26/11– A date no Mumbaikar or Indian will ever forget. The visual of the legendary Taj hotel on fire and a handful of terrorists crisscrossing the city, as if they owned the turf, killing innocents will always be etched on every Indian’s mind. Amongst these terrorists was a young boy dressed casually in a T-shirt, firing randomly with an AK-47 at innocents– there was no sign of any emotion on his passive face. He was Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist caught by Mumbai Police, now undergoing trial. In him, we saw a new face of terror - of a seemingly innocent but ruthless and misguided youth, equipped with modern weapons and the idea of salvation after killing civilians.
Kasab, along with another terrorist Abu Ismail Khan, sprayed bullets with abandon at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Their other Pakistani associates were responsible for the death of senior policemen like ATS chief Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar and Ashok Kamte. After leaving a trail of dead bodies all over Mumbai and a raging gun battle, Kasab was captured alive by Constable Tukaram Omble, who lost his life in the incident.
The battle of Mumbai was won, but the difficult part had only begun. It was now time to prosecute Ajmal Kasab and punish him for playing havoc with our lives, as also for daring to wage war against India. It is then that Kasab began taking advantage of the loopholes in the Indian judicial system and put up a frustrating show for us mute and helpless spectators.
Questions were raised on Kasab’s nationality– whether he was a Pakistani or not. This was even after he himself claimed that he belonged to Pakistani village Okara in Faridkot district of Punjab province. After a lot of bureaucratic exercise that involved tireless follow-ups with Pakistani authorities, his nationality was confirmed.
Next up was the question of whether he should be given a chance of a fair trial at all, with lawyers refusing to take up his case citing patriotic reasons. Public opinion was against lodging a case and allowing Kasab to fight it out for himself. But the Supreme Court intervened and he was granted a chance to defend himself by a lawyer, Anjali Waghmare, amidst protests. She was later removed and a new lawyer, Abbas Kazmi was appointed to defend the terrorist.
Kazmi- a good lawyer that he turned out to be for his client- argued that the witnesses and the medical reports were questionable and that Kasab was a minor and so his case should be tried at a juvenile court. Kasab claimed, "The police have manipulated my age from the beginning to show me as an adult.`` It was then that Ujjwal Nikam, the veteran public prosecutor, produced the statements of doctors at the hospital and also the Jail Superintendent to remove all doubts. Nikam declared, “Kasab has learnt to mislead the court”. Even an ossification of his collar bone was done to determine his age.
After an inquiry report, the Special Court declared that Kasab was not a minor. "Aapka case isi court mein chalegi (Your case will continue to be heard in this court),” said Judge M L Tahaliyani to Ajmal Kasab. The judge went on to say, “He is at least 20 years old”. While all these arguments were going on, Kasab kept smiling and behaved as if nothing had happened! The judge- and the country- have not found his behaviour amusing at all.
As days go by, the trial is dragging, like it does with most cases in India. Kasab is relaxed, and has become demanding. He has been asking for ‘Khushboo’ (perfume), Urdu newspapers and also the money his trainers had given him. He also requested the police to let him roam around inside the verandah of the Arthur Jail since he had no one to talk to.
News had it that Kasab was ‘getting bored’ inside the jail. So, he put in a note of request to the special court to provide him with books. He demanded that either books be provided to him or bought for him using the money that was seized by the police from him.
His lawyer has been providing him with books in Urdu. The lawyer has told the court, “He has finished reading them and wants to read more such books.” For his age, Ajmal Kasab has a lot of guts; even after committing a heinous crime, he is so indifferent and behaves as if he has been captured for a trifle like pick pocketing. And of course, all the while he keeps getting bored in captivity!
It is then that the question arises- why is Kasab doing such things and behaving in such a manner? Is it because he is a ‘fidayeen’ and has no fear of death? Or is it because he has a feeling that he can play around with the loopholes in the Indian Judiciary? Is this his ploy to find escape route by making people believe that he is not mentally sound? Has he been trained for such diversionary antics in the same way that he was trained for using sophisticated weaponry by his Pakistani masters?
Has Kasab under-valued the Indian judicial system? Isn’t this a mockery of law and justice in India and also of the people who lost their near and dear ones? Are we becoming a laughing stock in not being able to prosecute a terrorist in our custody even after a year- let alone catch up with those who are across the border?
According to law, Kasab has been provided a lawyer to defend himself. The court should do all it can now to wind up the case quickly and hand down such a punishment that sends a chill down the spines of the most hardened of terrorists: that is the only wish of the people of India.
While Kasab is undergoing trial in here, a Pakistani anti-terrorist court, constituted to find the truth behind the 26/11 attacks, on October 31 declared that all the 14 terrorists involved in Mumbai attacks including Ajmal Amir Kasab as ‘absconders’.
After this verdict, Ujjwal Nikam said, “This has proved beyond doubt that Kasab is a Pakistani and was involved in 26/11 Mumbai attacks.”
Amidst these developments, one fine day, Ajmal Kasab suddenly confessed to his role in 26/11 attacks on July 20th and wished to be hanged. He was pretty much upset over the fact that his own country had disowned him. His lawyer was miffed as the terrorist, with the mind of his own, had not cared to inform him of his move. A magistrate later informed the court that the confession was made without any pressure on the accused.
Earlier, in a sensational disclosure, Kasab had laid bare the role of Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafeez Saeed, the outfit`s chief of operations Zaki-Ur-Rehman Lakhvi and its member Abu Hamza, revealing they had trained the 10 gunmen in various parts of Pakistan in military and intelligence exercises.
In a documentary by HBO, ‘Terror in Mumbai’, rare footage showed how Kasab and his nine other colleagues spread terror in Mumbai. It even shows Kasab telling investigators that his own father had sold him to the dreaded terror outfit LeT for a few hundred thousand rupees since they were poor. His father told him, "These people make loads of money, and so will you. You don`t have to do anything difficult. We`ll have money. We won`t be poor anymore. Your brother and sister can get married. Look, son, look at these guys living the good life,"
Kasab agreed and India paid for that pettiness.
The documentary shows scenes, from ground zero, which are sufficient evidence against Kasab. Even now, if our system fails to provide justice to the deceased of 26/11. then India will be sending across the message that we are extremely vulnerable and that our judicial system is weak. And it’s no wonder that there are solid reports of another attack from the sea a la 26/11, being planned by the same mindless freaks, who scarred Mumbai, but failed to keep the maximum city down. It is high time that we put an end to the Kasab show.