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.

Kasab and mercy petitions: win for now, challenge for future

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

It seemed like a typical Wednesday, at least till the morning calm was shattered by the din of television channels announcing the execution of perhaps India’s most hated villain — Mohammad Ajmal Kasab.

On the morning of Nov. 21, India hanged Kasab, the only surviving member of a militant squad that attacked Mumbai in 2008. His hanging, just days before the fourth anniversary of the attacks, was done amid great secrecy, perhaps fearing a violent backlash.

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.

Mistrust, Afghan insecurity loom over Indo-Pak talks

By Annie Banerji

As India and Pakistan begin diplomatic talks between the two countries’ foreign secretaries, Pew Research Centre published a survey this week that shows Pakistanis are strongly critical of India and the United States as well.

Even though there has been a slew of attacks by the Taliban on Pakistani targets since Osama bin Laden’s killing in May, the Pew Research publication illustrates that three in four Pakistanis find India a greater threat than extremist groups.

In similar fashion, 65 percent of Indians expressed an unfavourable view of Pakistan, seeing it as a bigger threat than the LeT, an active militant Islamic organisation operating mainly from Pakistan and Maoist militants operating in India.

India votes for Obama as storm clouds gather at home

INDIAU.S. President Barack Obama is facing a storm of voter discontent but in India where he travels three days after this week’s huge congressional elections, he’s already a winner. More than seven out of 10 Indians endorse his leadership, saying they believe he will do the right thing in world affairs, a Pew poll released in late October showed.

Contrast that with his approval ratings at home just as he heads into the critical midterm election. More people disapprove of his job performance (47 percent) than the number who approve (45 percent), according to the latest CBS news/New York Times opinion poll.

It’s not just Obama who gets the thumbs-up. Indians are generally well-disposed toward America even when the rest of the world is less inclined to. According to the Pew poll, nearly two-thirds (66 percent) express a favourable opinion of the U.S., although this is down from 76 percent last year. By contrast, only 51 percent Indians  rate long-time ally Russia favourably, and even fewer feel this way about the EU (36 percent) or China (34 percent).  Indeed, Indians don’t even share the common belief that the United States has increasingly been acting on its own. Some (83 percent) said the U.S. takes the interests of countries like India into account when it makes foreign policy decisions — the highest percentage among the 21 nations surveyed outside the U.S.

from Afghan Journal:

Obama in India next month; ripples in the region

U.S. President Barack Obama takes part in a town hall meeting at Concord Community High School in Elkhart, Indiana, February 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jim YoungU.S. President Barack Obama's visit to India is still a couple of weeks away and there is the huge U.S. election before then, but it has already set off ripples in the region. The Chinese have especially cottoned onto Obama's Indian journey, fretting over what they see as a U.S. attempt to ring fence China by deepening ties with countries around it. And continent-size India with a population of over a billion and an economy growing at a clip just behind China's is seen as a key element of that strategy of containment.

Qui Hao of the National Defense University, writes in the Global Times that while U.S. military alliances with Japan and South Korea form the backbone of the "strategic fence" around China, the "shell" is the partnership that Washington is building with India, Vietnam and other nations that have territorial disputes with China.

India, Qui cautions, would do well not to blindly follow America's policies in the region, especially if it really wanted to be a global player. India, China and the United States were bound up in a triangular relationship, and as the two weaker parts of that relationship, it was important that they maintained stable ties so that Washington didn't exploit their differences, Qui wrote.

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.

26/11 – Lasting images, limited impact?

Ahead of the first anniversary of the Mumbai attacks, India’s financial hub is on heightened alert.

Metal detectors and scanners “beep” in office blocks and malls, snipers and sniffer dogs keep guard at hotels, and barricades are in place around high-profile locations. And various talking heads have made power point presentations to show the city is now safer.

In the past year, several measures have been put in place to tighten security in Mumbai, including a hub for elite commandos, and new weapons, armoured vehicles and speedboats for the police.

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