India Insight

Is Kasab’s death enough closure in the Mumbai attacks?

“If you hear the sound of a bullet, kneel, and if you have to move, then crawl, don’t run.”

Those are not the first words you want to hear when you arrive to cover an assignment — but then this wasn’t just any assignment. I was at Nariman House in Colaba to cover the attack that came to be known as 26/11.

On Wednesday, four years later, that story finally got some sort of closure, after the lone gunman captured during the Mumbai attacks was hanged. But for those who were a part of those dark days of 2008, whether real closure will come because of this one act of justice is a tough question to answer.

India is no stranger to militant attacks and Mumbai has seen many incidents targeting several of its icons — the stock market, the local train system and the Taj Mahal hotel. Every attack brings a new set of questions and very few answers.

Having covered the train blasts and the 26/11 blasts in Mumbai, it’s safe to say residents of the city aren’t looking for closure as much as looking for assurances that something like this wouldn’t happen again.

On the ground on the night – the Mumbai attacks

(Phil Smith is General Manager for Reuters News, South Asia and at the time of the 2008 attacks was Reuters Editor, South Asia based in Mumbai and living in the south of the city near Nariman House)

I was enjoying a relatively early night on that Wednesday at my home in Colaba, when I was jolted awake by a loud bang and several smaller ones. Thinking it was just leftover festival fireworks and people having fun, I turned over, only to be roused by the unmistakable sound of automatic gunfire.

As any journalist would, I quickly left the flat where I lived and made my way carefully towards where the sound of the shots had been coming from. I didn’t know it at the time but this was Nariman House, a Jewish outreach centre where six occupants were killed by the attackers.

Is it time to end the death penalty in India?

Special Prosecuter Ujjwal Nikam holds up a document, with a cover showing Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, at Arthur Road Jail where Kasab's trial was held, in Mumbai May 6, 2010. REUTERS/Arko Datta

Suddenly, everyone in India is talking about executions.

Grim hangings are a topic of animated conversation at water coolers, cocktail parties and chat shows. Everyone seems to favour them, the quicker the better.

Just weeks ago, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani gunman convicted in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was sentenced to death by hanging.

Everywhere in Mumbai, where 166 people were gunned down by Kasab and his accomplices, people cheered and fought to express their joy to newspapers and TV channels.

Reactions to the Kasab verdict

A Mumbai court sentenced to death Pakistani citizen Mohammad Ajmal Kasab over the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Here are some reactions from people in New Delhi.

Is the Kasab verdict a victory for India’s judiciary?

Almost a year and a half since the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, Ajmal Kasab, the lone gunman captured during the three-day rampage, has been sentenced to death by a special court.

“He shall be hanged by the neck till he is dead,” Judge M.L. Tahilyani said at a special court as Kasab sat with his head bowed, occasionally wiping his eyes with the back of his hand and then covering his ears with his fingers.

The judgement was hardly surprising given the accused pleaded guilty during the course of the trial (although he later retracted) and more than 650 witnesses testified against Kasab, backed by video grabs of him walking around the attack site with an AK-47 rifle in hand.

from FaithWorld:

Could gagged Mumbai confession do more good than harm?

hindux1A crucial part of gunman Mohammad Ajmal Kasab's hindu-articleconfession at the Mumbai attack trial has been censored by the judge on the grounds that it could inflame religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India. After stunning the court on Monday by admitting guilt in the the three-day rampage that killed 166 people, Kasab gave further testimony on Tuesday that included details about his training by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based militant group on U.S. and Indian terrorist lists.

The front-page report in today's The Hindu, which noted the judge's gag order in its sub-header, put it this way:

Ajmal made some crucial statements on Tuesday as part of his confession. They pertained to the purpose of the attack as indicated by the perpetrators and masterminds and the message they wanted to send to the government of India. Ajmal also wanted to convey a message to his handlers. However, this part of his confession faces a court ban on publication.

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