Death comes as the end

It says much about us, in the media, that not a single newspaper, television channel or news agency, had the faintest clue that the UPA 2 government was preparing to hang 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab on November 21, five days before the fourth anniversary of the terror attack.

It says much again that after buying into the 2G theories of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) we are now going the other extreme to prove, or at least berate him, for how wrong he might have been in his estimated figures.

The investigative propensities of reporters today almsot seem to be at sub zero levels. we write only what we are fed, we do not ask questions ans, worse, in the case of Kasab, our antennae do not even get alerted when the clues stare us in the face.

There were indeed reports here and there in the media that the government was preparing to shift Kasab to the Yerwada prison in Pune after the Supreme Court had turned down his appeal and the government had sent his mercy plea to President Pranab Mukherjee to decide about a presidential pardon.

At least those of us in Maharashtra should have been alerted to what might happen and we should have begun to dig for clues. For Bombay has only a jail, no prison where you could hang or execute any prisoner There are only few prisons in the state where a convict might be hanged for his crime and Yerwada is one of them It was very obvious that after building a tunnel between his cell and the court set up inside the Arthur Road Jail to protect Kasab from assassins before the due judicial procedure, the authorities would not be spending more tax payers’ money to similarly secure him in Yerwada. And yet it alerted none of our senses to the possibility that he was being moved to Pune only to be executed.

Having said that, though, it is also a measure of the government’s determination that Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan maintained utmost secrecy between officials of two governments and not a word was leaked out to anyone at any point of time. I have always said that were it not for leaks from rivals and enemies of various sources, journalists would have very little to write or debate upon these days.

For all the fact that media reporting is today either bringing down governments or sending politicians to coventry and even jail, every bit of information starting with the leaks from the CAG’s office to information on letters written to the govrnment by the former army chief and much else in between have been sourced from leaks by disgruntled elements. I am not really complaining because these leaks do keep us in business and our home fires burning. But I cannot help a passing regret that, in this era of the Right to Information, we are not doing enough to uncover the facts for ourselves.

However, it is a compliment to the skills of Shinde and Chavan that they managed the execution of Kasabb in such fashion and presented us with a fait acdompli . Not even Pakisitan which had received the communication from th govrnment of India could go public about it and our own sometmes nutty human rights activists also was refrained from getting into the act of sparing the man’s life.

There are many in India who do not believe in capital punishment and I am only half a supporter of that noble ideal. It sounds very lofty to seek clemency for a dreaded terrorist but I would not support even the lynch mob who was baying for Kasab’s blood without a trial. That is not what I would like to see my country as – not just a banana republic but also one where we go for an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

But in the case of Kasab, I msut say, I was much relived that the government has for once acted with determination for it was becoming very difficult to explain to many of my friends why we were keeping him alive, why we needed to give him a due process of law and a fair trial.

Most reports say that Kasab regretted having been a part of the 26/11 team sent by Pakistan and begged Allah for forgiveness just as he was hanged. And that is just as well. In the past I had surprised myself by advocating that the government take the Israeli example and bust the pipe dreams of such terrorists that they would ascend to jannat where 72 virgins awaited them, by feeding Kasab sorpotel on Fridays so publicly that no Pakistani would be fooled into attacking India again.

But it is now just as well that President Mukherjee and Home Minister Shinde have sent out a tough message to Pakistan whose non-state actors will hopefully refrain from targeting India again.

Meanwhile, I did feel a little sorry in the end that Kasab’s father should have sold him to the terrorists knowing very well that he would eventually be killed sooner rather than later. With a father like this, Kasab would have known only death comes as an early end.

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