A martyr and a terrorist
As I write this on 26/11/2010, the second anniversary of the most audacious terrorist attack in the world so far, I cannot help but repeat my thoughts on two individuals crucial to the Bombay attacks: Tukarama Omble and Ajmal Kasab.
Tukaram Omble was a little known police sub-inspector on night shift at his police station off Chowpatty when he was called upon to intercept Ajmal and his accomplice who were stealing away in a, well, stolen car, after having shot dead several others including tops cops Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar.
Omble was unarmed but clearly not lacking in courage. For he did not even care about his life as he held on to Kasab in a death grip, even as his colleagues shot down Kasab’s accomplice and Kasab emptied his AK 47 into Omble’s stomach. In fact, Omble’s colleagues had to literally prise them apart to release his grip on Kasab.
So it is because of Omble that we have Kasab today. And it is because of Kasab that we have David Headley confessing and it is those Headley confessions that have helped us (well, almost) get the United States where we have always wanted it: on our side on the terrorist issue. And I do not make those conjectures lightly, for there were enough people to mislead us on 26/11. In fact, on the morning of 27/11/2008, even as commandos were attempting to get into the Taj and Trident hotels to battle the terrorists, I received an e-mail from some Muslim groups claiming the RSS was behind the attacks – and they would have got away with that misinformation had it not been for Tukaram Omble.
Omble has, of course, been awarded the Ashok Chakra. But I feel that is simply not enough. I would like to see him get a posthumous Bharat Ratna and a memorial built to him at Chowpatty where he fell to Kasab’s bullets. So that his name is etched in golden letters for future generations who may know that it does not take someone big to do a great thing for the nation as Omble clearly did. I don’t think many will disagree that we have been able to put Pakistan on the mat internationally entirely because of Tukaram Omble.
Why I believe he deserves this honour even more is because of the attitudes of the family of this brave martyr. Unlike the families of other police officers who fell to the terrorists’ bullets, Omble’s widow and daughters have not complained about the lack of government action or compensation, even when they were not handed the gas agency they were promised two years ago as a means of survival after Omble (the agency came only today, via Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, two years later). Instead, they put even the little money they got in compensation into a trust for poor girls in Omble’s village – so that they may be educated and make something of their lives.
Omble had four daughters, two of who were married at the time of his martyrdom. The other two and their mother are getting by on Omble’s pension. One of Omble’s daughters has been quoted as saying, “The pension money is what belongs to my father. It is his alone and that is enough for us. We do not want to live on other people’s money.’’
For such a family as this, I think etching their father’s name in stone and golden letters will be a well-deserved honour, even if it is too little, too late.
As for Ajmal kasab, though I wanted him hanged, I did not join the chorus of those who wished to lynch him publicly without a fair trial. I would not have liked India to be seen as a banana republic where no justice prevails. And I always knew that no judge would award him a sentence less than death.
But now that that death sentence has been pronounced, I find myself less than uncharitable when it comes to Ajmal Kasab. He seems to have no regrets for whatever he did and he clearly wants to live – though he believes he will get his jannat if and whenever he is hanged.
On May 12 this year, in my column `anandan on wednesday’ in the Bombay edition of the Hindustan Times, I had written about a friend who had startled me with a unique suggestion about how we may deny Kasab his jannat even as the judicial system in this country gives him a longer lease of life than he deserves.
She had suggested Kasab (whose meals come from different restaurants across Bombay every day to prevent his poisoning – more of our, taxpayers’, money down the drain on this one!) be fed pork ribs and bacon for breakfast every Friday. And if he refuses, we make pork his staple diet to the end of his days as a most effective means of spreading the word among potential Islamic terrorists in Pakistan or elsewhere that if they were ever to attack India, they would most certainly be denied their 72 virgins and/in their jannat.
I had been extremely taken aback by the suggestion because it militated against my liberal views. But in the months since I have been thinking about that conversation, I am coming round to the view that that is not such a bad idea, after all!