Should India cremate Mumbai militants, spread ashes at sea?

January 4, 2009

The bodies of nine Islamic militants killed while attacking Mumbai in November still lie in a public morgue there. Indian Islamic leaders have refused to bury them in a local Muslim cemetery, saying terrorists “have no religion” and do not deserve a religious funeral. Although India suspects the militants came from neighbouring Pakistan, Islamabad refuses to take the bodies back as this could presumably undermine its claim to have no link to the gunmen. Indian officials say they still need the bodies for their investigations into the Nov. 26-29 massacre, in which 179 people were killed, but those inquiries will end some day. What should the Indians do with the bodies then?

A U.S. historian has come up with a proposal that would dispose of the bodies without requiring Pakistan to take them. Leor Halevi, a professor of Islamic history at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, wrote in the Washington Postthat India should cremate them and scatter the ashes in international waters, as Israel did after executing the Nazi commander Adolf Eichmann in 1962. He notes this would be an un-Islamic method of burial and would avoid a permanent grave that could become a memorial for other militants.  He writes:

“If Indian Muslims can agree, then, that the terrorists died as non-Muslims and that burning their bodies is the optimal solution, they simply need to urge the government to dispatch the corpses to the crematorium after ruling on their lack of religion.

“Cremation would neither shame the bodies of dead terrorists, nor haunt the minds of would-be terrorists, as powerfully as would a symbolic inversion of standard Muslim rites. But it would convey an effective, reasonable and humanistic message to the world: that a Muslim who commits terrorism dies excommunicated, as an infidel.”

Is this the answer?


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It will likely make very little difference at all.

1. These terrorists don’t care very much about what traditional Muslim authorities say and do. If they have no respect for traditional authority in life, they really aren’t going to care anymore once they are dead whether they are ‘excommunicated’ or not. It will be considered just one more offense committed by ‘traitorous’ Muslims and non-Muslims against them– a source of indignity, not shame. (They clearly did not even care that many of their victims were Muslim civilians.)

2. Suicide bombing turn the perpetrators’ bodies into confetti as it is. If they were so concerned about the intactness of their body, they would not use such means. Surely neither the 9/11 or 7/7 bombers expected any part of their bodies to be recovered.

3. These sorry figures tend to be motivated more by political causes than religious piety. Generally, they didn’t lead lives as particularly observant Muslims; if they don’t care about all the particularly of practice during their life, then they aren’t going to worry about it once they are dead. As Robert Pape’s research has shown, these acts are motivated by occupations than by anything otherworldly; their actions are not very different from those of secular resistance movements (such as the Tamil tigers).

Posted by Khalid | Report as abusive

There is a mindset that believes that Muslim terrorists should be buried with a carcass of a pig, which would create problems in their next life, and, therefore, discourage other terrorists. It seems a little unorthodox but if it is true that they believe this then it may be worth checking out. I don’t know if pigs would appreciate being associated with terrorists in this way so we may have to negotiate with them….?

Posted by DL13 | Report as abusive

While I agree that this is an elegant solution, and probably the best of all possible options, I am nevertheless struck by the casualness with which we discuss desecrating these bodies–at least, doing what the dead would consider desecration. I think it would be disingenuous of us to not acknowledge that. The goal is clearly to annihilate these people as physically and entirely as possible.

However, if we acknowledge this, I think it is, as I said, a remarkably elegant solution, and the best one in the offing.

Posted by Sarah | Report as abusive

NOO, don’t cremate now, Pakistan will comeback to Indians asking for evidence.

They would accept the evidences that US, UK and India provides and ask to “Hand over the dead bodies of Pakistani terrorists”.

We’ve seen enough flip-flops from the past, we must not take any chances now.

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive

++++these acts are motivated by occupations than by anything otherworldly; their actions are not very different from those of secular resistance movements (such as the Tamil tigers).

– Posted by Khalid ++++

Actually there is quite a difference between Tamil Tigers and Mumbai terrorists. All the Mumbai terrorists came from the Punjab province of Pakistan, which is only under the occupation of Pak army the last time I checked.

In my opinion, Islamabad should accept these bodies.

Posted by Victor | Report as abusive

[…] That's for Muslims to decide, of course. But in Christianity, with the image of Jesus with the tax collector, there are the means to think that those whose actions we most abhor might be those most needful of our blessings. [go!] […]

Posted by Post-mortem excommunications? | The Row Boat by Nathan Schneider | Report as abusive

I am an Indian & for everyone’s information it is against the tenets of our spiritual land to show disrespect or disgrace a human body, irrespective of it’s deeds when in use, insulting it is equivalent to insulting the Divinity within, so i propose it be given a decent burial…

Posted by Anup | Report as abusive

These terrorists allegedly sacrificed their lives for the sake of islam, for the sake of jehad, why suddenly they have become non-muslims? There should be a serious discussions about the motive of these terrorists ,whether what they did was justified in the name of jehad ? If not then what is jehad ? Why then they were asked to do these jobs in the name of islam and jehad ? In words of the lone surviving terrorist, Kasab, he was told that in India muslims are oppressed and tortured ,and hence he is being sent to protect them . This prompted these terrorists to lay down their lives.

These terrorists have committed crime against humanity, Govt of India should not show any mercy to them even after death , they should be tried in absencia, and after trial their bodies should be thrown in international water.

Posted by Manish | Report as abusive

I am an Indian,I belong to Hindu community.I think ” An enemy coming from any society, should not be disregarded anyway after his/her death”.As we have come to know that, those deceased militants were belong to Muslim community,they should be paid respectful burials from Indian side.The dead persons are enemy no more!They have been beyond of this controversial aspects that we consider today from different angles.I do hope my Indian Muslim brothers will think in this line very transparantly.Very simple question: Are they enemy now? I think ‘No’ would be the possible answere from major populations.So,irrespective to any disregard or controversy,we should have necessary arrangements for their burials which would be the best tribute to the departed persons at least for once i.e.last one.

Posted by PRANAB HAZRA | Report as abusive

Supporting Anup. These people are mere expendable instruments, a tiny speck in a much bigger design. Never should those that belong to this clan be allowed to glorify their deeds, death. Do the last rites asap, let them return to the elements the same way as those poor, lonely, homeless, impoverished souls that we see wandering on the streets go.

Posted by Ranjit | Report as abusive

India must show its human values to the world and bury the terrorists’ bodies with basic dignity and Islamic rites. The bodies may be kept in the morgue so long as they are required for investigations and if possible, to track their families. There is no difference between the surviving terrorist Ajmal Kasab and the nine dead ones. Kasab is being treated well and if he dies in custody, will certainly get a decent burial for all the information he has provided the investgators. The dead terrorists were misguided and brainwashed youngsters and the big fish in Pakistan have to be brought to book. Even if we blame Pakistan for the use of its territory for the launch of this sea-route attack, I feel ashamed that our bunch of security agencies, Intelligence Bureau, RAW, Indian Navy, Coast Guard, Customs , Mumbai Police, etc could not foil the terrorists’ plans. What if a hundred of them had come and landed in small groups all along the Mumbai shore and attacked, Governor’s residence, CM’s and Deputy CM’s bungalows, Bal Thackeray’s, Sachin Tendulkar’s and Amitabh Bachchan’s houses, all at one go, besides the Maharashtra Police and Mumbai Police HQs? Shame on us! We could have taken pride in foiling the attack and capturing all ten guys while still at sea. While the terrorists were sailing for two full days towards Mumbai in Indian waters, we were rejoicing at the sinking of a pirated ship near Somalia by our Navy. Let us mind our own business and take better care of our territorial waters.

Posted by Victor | Report as abusive

Medicial research. comes to mind.

Posted by Kal | Report as abusive

to pranab and other pseudo secularists…

Before you show synpathies to terrorists and their dead bodies, please think of the innocent people who lost their lives.

There is no question of forgiving terrorists or their dead bodies. I want india to show the same level of ruthlessness to terrorists’ dead bodies as the one shown by terrorists while killing the innocent people.

Posted by trueindian | Report as abusive

Victor a bit late to come with human values, Firstly I think they are all INDIANS with the wrist band and then got images edited without the wrist band secondly they must be all hindis thats why suggestion of cermate come in.

Do what you like with them indian agents, as of humanity thats for india to decide.

Mothers of all democracies but still dont know how to traet its own children, e.g. Pakistan, Sri lanka a typical Indian mother. That needs to learn that kids have there own life and can not meddle in their own internal affairs. Bt sh is getting old still has all the respect from the child but to a point not when it starts medling with Pakistans affairs.

Also can not even give fair traement to its kids, can not even fulfill the wishes of its peole the Kashmiris..

Shame on Indians/ they are just Like the Jews Israelis what they are doing in Gaza is what Indian are doing in Kashmir.

AZADI FOR KASHMIR n No puppet regimes plz backed by delhi masters!!!!

Posted by Ali | Report as abusive


What Mr.Badrakumar told is exactly correct.One of the gentleman commented the Communists are the real enemies of India , no this is not the correct answer , the answer is the business mentality and Capitalist mentality persons are the real enimies of India. When the goverment is dicied to Invest the Provident Fund of the Goverment empploeeys in forign market , this so called communist parties only opposed and it was not done , you may if it was invested in forign market and according to the current situation what will happen all money will be in hell , and it was a firm dicison by the Communits.

Related to the Nuclear treaty : It is opened the Weapom and War Equipment market for US Companies .

If you are just Imagine after the Bomaby Attacks , howmany million Dollar business was made with Inida by the US and his own allies specially Esarel ( best fried of India) for the Millitary equupnents defense Items. we can guss even the Mumbai Attack was a plan of some business mans

In relation to Kashmir , no doubt no need of any outsider to help us , we are storng enoungh to protect our land , no need of any US drama on that , let them do some thing to Correct the Finacial Markets

Posted by Rahmathulla tt | Report as abusive

Ali comparison of India Paki relation as that of mother son relation reminded me of an old sanskrit saying.
“A son can be a bad son but a mother can never be a bad mother.”
Give them a proper burial. A dead body is no one’s enemy.

Posted by chirkut | Report as abusive

I’m surprised, there’s even a discussion about this. They KILLED INNOCENT people!! throw their ashes into the gutter for all its worth!!
Throwing it into the sea/gutter is not going to affect would-be terrorists,if they had the common sense to think on those lines, they wudn’t go arnd killing innocent people & call it jihad.

Posted by Kishore | Report as abusive

The best thing the Indian Government can do is give a honorable burial to these people. In death everyone is equal the most noblest man & also a criminal. Ultimately the Kingdom of God will be the Judge of their actions.I wish God is Lenient to them & help in really punishing the master mind who committed this crime.Let the will of God be dictated by him alone & not through any human being who usurp his rights.Let him show the way that every human blood not snatched naturally is to be fought whether they belong to Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Africans or Tibetians.Let not the world assume just because there is majority of christians muslims & jews with power,money,wealth & influence think they alone have the right to spill blood of mankind.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

It sounds uncivil to even consider withholding an important death rite.

But to minds which steadfastly clings on to a 7th century tribal militant ideology through denial and intellectual dishonesty,this matter is most likely of core importance.They certainly won’t ignore the message.

I would agree with the suggestion of cremation and scatterring of ashes so that fairytales of jehadi heroism like in Kargil may not take shape.

It would be helpful,even lifesaving, to realise that we are dealing with a different set of minds as highlighted forcefully by websites like

Posted by Raj | Report as abusive

Their bodies should be sent BACK to Pakistan where they’re from. They should be wrapped in Pakistani flags (or whatever that crap is). You’re damn right I’m angry!

At the end of the day, I don’t think this even warrants a discussion. Who really cares. We should make sure that those innocent bystanders who perished their families are honored and taken care of. We should make sure that this never happens again. We should, and we will make sure that we hold Pakistan responsible.

The question is, how long will the failed state of Pakistan survive before it falls apart into three or four rotten territories? Not that long. A predictable and widespread phenomenon typical of people from that community. Sickening!

Posted by Sagar M. | Report as abusive

I think it is time for the Indians to be practical and stop pretending to be the anti-violence saints that they are projecting themselves to be. These people were terrorists who have killed cold bloddedly. They need to be punishes even in death and as the reporter has said, lets not bury them, cause it will become a shrine for many then. Burn their bodies and scatter their ashes in Pakistan or any river which flows into Pakistank. Let them take back their crap.

Posted by Practical | Report as abusive

As an Indian, I would like that all basic Islamic rituals be followed for their last rites. The reason – we are not like them.

Posted by Aaruni Upadhyay | Report as abusive

Professor Leor Harevi is right to point to the sea but less for the Eichman reason as for the employment in this case of the Law of the Sea by the Navies of both Pakistan and India in conducting trials (and punishment) of the terrorist masterminds as pirates. The Mumbai massacres were preceded by piracy and murder on the high seas — Pakistan and India have both signed and ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty. a-basis-of-india-pakistan-cooperation-on -the-mumbai-massacres-the-ten-pakistani- terrorists-started-off-as-pirates-and-th e-al-huseini-is-a-pirate-ship/ how-to-solve-the-jurisdiction-problem-in -prosecuting-perpetrators-of-the-mumbai- massacres-let-the-pakistan-and-indian-na vies-try-them-and-hang-them-at-sea-as-pi rates/

Posted by Dr Subroto Roy | Report as abusive

It is astonishing to find this discussion. In the aftermath of the Mumbai killings and terror, I had never stopped to think of the terrorist’s dead bodies. Frankly, whatever the Indian govt decides will finally end up being controversial; purely due to the nature of the scenario. On a different note, it is incredible to think of the potential issues that the world today faces. All known aspects of humanitarian conduct and expectations thereof seem to be disappearing. I am not confident if the terrorists deserve a ’fitting’ burial /cremation – and what would be fitting anyways for people who focusedly breach all security measures to enter a country (which is most likely not theirs) and walk around shooting innocent people.

Posted by Barsha | Report as abusive

Wrap all the terrorist’s bodies with the Pakistani flag and airdrop them into the Punjab province in Pakistan …..

Posted by mitchell | Report as abusive

Pakistani army refused to take back its dead soldiers after the Kargil war. I think it would be crazy to imagine that they would take back these inhumans. Zardari called them non-state actors after all.

I can think of two choices:
1) Dump those bodies in the sea. But I pity the poor sea creatures who would get an indigestion from their bad blood (do inhumans have them?)
2) Hand them over to the Naga regiment to prop them up on the Indo-Paki no-mans land so that: a) Their tehreek-takreer whatever organization can collect them without the Paki rangers knowledge b) The relatives of those terrorists can pay their respects to their dead and hopefully collect those bodies.

By no means should they be buried in India. If they are, it should under a public toilets foundation.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

Cremation is a Hindu way of ritual for the dead. I think they should either be dumped on no-mans land between India and Pakistan or be buried under a public toilet.

Posted by Jerry | Report as abusive

All the millitants lodged in Indian Jails should have been lynched om the very day when Mumbai was under siege. It is still not late. Remains should be treated in most unislamic way to show them the values of true islam. Killing innocent is not justified in any religion… of the universe.

Posted by dev | Report as abusive

I disagree with Leor Halevi. The fact that no Islamic group wants to accept their body and they are lying unclaimed is the best message to future terrorists. As a terrorist there is no place for you in this world and definately no place for you in ”Jannat”

Posted by nakul | Report as abusive

Some comments to this page have become increasingly crude in their proposals for dealing with these bodies. Strong views are understandable and can be expressed, but they should focus on what political and religious leaders could consider as acceptable options.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

When we (India) knows that the bodies belongs to Muslim Religion, then they should be cremated accordingly.
This would be a big message to world that presently as well as earlier also that PAK denied of accepting the bodies of terrorists.
India should show it kind gesture toward the cremation and let god decide to rest their soul in peace or not.

Posted by Pradeep Saini | Report as abusive

It is a ritual. Burying, consigning to fire or leaving them to rot (this of course likely to pollute the near by localities for some time, hence any of the first two options are required to be done) or sending the corpses to Pakistan are possible options. Look, the dead nobodies mean nothing much to us or anybody else. These were non-thinking mutts and human robots and they did what they were brain washed for doing what they did.But in some shady nook and corner of Pakistan some of these nobodies belong to a mother, sister, brother, father and such worldly relations who are grieved. We are Indians and pardoning them (not their masters) should not be very difficult for us. We will contain terrorism – both exported type and homegrown types. Let us give them atleast a buriel if not for anything else atleast for qavoid pollution.

Posted by Ramesh Baiga | Report as abusive

ALi,, You seem to be as misleading as your mulas waging jihad on inocent,, firstly the attackers were from Pakistani, to refute this is to tell another lye like ur isi is good at doing,this is due to the confesion of the lone surviving gunman and evidence collected , not made up like pakistan dose,, 2nd it was leor Halevi in the USA who suggested to cremate and scatter ashes in sea not a Hindu as u said (another deception/Lye),, i think the world needs to stand united against islam terrorists and we will defete these evil devil worshipers

Posted by Raj | Report as abusive

I agree with Professor Halevi. If you analyze pre-Islamic Indian history, almost the entire population was Hindu. This means that the ancestors of these dead terrorists were Hindus. Therefore, the DNA is still Hindu but has acquired an Islamic shell or coating. This is true of majority of the sub-continent’s Muslim population. Cremation will simply conform to their original religion.

Posted by Professor Egghead | Report as abusive

The news here is Pakistan NSA finally admits that Kasab is a Pakistani.. So logically the remaining are also Pakistanis,we must conduct a survey among the Pakistani people what do with the dead men’s bodies. I wonder what the Pak people’s response will be..

Posted by mitchell | Report as abusive

I think it is a good option. Also, I beleive India must not ask for a death penalty for the captured terrorist. Since these people are brain washed and feel their actions benefit their relgion, the terrorist must be made to suffer a long and rigourous punishment ( 30-40 yrs). So they’ll see how their actions hurt Muslims. Has anybody told that terroist that 40 Muslims died at the CST station.

Posted by Deepak | Report as abusive

I agree with the proposal, although with another option. The bodies could be directly dumped in the international waters, or be cremated ( without any funeral rites, in electrical chamber ), and it be disposed off in the seas.

burying them in India will become a grave danger as it’ll inspire future terrorists.

Posted by sekhar | Report as abusive

In my openion it will not do any good by burning or throwing those nine terrorists’ bodies in the open international waters. We all know that they did something realy wrong for which they have already paid the price by loosing their lives. We must not forget that the actual culprit is Pakistan and their cunning leaders. Those boys belong to the poor famiolies who for the sake of fistfull dollars do anything. I am hindu, I am indian, but I still say that those boys bodies are like the bodies of prisoners of war. Give them the respect according to their relegion. If we did what some of my learner friends are demanding then we are doing even very wrong because they cmmitted crime being alive with living human being and we would be doing worse crime by dishonouring their bodies. They are dead,what difference would it make, what you do with their bodies. Come on think like human being. May god help us all.

Posted by DRS | Report as abusive

An interesting option – and a practical one. Cremation followed by immersion into the sea outside India’s territorial waters. Only one rider though – can we make one last offer to the families of the killed terrorists – collect the bodies at Wagah if you would like to perform the last rites yourself.

Condemning the dead is futile – we need to learn from this and make sure that 26/11 is never repeated – in Indian territory – ever. If our government can achieve this, the victims of this carnage will have made a difference to the nation with their supreme sacrifice.

Posted by Anand | Report as abusive

“They are all INDIANS with the wrist band and then got images edited without the wrist band”

“Pakistan NSA finally admits that Kasab is a Pakistani..”

They are all Pilgrims to Path to Heaven, so burial of bodies isn’t a matter. They would have already occupied the Command center. Waiting for next commands from their Masters’ here. After the Nation has a name as #1 WiMAX network. We will intercept the conversations and ask them what their bodies deserve.

A Work of caution:
Please don’t do anything with Body, Pakistan may come to claim and India will not have anything to Give, who know if Pakistan too is eager to conduct DNA test to verify whether the dead are Pakistanis’ or Hindustanis’

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

What you are suggesting is a very dangerous thing Tom Heneghan. Passing away rituals like burial and cremation are performed by sanction of a religion. You are suggesting to cremate and scatter the ashes in the sea – in the Hindu way – of people who hate every religion in this world but theirs. What message will it send? That the terrorists were Jehadi’s who came to wage war on India and were rewarded by a cremation to give peace to their souls in the Hindu manner. How did you even come up with this idea and what is the purpose behind writing such a post? Just as animals are not given any religious send off, the terrorist who had fallen to the level of lower animals do not deserve one. I am glad the Islamic world has not accepted their bodies and a good idea would be to airdrop their bodies into Pakistan wrapped with the Pakistani flag, like mitchell so aptly suggested

Posted by sampat | Report as abusive

Sampat, why don’t you read the post first before writing a comment? It was very clearly stated that this was a suggestion made by Leor Halevi, a professor of Islamic history at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and that he proposed it in an article in the Washington Post. The purpose for writing this post was to start a discussion of Professor Halevi’s idea. It also said that Halevi suggested cremating the bodies and scattering their ashes over international waters because that is the way Israel disposed of Adolf Eichmann after they executed him. Did Israel give Eichmann a Hindu cremation? And what about all those people in Europe and the United States who are cremated and whose ashes are scattered in forests, on mountains or over the sea? Are they being given Hindu funerals as well? Cremation belongs to many cultures. There is more to a Hindu funeral than simply burning a body and dumping the ashes somewhere. Do you really see no difference between the way Eichmann was disposed of and the way proper Hindu funerals are held?

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Frankly, Tom, I was incensed by the title “Should India Cremate Mumbai Militants, Spread Ashes At Sea?” The title suggests that you are asking if it would be a good thing to do. Israel cremating Adolf Eichmann was a method of getting rid of the body in a manner that was suitable to them and different from their tradition. Perhaps what you did not realize was that in a country where there are a majority of Hindus, in a country that looks at scattering the ashes in the sea as a way of lending the body some serenity, just like the sea, in a country that has just witnessed crazed fanatics massacring individuals in the name of jihad, in a country where, thankfully even the muslims have rejected the idea of giving them last rites, what kind of sentiment is being expressed by giving them the same kind of rites that was for example recently given to Gandhi’s ashes (scattered in the sea). In my opinion the thing to do is send the bodies to Pakistan, which recently admitted that Ajmal Amir Kasab is a Pakistani, and if they want, they can perform the last rites with full honours. I hope you understand what I was trying to convey. I rest my case.

Posted by Sampat | Report as abusive

Why is everyone having this discussion? Just bury the bodies in unmarked graves. Don’t denote any religions ceremony with them.
First we don’t want to show any respect to them, second we really don’t know what religion they belong to. Don’t make it a issue.

Posted by Chuck | Report as abusive

[…] Mixiya News Do dead terrorists lose all right to any respect? I ask this because my post Should India cremate Mumbai militants, spread ashes at sea? last week has prompted a surprising wave of comments suggesting these corpses should be desecrated. […]

Posted by Do dead terrorists lose all right to any respect? | Report as abusive