Pakistan to take the body back, but that request will be ignored), and he will be buried in an undisclosed location like his nine other companions on that night.
This does not in any way mean that I do not support Kasab’s death sentence. If anyone ever deserved it, it was Ajmal Kasab. But 11 years after the Mumbai blasts, four years after 26/11, we are no closer to striking a decisive blow to the medieval fanatics and criminals who mastermninded the deaths of hundreds of innocent Indians. I mean no disrespect at all to the men and women who died in these attacks, and their families and loved ones. But rejoicing over any hanging is morbid. And rejoicing over this particular one also displays naïvety, something that we can hardly afford in our fight against terrorism, which is not going to end very soon.