Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab – the dreaded Mumbai attacker captured live on CCTV wielding a gun and killing scores on the fateful night of November 26, 2008 – has finally met his ‘The End’.
Secretly hanged and quietly buried inside Pune’s Yerawada Central Prison on the morning of November 21, 2012 – nearly four years after the deadly terror strikes that kept the world glued to their TV screens for four days in the winter of 2008 – Kasab has been confined to history books.
But, November 21 would be remembered as a red-letter day in the history of India, especially of the United Progressive Alliance government.
Operation X – the entire process that culminated in Kasab’s execution on Wednesday – has left not just India but the world surprised. The entire operation reminds me of the summer of 1998 when India had pulled off a stunner testing three nuclear bombs on May 11 without the world (including the American spy satellites) even getting a whiff of it.
It was only hours before Kasab’s execution that the world got to know his mercy petition was rejected on November 5 by the Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee; and only after his hanging that he had been quietly shifted to Pune from Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail on the intervening night of November 18 and 19, and hanged till death two days later. Only the news of his body being buried inside the jail premises came as less of a surprise to an amazed audience.
The UPA government must be lauded for what they have achieved. And the President too.
While many are questioning the government’s intentions – the development coming a day before Parliament’s Winter Session kicked off with the UPA on backfoot – it may be apt to remember that politics over national interest should be avoided. The UPA may have had its motives – every government has – but what it has achieved has helped negate the notion that India is a soft state - that it can’t act against terror - and that religion would always become a hurdle in taking decisive action.
The same people and parties had been criticising the government for being soft on terror and minority appeasement by delaying the execution of Parliament attack death row convict Afzal Guru.
It’s true the government (and the President) have yet to act on Afzal Guru’s file (mercy plea), but the Kasab hanging should be seen separately.
In my view, 26/11 attacks were the second biggest terror strikes the world has ever seen (first being the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US). While the 9/11 strikes lasted a few hours, the Mumbai attacks continued for four days and tested India’s response system on a never before scale.
Ever since Pakistan’s hand was established in the 26/11 attacks, New Delhi has been pressing Islamabad to act and bring the perpetrators to justice.
India, on its part, had only one task on its hand. Hold Kasab’s trial and bring him to justice. And this is what India has done.
Kasab was given full legal recourse before he moved his mercy plea against his death sentence before the President. Once that was rejected, the government, especially the Home Ministry led by Sushilkumar Shinde, swiftly and efficiently moved to bring Kasab to gallows. Even the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi were reportedly kept in the dark about Operation X.
It was a befitting end to a long judicial battle, in the fight against terror. It’s true the families of the victims of 26/11 attacks would get justice only when the masterminds of the attacks are brought to justice in Pakistan, yet Kasab’s hanging has come as some form of closure for them. They, and the rest of India, are relieved that the Indian government has at least done what it could on its own. This time, it has not taken refuge in excuses like law and order problems and communal tension to delay the execution of Kasab.
Hope, the resolve grows from here and we will witness more such strong Indian responses to terrorists and their sponsors.