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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

On Why Ajmal Amir Kasab Shoud be Hanged Quickly

26/11 was unlike any other terrorist incident before in India because it was nothing less than an urban warfare unleashed on not only unsuspecting Mumbaikars going about their normal daily business but also on the entire nation. It affected not only the residents of Mumbai but also people from many parts of the world who had come to Mumbai for business and pleasure. For three days, a large part of Mumbai was held to ransom by a mere handful of hardcore terrorists trained and motivated by a determined enemy. The calm voice of the handler asking the terrorists at Chabad House to kill their hostages in cold blood while keeping the mobile switched on because he wanted to hear the gunshots, was most cruel and spine-chilling. That too, after assuring the Rabbi’s wife that no harm would come her way if she followed his instructions. The Rabbi and his wife, as were many others in the Taj and Oberoi hotels, were murdered simply because of religious hatred. The telephone transcripts are there for everyone to see, however much some of the so-called secular brigade might wish to whitewash this and want us to believe otherwise. The rest of the attacks at CST, Cama Hospital and elsewhere were random in nature but were still carried out due to hatred and to instill a deep sense of fear. Kasab was part of this  group that also killed in cold blood the Captain and the crew of M.V. Kuber, who were simple fishermen.

As usual, some voices have been heard for showing mercy to Kasab. While pleading for commuting the death sentence to Kasab, one should not lose sight of the nature of the crime and the attitude of the convict. The convict belongs to a group which wants to wage a jihad against kafir India. It has conducted several fidayeen attacks on India for over two decades now, and continues to espouse its violent policies even after the UN Security Council ban. The 26/11 terrorists were trained in a military-like fashion for the 26/11 mission with extensive reconnaissance conducted before to help the terrorists inflict maximum fatalities and damage. Kasab never felt remorse while being interrogated or even in the court when trials were going on. In the last eighteen months, Kasab never sought forgiveness from the families who have suffered grievously and irreparably because of his actions. He never ever hinted that he understood the futility of it all or expressed repentance. On the other hand, he tried to wriggle out of the situation by spinning stories about how he had been caught by Indian police several weeks before the Mumbai carnage etc. He was caught red handed even as he shot Police Constable Tukharam Omble dead as the brave policeman tried to grab Kasab’s AK47 with bare hands. One is unable to see the use of keeping such an unremorseful, unrepentant, bigotted and violent person supported by a group which swears by jihad against Hindu India, in a maximum security person for the rest of his long life with the constant overhanging threat of attacks by the Lashkar-e-Tayba (LeT) to attempt to release him. Such attempts will certainly lead to more bloodbath. What is the sanctity of a Pakistani jihadi, who has been conclusively proved of mass murder, that we are willing to sacrifice more and more innocent Indian lives ? It is also morally repugnant to ask the very same persons who have lost their loved ones to this mindless terrorist, for no fault of theirs, and the rest of the country terrorized by him, to pay for his maintenance, upkeep and security through their taxes. That would be taking dhimmitude to greater and newer depths.

The basis of the argument of those who hold a candle to showing mercy to such hardened terrorists is that it is simply immoral to take the life of a person however strong the case may be against him/her. It is their argument further that a government cannot partake that act. However, they miss the point that the one of the first duties of any government is to provide security to its people. The common belief is that punishment deters future repetitions of crime thereby protecting society and laws are framed therefore on such a thesis. Even Islam, which is usually claimed to be 'a religion of peace' and to which religion Kasab belongs, prescribes severe punishments for crimes. If 'just punishment' is a false notion, we do not need courts at all as it not only negates man-made laws but even the God-given shariat. Obviously, the Government of India will not be extinguishing the life of an innocent, if and when it finally gathers enough courage to hang Kasab, but one who has on his hands the blood of scores of people he wantonly killed and maimed and who were complete strangers to him and had no quarrel with him whatsoever.

The message that this judgement gives is that India will punish the criminals through legal means after giving even a mass murderer every opportunity to defend himself/herself, however grave his/her crime is. Such arguments as ‘immorality of death sentence’ can be taken to any length and the entire justice system scrapped because any kind of punishment can be argued as immoral. What about the commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG) killing the other nine terrorists in the two hotels and the Chabad House ? Can it be also argued that they were immoral too ? At least in the case of Kasab, it was a judge who after giving every chance to Kasab to prove his innocence, awarded him the death sentence, but, no such opportunity was given to those nine terrorists. Does it mean then, that no armed operation should ever be mounted against terrorists because that may potentially lead to their killing ? Would we be extending the same ‘morality’ argument if the terrorists detonate a nuclear bomb over us and we catch the perpetrators ?

What would be immoral though, is to delay the death sentence handed to a person after it has been confirmed by the highest court of the land. To keep a prisoner, awaiting death sentence, in jail for more than the minimum needed time is a violation of human dignity. We must support Afzal Guru's recent request to hang him rather than keeping him in solitary confinement. Already, India awards death sentence only in the rarest of rare cases and there is no reason therefore to delay such sentences by the Government once they are confirmed by the Apex Court. The practice of pardon by the President through mercy petitions can be only used an escape route in the rarest of the already very rare cases of death sentence in our country; and in cases like those of Kasab or Guru, who waged war against our country, the sentences should be processed forthwith.

Some have argued that a country that achieved its independence through non-violence cannot resort to the crude practice of the State itself hanging a criminal or a terrorist. They also argue that such punishments have not been known to curb crimes by a determined person or a group. It is true that a significant factor for our gaining Independence from the British was our sustained non-violent struggle; but, it must be recognized that it was not the only factor. The same non-violence could not stop Partition, could not prevent the millions from being massacred and could not subsequently prevent the enduring hostility between us and Pakistan. If himsa, in the context of capital punishments, has limitations, so is ahimsa. Besides, we should not mix governance and statecraft with our struggle for Independence or traits that we may follow in our personal lives. We cannot also quote Gandhi ji out of context in his ‘eye for an eye will make half the world blind’ remark. That was made in the context of personal practices, which does not apply even to a society much less a nation state. In any case, there are two obvious fallacies in that statement if we try to interpret it literally as the proponents of non capital punishment argue. If one half of the world has to go blind, then it is as though one quarter of the world is trying to blind another quarter. There are very few people indulging in such violence and the fear of half the world going blind is therefore purely rhetorical. But, even going by the same logic, at least, a quarter of the world would still go blind even if did not retaliate in kind, would it not ? Is that acceptable ?

Again, it is not for killing one person that Kasab is to be hanged as those who repose their faith in the ‘going blind’ theory seem to argue. It is simply not a ‘tit for tat’. The tit here is for a huge tat that ended up in waging war with a country due to religious hatred, taking the lives of many innocent people, orphaning children, maiming so many more and mentally scarring even more people. The argument that Kasab’s execution will only spur an evil ideologue to harden the stance and therefore bring us more of the same, can be equally counter-argued that non-execution will embolden his mentors to mount far more audacious acts because it is then misinterpreted as cowardice and submission to terror. This especially applies to Pakistan where such misinterpretations have gone on since the days of Ayub Khan who famously doled out the ratio of one Pakistani soldier being equivalent to every 10 Indian soldiers. Mrs. Benazir Bhutto whom many Indians mistakenly assume as a dove vis-a-vis India,  raised that ratio to 1:100, for her part !

Rather than wasting our time in the style of an argumentative-Indian, let us get on with the follow up to the judgement and implement it expeditiously now that the verdict is given.

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  1. A very insightful piece. A muderor of innocents must hang. The lives which were ended on that fatful day were ended because they were Indian. They must get justice it is not revenge it is justice to hang this monster. But it will not be enough Just to hang him as the fountainhead of this haterte still exists in Pakistan.

    The Indian governmemt must take whatever steps necessary to make sure that Indians dont have to face such monsters from Pakistal again.


    Ps:- pls try to get the piece published as a guest column in a major newspaper.

  2. Pratyush, thanks.

    I indeed sent this piece to a major newspaper which claims to be our National Newspaper; being too secular, that group probably thought this could not be published.


  3. Why only Kasab?
    Why not Bhullar?
    Why not LTTE killers?
    Why not Dara singh?
    Why not Al Umma terrorists?
    Is not the demand of Akali Dal and Punjab congress insult to the brave Police men and others who sacrificed their lives to fight Militancy in Punjab? The very thought this will get votes for them is another insult to the very patriotism of sikhs? This is a direct result of 147 Sikh terrorist funders who were in the black list of GOI is allowed to enter India.
    Is not delaying hanging of Afzal Guru, al umma Kasab etc questioning the patriotism of Indian Muslims?
    Same with LTTE killers and questioning Tamil patriotism.
    All killers whose sentecce is confirmed by Supreme court should be hanged immediately.

  4. Captain Johann, this piece was written when there was a raging debate on Kasab's death sentence. Hence the focus on Kasab. But, I agree with you that it is inhumane to keep a 'condemed' prisoner in the death cell in solitary confinement for years together without executing that person. The President certainly does not need a decade to decide one way or another on mercy petitions. Afzal Guru's petition must be disposed off immediately. The delay is a political ploy. The Home Minister says he goes by a sequence number and Afzal Guru is number 26 or so. And the snail's pace at which the President decides these mercy petitions is indeed a violation of the human rights of the condemned prisoner. Once all avenues are exhausted, the death sentence must be carried out within a month at the most. Death, as a punishment, must also be dignified.

    S. Sridharan