Thursday, November 22, 2012

Kasab’s Symbolic Death

(Ajmal Kasab- Our terrorist and their martyr)

Kasab’s death is symbolic in many ways. First of all Government of India, its Home Ministry and Intelligence Department prove now by letting the world know that India could keep secrets. It could keep secrets even from the eagle eyes the journalists who always wait for ‘breaking news’ to the world. ‘Selective leaking’ of information is always a part of the state propaganda. But in Kasab’s case it did not even do that. Secondly, the state could deflect a couple of sensitive issues regarding the foreign direct investment and related graft cases. Above all, the timing for Kasab’s hanging could nullify the possible ‘sainthood’ of Bal Thackeray. Interestingly, most of the television channels and print mediums that discussed Kasab’s hanging did not look at this Thackeray angle. The timing was just perfect. Mumbai that was mourning the death of Thackeray suddenly erupts into a street celebration and rejoicing over the death of Kasab. That is the irony of history or history of irony.
 ital punishment is barbarian or not. We ask ourselves whether hanging even a dreaded terrorist would set the clock of civilization in reverse. Most of the level headed people believe so. An eye for an eye is not solution for the problems that we are facing today. Members of Indian intelligentsia argue that it would have been better if we had addressed Pakistan and the state supported terror camps there instead of hanging Kasab. True, but socio-political and cultural symbolism is too strong a notion to wish away. Retaining Kasab in prison till his natural death would have been another issue, right from the petty thinking on the money spent on his ‘luxurious’ living behind bars to the futility of keeping a brainwashed jihadi a permanent hostage of/by the state.  We would have discussed it endlessly and as Kasab was young our next generation also would debate the same with the same verve.

(Bal Thackeray's final journey- Irony of History)

Kasab came to die. He would have happily received the bullets of the Mumbai Police and would have gone to the heavens that he had been offered by his bigoted masters. In gallows too, despite the words of regret and remorse that he is reported to have expressed, he would have pushed his neck into the noose with a smile behind the hood because what the jihadi training camps had imparted to him could not have been removed by the good treatment of the Mumbai Police. In short, I would say, Kasab would have remained a terrorist not only in the eyes of the 26/11 victims, their kith and kin and the outraged public of India but in his own eyes also. The inevitability of hanging was a part of the script written for him by those sent him to the Mumbai shores.

Kasab death/hanging means a lot to the Indians all over the world. I am not a supporter of capital punishment nor do I want to pose myself as an arrogant Indian nationalist who brays for the blood of Muslims in general and Pakistan in particular. In my opinion, Kasab should have been introduced to all those people who were affected by his execution of blind faith. It is reported that he was brainwashed at the terror camps by showing the videos of Indian Muslims being tortured by the state and the right wing fundamentalists. He would have seen the other side of the picture had he seen the pain in the eyes of those relatives of the people whom he had killed on that fateful day. If they had asked the state to pardon him and send back to Pakistan it would have been the greatest gesture by Indian culture and civilization. You may say that there is no precedence to it and we have a judiciary in place. But there is precedence to it. Nalini and Murukan who have been languishing behind bars for almost two decades are not hanged because of three people: Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

 (Sonia Gandhi)

The Gandhis may not approve of capital punishment. Or they may be more egalitarian in approach than the vengeful right wing public of India. But what they lost is a husband, a father and above all the (then) future prime minister of India. They could have asked for the death of the killers. But they did not. Perhaps, the kith and kin of the 26/11 victims also would have reacted in the same fashion. Who knows when people meet people things couldn’t have changed? Remember the story of Chekhov, ‘The Bet’ and Sandor Marai’s novel ‘Embers’. One waits for long for the spoils or revenge and by the time they see truth eye to eye, things change; wealth looks meaningless and revenge looks absurd then. Still if the relatives of the dead wanted vengeance without hesitation Kasab should have been hanged.

(Ashok Kamte- 26/11 Victim)

As some writers have rightly pointed out (Shivam Vij), all that is pertaining to terrorism is more of politics and civilian life or its ethics. While I justify the hanging of Kasab, I do not justify the whole process that led to this urgent hanging of the culprit because it shows that tomorrow anybody could be hanged for any reason if that reason is ‘political’ enough. I do not say that Kasab’s hanging proves our democratic values. But at least it shows that we have a democracy that shows some signs of life; it has not yet degenerated into absolute despotism. At the same time I am skeptical about the secrecy which I am afraid could lead to despotism of state acting like a secret service agency as we today are forced to believe that the Prime Minister of this country and Sonia Gandhi who literally calls the shots in the government did not know anything about Kasab’s hanging.

 (Hemant Karkare- 26/11 victim)

It also sends shivers along my spine when I realize that anybody could be detained anytime for any flimsy reason because the state does not like what you as an individual do. In that case we slowly move to a scenario where the state could prove a living person dead while he is very much alive. Then the state could enter into your thinking and detain you for thinking in those ‘objectionable’ lines. Your past, present and future could be fumigated and incinerated while you are very much alive. We will not be able to kiss even. The state would be like a wound at your ankle that refuses to heal. You will secretly start venerating a pagan god called ‘Orwell’.

Postscript: There cannot be a strict Muslim angle to Kasab’s death even if he is a terrorist from the Islamic world. And Indians in general cannot be blamed for being anti-Muslim. We should always understand that while many Indian celebrate the death of Kasab, possibly the very same Indian also openly condemn the atrocities of Israel in the Gaza strip.

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