Kasab’s hanging: Catharsis or politics?

Published: November 25, 2012

26/11 wasn’t the last terror attack on the Indian soil. Kasab’s hanging won’t end terrorism. PHOTO: REUTERS

I was standing in Delhi metro train when suddenly my co-passenger almost shouted in my ears,

Kasab has been hanged!”

Honestly, I didn’t know how to react; neither did the people around me. I gave a faint smile and said,

He deserved it.”

And then, everyone was back to what they do on every mundane Wednesday ─ playing Temple Run on their smartphones, reading novels, and listening to latest Bollywood tunes.

I remember November 26, 2008, vividly. The images of India’s financial capital under siege of a handful of terrorists was both horrifying as well as infuriating. For almost 72 hours, Mumbai was maimed by a group of zealots who foolishly believed that their murderous rampage will somehow please God.

The images of the heritage wing of Taj on fire and the intermittent sound of firing and explosions will be hard to forget. By the time this siege ended, 164 innocent people lay dead and over 300 injured.

Kasab deserved every bit of the sentence that was meted out to him. Agreed, he was a 21-year-old poor lad who fell prey to that school of terror which has claimed thousands of lives in the subcontinent and beyond. But age and circumstances can never be an excuse for killing unarmed innocent citizens. Not every poor guy becomes a Kasab; not every Kasab is a poor guy.

Kasab’s execution has reignited the global death-penalty debate. Those against it argue that there’s no place for capital punishment in a civilised society. But then again, there’s no place for such crimes in a civilised society either. I am not an advocate of the ‘electric chair’ treatment. Most of the educated Indians whom I have come across feel the same way. Indian law prescribes capital punishment in the ‘rarest of the rare’ cases. That is why only 36 convicts have walked down the gallows in independent India so far.

When it came to Kasab, India didn’t have much of a choice. We had already burnt our hands during the Kandahar hijack, where we had to release Maulana Masood Azhar in return of 192 passengers. With Kasab, the government couldn’t afford a repeat of that embarrassment. And let’s face it, a Pakistani terrorist, whose heinous crimes were recorded on CCTV cameras, is not something a beleaguered government can let go in these troubled times.

With upcoming assembly elections in two states, accusations of being soft on terror and growing disdain among the middle class due to graft, Kasab had to die. Only the timing and handling mattered. I salute the Indian judiciary for giving Kasab a fair trial and the administration for keeping the entire affair low key. Contrary to what a particular flop Bollywood director would like you to believe, majority of Indians did not dream of watching a public execution.

That Kasab’s crime fits the ‘rarest of the rare’ bill is beyond doubt. But is Kasab the only one who deserved to die? Certainly not.

Afzal Guru, the Kashmiri who was involved in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament still lives. So do the killers of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh. If the partners of Afzal Guru had succeeded, a large chunk of India’s topmost leadership would have been wiped out.

Then why did only Kasab get the noose?

The answer is, Kasab didn’t belong to any political bloc. He was not an Indian. No religious or linguistic group sympathised with him and thus, hanging him didn’t involve any repercussions. Afzal Guru’s hanging would have triggered protests in the valley.

Every Kashmiri leader of importance had warned that hanging Afzal would deteriorate the situation in Kashmir. The sympathisers of LTTE members who assassinated Rajiv Gandhi created such a furore in Tamil Nadu that the state assembly passed a bill demanding clemency for them.

Balwant Singh Rajaona, the prime accused in Beant Singh assassination, couldn’t be hanged due to pressure from hardliners from Punjab. But Pakistan’s Ajmal Kasab was the orphaned devil on Indian soil. Contrary to what his masters would have made him believe, Indian Muslims did not sympathise with him.

Out of the six terrorists on death row, Kasab should have been the last one to go if first come first serve was the basis. If there’s any lesson for the likes of Lashkar-e-Taiba from Kasab’s hanging, it’s that the next time they plan an assault on India; their “Kasab” should be an Indian and not a Pakistani. That way, there’s every chance that he might not get hanged. When political compulsions decide when and how justice is meted, the value of justice is negated.

K Unnikrishnan, father of the slain NSG commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan, said that a lot needs to be done to bring the real perpetrators of Mumbai carnage to justice.

He is right.

Kasab was after all a puppet in the hands of his handlers. In most such cases, we catch the foot soldiers and think that the needful has been done. But we all know that killing a man isn’t the solution. Killing the idea is what matters. That nefarious idea is alive and kicking on both sides of the border.

26/11 wasn’t the last terror attack on the Indian soil. Kasab’s hanging won’t end terrorism. That’s perhaps one reason why the people in the metro train were anything but ecstatic on hearing this news. The real demon is the religious intolerance and fanaticism that creates a monster out of a 21-year-old boy.

Until that monster is killed, there will be more hangings and more debates, but no permanent solution.

Follow Kunal on Twitter @kunal_anand1

Kunal Anand

Kunal Anand

An IT engineer by profession and a writer by choice, Kunal tweets as @kunal_anand1 twitter.com/kunal_anand1

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Pakistani

    Good piece. Liked it. You kept the balance…..Recommend

  • Rakesh Kumar

    To think me. To hange of terririst kasab for peacefully india. I think to hang of kasab A best Thuoght. Recommend

  • MSS

    @Rakesh Kumar,
    If you can’t write in English say in Hinglish. We would dearly like to hear your views.Recommend

  • Ali Murtaza

    it is time we have to take some strong measure to tackle terrorist and fanatic of any kind . Otherwise we can not maintain peace in our country . forget any kind of political and religious excuses and started to hanging form Batulallah Massod to Qadri .Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Nice Blog on Ajmal Kasab who “looked” more like an Indian than a Pakistani, but Good Riddance all in all.

    P.S. Where are the ET editors in the case of Rakesh Kumar’s typos and grammatical errors. Recommend

  • Nitish

    Finally someone with a sane voice. Honestly speaking,very balanced article.Great job kunal.You penned down every bit of my mind.
    @modearator:Hope you will pass this one…..Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Well written! Good job!Recommend

  • Another North Indian

    A good, analytical piece – quite a change from the one by Mr Avirook Sen which was a personal rant of a bigoted mind.Recommend

  • http://kunalanand1989.blogspot.in/ kunal

    @Ali Murtaza: I must say you are a very brave man to come out so strongly against hooliganism and bigotry in name of religion. May God give strength to both our countries to defeat all kinds of disturbing forces.Recommend

  • http://kunalanand1989.blogspot.in/ kunal

    @Nitish:
    Sensationalism does no good to anyone.I believe that most problems can be sorted out if people show a little restraint,sensitivity and carry a smile on their faces :)Recommend

  • Ali Murtaza

    Thank for yours appreciation we have same kind of misery and scarce so we can feel each other pain. There is no any justification of killing innocent people this little devil deserves to hang.Recommend

  • Sudheer

    Mr.Kunal Anand and the ET,
    I thank you both. I thank the former for writing something sensible and latter for showing courage to publish it, instead of sticking to the “bazaru”(marketable) writers. Kunal is absolutely right, Afzal Guru should have gone to the gallows first, but, shame on our disgusting politicians(a very soft word for them) he stills lives and eats the food that you and I provide by our hard earned money.
    Poor but brave security officials(including women) at the Parliament gate laid down their lives so that the temple of democracy, the parliament house, would stay safe. But shame on the high priests of this very temple, who don’t even have the courage to avenge the killers of their own saviors.Recommend

  • Gautam Bhargava

    Really good article.Recommend

  • pankaj

    A good article. But isn’t comparing entirely different cases of kasab and afzal guru like comparing apples and oranges? don’t you think we should judge these things on case to case basis?Recommend

  • Nadeem

    Nice and Informative…………….
    But still I am doubtful about Kasab’s hanging as we have not seen any proof if it.Recommend

  • Eric Kumar

    Those 160 people being killed ask their families , How they feel. It’s easy to write but think if it was your father,mother, brother, sister and friend. How they are hurting. Some family members had only one brother or sister and now they are gone. Had he was still living,it would still had heart ach for the family members who are still mourning . Hanging would not bring dear ones back but it still give them some relief and consolation for his being gone.Writer has done wondefull job in expressing his thoughts.Recommend

  • Cynical

    @pankaj

    Totally agree with you. Afzal Guru case is very different from Kasab’s. There are gaping holes in the Afzal Guru case in respect to investigation, evidence, trial and judgement.
    I think the author mentioned Afzal Guru’s case only to highlight the doctrine of political expediency that dictates the pegging order among the convicts awaiting execution of death sentence. I don’t think he is trying to draw any equivalence, moral or legal, between these two cases. Recommend

  • Striver

    It goes to the credit of of Tribune that it allowes space to vire points that may go against the generally held concepts had mores of Pakistani society. Indian papers dare not, for fear of wrath of Hindutva followers, say anything that goes against the strongly held views of the these followers.

    I find this article tasteless totally biased.

    There has been a miscarriage of justice. Lest we all get carried away by our hatred for terrorism, we must bear in mind that before putting someone on death row all possible sources of information and evidences need to be collected are corroborated, This was not done.

    There were signs of torture.; there is a strong possibility that interrogators made broken promises to Kasa; from reports emrging it is very likely some evidence was not provided to the defence by the prosecurtors; the defence lawyer totally lacked professionalism in this case it seemed as if he was looking over his shoulder fearing a reprisal from Hindutvas of the Indian society; Judges’ comments when passing the death sentence were rather ameturish and certainly not befitting the status; India refused to allow Pakistani authorities to interview Kasab and others; there is no evidecne that he fired at anyone; there is no evidence that the bullets recivered matchedthe bullets in his gun.

    I write not in support of Kasab , but as someone who supports justice for all, not accepting facts at their face value.

    Inna Lillahi wa inna ilahi raji’un.
    To God we will all return one day. Recommend

  • Striker

    @Striver: You seem to be one of those people who read fiction novels. I am sure you also believe tha 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy and 26/11 was a RAW-Mosssad-CIA operation and that Ajmal Kasab wasnt even present at CST when the attacks took place. Recommend

  • http://kunalanand1989.blogspot.in/ kunal

    @Sudheer: Sir,thanks for your generous praise. Preferential treatment in dealing with criminals serves no good. There shouldn’t be any hesitation in calling a spade a spade.Recommend

  • gp65

    One of the most balanced write-ups on this subject on ET.Well done.Recommend

  • Neha

    Glad Very very happy Recommend

  • Gupt Rogue

    ‎Though Kasab deserves the highest punishment, I do not subscribe to the idea of capital punishment. In 26/11, terrorists selectively killed non-Muslims. May Kasab be born again to understand the others’ perspective & spread peace.Recommend

  • citizen

    @Gupt Rogue:
    good thoughtRecommend

  • Lalit

    @kunal : A masterpiece by a master..:)Recommend

  • Meraj

    @kunal: well written Recommend

  • sattar rind

    those terriorst who are being supported by any group should not be go free on any cost.. Recommend