Kasab is gone but the discourse around his crime and punishment might have a lasting impression on India’s jingoism gene
BV Rao | November 23, 2012
With Ujjwal Nikam, Ajmal Kasab and the biryani in news once again, this article of 2012 vintage would be of interest again. Read from the archives:
It was April 29, 2009, the early days of Kasab’s trial that had started after some delay. Kasab had demanded a slew of goodies to pep up his lonely life in the high-security Anda cell. He wanted the court to order jail authorities to give him perfumed toothpaste, DVDs of Amitabh Bachchan movies, a walk in the verandah and so forth.
That night, on Times Now, Arnab Goswami was livid that we were not only “pampering” a terrorist but also allowing him to manipulate our legal system to delay his trial. The headlines on his show said it all: National outrage over Kasab’s demands/Why should Kasab test India’s patience?/Have we forgotten what he did?
I had then written an article titled “Speed up the Kasab trial please, Arnab is angry” (LINK). I had reproduced Arnab’s own questions and interventions during the debate to argue that Arnab was going off on an emotion hike and there was no substance to the debate because Kasab could ask for anything he wanted but he would get only what the jail manual dictates, and that Kasab’s demands for facilities are not part of the trial and hence could not slow it down.
Those questions are worth reproducing here because they have a new relevance, now that Kasab is dead and buried. They are instructive in understanding how easy it is to get ahead of ourselves and the debate just because prime time has to be fed. Here are some of Arnab Goswami’s questions which set the agenda for the hysterical “hang-Kasab-now” movement:
1. This is the man responsible for the biggest act of barbarianism this country has seen, overconfident and pampered, why should India accept (his demands)?
2. It makes your blood boil, doesn’t it…to see Kasab go ahead with all this? I mean, how long will this farce carry on?
3. But have we become so conscious…that in the course of being extra careful we make it seem as if jails in India are hotels for people like Kasab?
4. …He’s warning, look at his language, I’m not exaggerating. Look at the language Kasab has used…. He is daring to warn the Indian courtroom. His words are like this: “Staying in one room, I’m getting mentally sick. It should not happen that in future things might go out of control…”
5. …You can dismiss this by saying that a journalist like you (Arnab) or a few people might feel that way… that that is not the way to look at it… that there are legal aspects to look at… but there are sentiments in this country, there is anger in this country. This is not an emotional response…
6. But one thing must be made very clear. At this stage in our democracy and judiciary we are not going to be seen to be a banana republic if we simply follow tough laws with Kasab instead of giving him books of entertainment value, DVDs…
7. Tell me, today are you not worried that somebody there, a Masood Azhar man, is watching what’s happening in India and saying if you go to India it’s a very good option to be caught alive because if you are caught you will go into a long trial, you will get a fantastic lawyer, he will carry on for a long time… it’s a profitable option for you?
How pointless are these questions now and how disingenuous (and, yes, Arnab was not the only one asking these)!
From where he is, it is highly unlikely that Kasab will see this as a “farce” or that the six-foot coffin six feet under in an unmarked corner of Yerawada jail feels anything like a hotel. Being hanged by the country against which he waged war, disowned by the country for which he did it, and longing to meet his family which can’t even openly admit he was theirs — these are definitely not “profitable”. It is “miserable”.
Since Kasab willingly signed up for it the moment he got on to the Mumbai-bound boat in Karachi, we shall save our sympathies for a more deserving candidate but notice how phony the whole discourse has been, how hollow the base on which the monument for national vengeance was sought to be built.
Kasab did not ever get any of the facilities he demanded, but a big myth was built that he was being “pampered” and that he was being served “biryani” in captivity. These myths became Goebbelsian truths by their mere repetition in every TV and drawing room debate, taking the legitimate anger against Kasab to extreme levels of irrationality.
As for the more substantial grouse/fear that Kasab’s trial was lingering, consider this: From arrest to arraignment to trial to conviction to appeal and upholding in the High Court to confirmation by the Supreme Court to Kasab’s mercy petition to the president and its rejection to the hanging, all of it happened in less four years. As trials go in India, that is breathtakingly fast. Today’s (November 22) Times of India says it is the second fastest execution ever.
Kasab is gone and might soon be forgotten. But I suspect that the discourse around his crime and punishment will have a lasting impression on the nation’s jingoism gene, a jingoism that was stoked by half-truths and absolute lies.
I wish it was as easy to erase all those debates as it was to delete Kasab.
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