Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ajmal Kasab Ki Gazab Kahani

Anshul Chaturvedi Tuesday November 24, 2009, 07:18 PM

Amidst all that is being written, read, and discussed on the ‘anniversary’ – how does that word make sense here continues to befuddle me - of 26/11, the reason I, humble, ill-informed hack sitting in an air-conditioned office, am harping on Kasab is primarily because whatever we did, or did not do, in the 72 hours of chaos that Mumbai suffered immediately after the shooting began can be explained in terms of surprise, shock, flat footed reactions, etc, etc. It was an unprecedented situation and it was perhaps almost expected that we could do little to check it till a hundred, two hundred, three hundred people lay dead. We saw prominent displays of both utter panic and of decisive courage – but at that moment, that close to all the blood and the bullets and the shrieking TV anchors, it wasn’t easy to tell which was the norm, and which, the aberration.

But what we have done in the 12 months since then is a more accurate index. Headley is of course the flavour of the season, giving us all a sense of ‘something being done’– he’s just replacing one set of names, which replaced an earlier set, which replaced others, all of whom we thought were involved, all of whom Pakistan isn’t sure were involved, so it comes down to who the US thinks is involved…. Not that I think much of what the US thinks, honestly, after Uncle Obama, he of the Nobel Peace Prize fame, no less, entrusted to peace-loving China the diligent moral responsibility of doing its bit to maintain peace between India and Pakistan. It’s not even funny. Anyways. To come back to my rant, while Headley is the current headline-grabber, I have found Ajmal Kasab’s year-long custody and trial to be one long episode in bizarreness.

Kasab has been handled as if this were a civil case about encroachment of land. The nuances of law have been the focal point, in an almost clerically obsessive manner. Rather than bringing out the gravitas of the massacre, the manner in which Pakistan has responded to issues about Kasab, as well as the manner in which he has sauntered through the legal process so far in India, has made a bit of a mockery of it all.

Earlier this year, zapped at his behavior in the courtroom that forced the judge to ask him to stop smiling, I had posted a blog here, and realized that most readers were as infuriated at the soft-pedalling as I was. Nothing has really changed. In the course of his trial, Kasab has demanded a Pakistani lawyer, Urdu newspapers, perfume, and sundry other stuff. I remember reading that when he asked for a Pakistani lawyer, and the prosecutor said that that wasn’t possible since the Pakistani government had not responded to the request, Kasab asked the court to “try once more” - and the court agreed and told the prosecutor to try again! He has told the court he wants biryani. He has demanded that he be given time and freedom to take a walk in prison premises. And it has gone on endlessly. He has, as recently as last week, alleged that his food is laced with drugs and brought grains of rice wrapped in paper. Honestly!

News reports tell us that during the initial phase of his questioning, Kasab told interrogators the crux of what he had been sent to do, in a very uncomplicated way – “it is about killing, and getting killed, and becoming famous.” The killing part he has done. The famous part is pretty settled as well. While we discuss and analyse him, the gentleman in question has become an international figure. When I type “Kasab’’ today, Google throws up 27,80,000 entries – not bad for a supposedly semi-literate boy from a remote Pakistani village, eh? He has a long Wikipedia entry with 94 references for more reading, no less. Frankly, even if it sounds jingoistic, there’s just one part of his original plan of ‘killing, getting killed, becoming famous’ that’s left, and its been stretched a while already.

Special public prosecutor Ujjawal Nikam, reacting to the latest episode of this soap opera in which Kasab brought a sample of rice to the court as ‘evidence’ of food being given to him being laced with drugs (which was sent for forensic testing and showed no such traces), recently said “This is all drama, and he is a great actor.”

I don’t know whether he is a great actor, but I agree with the first part, completely.

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