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Why I am saddened by Kasab's hanging
By Shivam Vij
Rejoice, fellow Indians. Ajmal Kasab has been hanged. But please excuse me, I am not joining you. Your cheering and hooting and hurrahs feel like a medieval lynch mob celebrating the death of the sinner and not the sin. 'Barbaric' is the word that comes to mind.

This isn't merely about the morality or aesthetic of capital punishment. I want to ask you: What did we just achieve? Ten terrorists had come to kill and be killed, to cause maximum damage of the sort that they surely knew they'd be killed. Nine of them were killed in direct encounter. Did we hail their deaths? Do we say their deaths were justice?

So if we killed Ajmal Kasab four years later -- 'with due process' -- what exactly have we achieved?

I don't understand how his death brings justice to the 26/11 victims, whose real culprits are in Pakistan, and India does not seem to have the diplomatic leverage over Pakistan to bring them to justice. The street celebration over Kasab's hanging only proves that this was not about justice. It was about a feeling of revenge.

Commenting on the due process, Inspector Govilkar, who captured Kasab, said, "Am very happy today. We have proven to the world that we are a legitimate democracy."

My salutations to Inspector Govilkar for his bravery, but his comment is bizarre. I thought we were a legitimate democracy anyway, why do we have to prove it by hanging a terrorist we captured alive?

Perhaps we are not a 'legitimate' democracy. If we were, our law would be equal.

If we were a legitimate democracy, then the Srikrishna Commission Report on the communal violence in Mumbai in 1992-1993 would have been implemented.

If we were a legitimate democracy, the law would have been as speedy in bringing justice to the Samjhauta Express bombers as it has been in Ajmal Kasab's case.

If we were a legitimate democracy, we'd not force down a nuclear energy plant down the throats of an unwilling populace in Koodankulam.

If we were a legitimate democracy we wouldn't impose the Indian flag on millions of people in Kashmir and the north-east with the help of military jackboots.

If we were a legitimate democracy we wouldn't take away the land of farmers and tribals for a pittance and hand them over to corporates.

And we won't arrest people for condemning a general strike and liking a Facebook status update.

If we were a legitimate democracy our courts would have given capital punishment in other 'rarest of the rare' cases such as to Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani for the Naroda Patiya massacre and to the lynch mob in Khairlanji that murdered an entire Dalit family in 2006.

But congratulations fellow Indians, we've hanged Ajmal Kasab and we are now a legitimate democracy -- mind you, not some wannabe democracy, but a legitimate democracy! Many democracies across the world have done away with capital punishment, perhaps they are illegitimate ones.

If justice is about setting examples to future terrorists so that they fear the long arm of the law, does this case do that?

We have only done Ajmal Kasab's handlers a favour by hanging him. While he asked for mercy, his handlers and trainers had indoctrinated him with jihad, he was prepared to sacrifice his life in fighting the enemy, in the cause of his religion and thus attaining heaven.

According to a report by Pakistani journalist Saeed Shah who visited Kasab's village in Faridkot, the graffiti there said, 'Go for jihad. Go for jihad.'

His 'martyrdom' will now be used to create more Kasabs -- you think I am being rhetorical? Well, Reuters' Islamabad bureau already reports getting a phone call from a Lashkar-e-Tayiba commander who said, 'He was a hero and will inspire other fighters to follow his path.'

No wonder we are now being warned about revenge attacks.

I am saddened by Ajmal Kasab's hanging because I oppose capital punishment -- for anyone, no matter what the crime. Just as the law seeks to punish those who take away life, the State has no right to take away life either (except in defending the lives of its citizens). How silly -- we seek to address the crime of mass murder with another murder!

Advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry has pointed out that if we were so particular about due process, why did Kasab not get legal aid that he was entitled to, in drafting his mercy petition? He gave Jyoti Punwani the reasons in an interview why Kasab should have been granted mercy: 'An illiterate boy of 13 sold by his family to the LeT, brainwashed into jihad, transformed into a killing machine and sent as a foot soldier to India are mitigating factors that entitle him to the lesser penalty.'

Retribution is a kind of punishment to ourselves. Chaudhry explained in that interview: 'Excluding a fellow human being from entitlement to mercy has nothing to recommend it except a very base blood-lust that we encourage at our peril. If we have to become a more humane and compassionate society, and leave a better, less blood-thirsty world behind for our children, we have to curb our instinct for bloody retribution.'

He also said that mercy was a human quality not found elsewhere -- but perhaps we are resigned to being animal-like. Such is our hate.

It's funny to see holier than thou right-wingers on Twitter not be happy with the hanging. They're saying the government has done it at an opportune time when it is under political attacks, a stormy Parliament session on its doorstep. They are unhappy because now they can't complain that the United Progressive Alliance government is appeasing Muslims/Pakistan by not hanging Kasab.

Which is why Afzal Guru and not Ajmal Kasab is trending topic number one on Twitter India. These people were not happy when Kasab was not being hanged and they are not happy when Kasab has been hanged. They will never be happy.

Some of my friends who happen to be Indian Muslims don't agree with me. They wanted Kasab hanged so that the right-wing has one less stick to beat Indian Muslims with, so that the Hindutvawaadis can't say that the Congress is not hanging a Pakistani terrorist for appeasing Indian Muslims.

Some Pakistanis on Twitter are expressing happiness on Twitter -- Pakistan needs to hang its terrorists too, they are saying. In response to the Kasab hanging, the Pakistani foreign office has said it supports strong action against terrorism.

All of which only goes to show that capital punishment is more about politics than justice. Indian law now no longer restricts life imprisonment to 14 years. We could have kept Kasab in jail forever. That is what we should have done.

Rejoice Kasab's hanging if you will -- because terrorism and barbarism are apparently both human traits. Just spare me the claptrap about justice.

(First published in Rediff.com)


News Updated at : Friday, November 23, 2012
 
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