Ajmal Kasab. The lone survivor of the militant squads responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, was executed in deep secrecy at Pune’s Yarvada jail on Wednesday (21 November). It was first time the death sentence has been carried out since 2004.
In August this year, the Supreme Court of India rejected Kasab’s review petition and upheld his 2010 death sentence over the attack. President Pranab Mukherji rejected Kasab’s clemency plea on November 5, although it was not made public till his hanging.
At the very beginning let it be said clearly that attacking unarmed civilians is a despicable act and must be condemned in strongest of terms. Notwithstanding the grave provocation and the belligerently oppressive nature of the aggressor, harming non-combatant civilians can never be justified.
If, as the prosecution ‘proved’ in the Indian apex court, Ajmal was the same lone survivor of the killing squad that massacred over a hundred unarmed people, then law ,it can be said, took its own natural course. And, in the words of Indian home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde ‘justice (has) been served’.
But the timing and the contest in which Kasab has been sent to gallows suggest that more than ‘serving justice’ and bringing ‘joy’ to the relatives of the victims it was aimed to serve the party interests of the ruling congress.
First why the Congress- led UPA government went on that hilarious haste? Just three months after conviction and execution of capital sentence? This ‘speedy dispousal of justice’ must be a history in the criminal justice system of India. Already there are over a dozen convicts on the death row waiting for the noose to be tightened round their necks after their pleas for clemency have been rejected by the ‘president of the Republic’ since 2004.
Only a week before Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray – a Xenophobe and Hindu fanatic to the core – passed away. His cremation was attended by a two-million people. Congress which rules Mumbai in coalition with Nationalist Congress is facing a challenge from communalist BJP and Shiv Sena. The large gathering at Thackeray’s cremation put Congress in jittery. Already Hindu-communalist groups (Sang Parivar) have accused Congress that it was going ‘soft’ on Ajmal and Afzal Guru (a Kashmiri youth convicted of a 2001 attack on Parliament).
Shiv Sena hailed the hanging of Kasab as ‘the befitting homage’ to the departed Shiv Sena supremo. One need not to have the genius of an Einstein to foretell it was Congress that would deliver the maximum political mileage out of this ‘befitting homage’. Many states in India are bracing for elections including Gujarat. The general elections are not far away. Just at one year’s schedule. And this year Is going to be the year of playing electoral gimmicks. The timing of the execution in this perspective, Congress hopes, can be beneficial for her which opposition accuses of being ‘soft on national security’.
Congress shares government in Mumbai. The same government awarded Thackeray state funeral. Prime minister Manmohan mourned death of Thackeray describing it a ‘great loss of nation’. It wanted to convey that it is more Hindu nationalist than Saffron brigade, with its ‘secular’ robes serving the disguise.
Congress has a history of carrying out political executions. Remember how late Mohd Maqbool Bhat was hanged in Tihar Jail in 1979. Several years after he was convicted for killing an intelligence official in Kashmir. Soon Mahatary, an Indian diplomat, killed in Britain, which India accused that some activists sympathetic to Bhat were responsible for it, the then PM avenged the death in hanging Maqbool. Ajmal Kasab’s execution fits in that frame.
If congress still thinks that in proving their “masculinity” they need one more skull to browbeat and silence their critics, Afzal Guru’s file is at Shinde’s table.