Memo to Pakistan: Kasab’s hanging is not closure enough

When Ajmal Kasab came by sea that fateful November day in 2008, along with his jihad-indoctrinated maniacs, to wage war on Mumbai and, in a larger sense, on all of India, he expected to die a martyr’s death, perhaps with guns blazing and the promised vision of 72 virgins awaiting him in paradise.

But when he did die eventually, on another November morning nearly four years later, it was far from the spectacular death he had planned for himself.

In the end, he died like the sewer rat that he was: with a hood over his face, and a rope around his neck, which squeezed the last fitful gasps out of him without any ceremony.

There were certainly no blazing guns to make a martyr of Kasab; and there certainly won’t be any virgins waiting for him in the hell world he has now entered. The only hedonistic concession that was made to him in the last minutes of his life was that the rope by which he was hanged was tenderised with ghee, soap and squashed banana.

All that remains of him now is an unmarked grave, far away from his home town in Pakistan, whose grinding poverty he sought to escape by embracing death.

Only when the terror machine that operates in Pakistan is brought to justice in its entirety can the wounds of Mumbai begin to heal. AFP

In the final act of treachery, the Pakistani government, whose proxy agents had sent Kasab to wage war on India, declined even to acknowledge the advance intimation of Kasab’s imminent death that the Indian High Commission wished to convey to the accursed jihadi warrior’s family.

Nor would the Pakistani government accept Kasab’s body, even though the Indian government evidently offered to hand it over. Like the nine other jihadis who died in Mumbai in November 2008 after killing more than 170 people over three days of urban mayhem, Kasab, the sole surviving gunman, death had, from his benighted perspective, been utterly in vain. After squeezing every last bit of hatred and propaganda mileage out of him, the Pakistani deep state had abandoned him, and cast him away like a used condom.

Strikingly the nine gunmen who were killed were not allowed to be buried in Bada Kabrastan, the main Muslim graveyard in Mumbai, because the Jama Masjid Trust, which runs it, and Mumbai’s Muslim community, did not want their burial ground to be ritually polluted by having “murderers” buried in it. Kasab too deserves much the same pariah status.

In any case, this isn’t the first time that Pakistan has abandoned its fallen pawns on the battlefield. During the Kargil war, it sent its armymen in the guise of mujahideen gunmen to seize the high vantage points, but when they were overthrown, they didn’t even carry back their dead with them. (More here.)

Among a section of the chatterati in India, there is a sense of manifest disappointment that Kasab was hanged surreptitiously, perhaps as a concession to Indian Muslim — and Pakistani — sentiments. But there is not much merit in the argument that Kasab ought to have been hanged in public, perhaps as a way to close the circle on the very public killings that he perpetrated, in full glare of CCTV cameras at VT.

Such a public hanging would have given Kasab — and other jihadists who are still being spawned in Pakistani terror camps — the oxygen of publicity that their warped mission craves and feeds off. The television images of such an execution would have played endlessly on loop, and served as recruitment posters for yet more maniacs.

Nor did Kasab deserve a 21-gun salute — even if all 21 guns were trained on him. The low-profile, anonymous hanging — and the quiet burial — was exactly what the low-life foot soldier deserved. And it’s just as well that Pakistan has not accepted Kasab’s body, which would otherwise have become the epicentre for another jihadi memorial.

Kasab’s hanging doesn’t bring any kind of closure to the trauma that Mumbaikars — and the rest of India — experienced on those three days in 2008, which left a forever weeping wound on our consciousness. Pakistan’s former President Pervez Mushraff, the man without a country, made good use of the propagandist platform he was recently offered in India to counsel India to learn to bury its memories of the past.

And although Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has said that if he is elected to power, he will bring the perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks to justice, he has the gall to suggest that similar attacks in the future can be pre-empted only if India resolved the Kashmir issue.

In the larger sense, Kasab was merely a witless foot soldier, one of many guns-for-hire, who allowed himself to be fooled by jihadi indoctrination and fantasies about the afterlife. The puppeteers who were yanking his strings — some of whom are in the Pakistani Army and the ISI — and the jihadi masterminds like Hafiz Saeed still walk free in Pakistan, despite the pretense of a prosecution. And for all the talk of reconciliation, the terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir stand ready to spew yet more venom into India.

Only when the terror machine that operates in Pakistan is brought to justice in its entirety can the wounds of Mumbai begin to heal. This doesn’t represent a yearning for bloodletting to avenge the crimes of the past; but even if they are not hanged, they must at least be subjected to a meaningful, transparent trial, much in the manner that Kasab was given.

For Pakistan, Kasab’s hanging offered one more opportunity to demonstrate that it was serious about matching its claims to want reconciliation with concrete action. But even today, it wallows in a state of denial. It sent one of its indoctrinated sons to spill blood in India, with the promise of plenty in the afterlife. And although Kasab the Survivor did secure bountiful portions of biryani in this very life, all that’s left of him today is an unmarked grave — and the distant memory of the perfidy he perpetrated.

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