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On Celebrating Ajmal Kasab's Death

On Celebrating Ajmal Kasab's Death

November 22, 2012

The last 26/11 gunman is dead, hanged from the neck by the Indian state, but I see nothing worth celebrating.

If you ask me, Ajmal Kasab is a pretty weak symbol of the external (mostly Pakistan-based) terrorist threat against India. He is even a weak symbol of the 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai for which he held some direct responsibility.

Kasab was a young, impressionable man in his early twenties who followed orders without thinking. According to interrogation accounts, he cared little for Islam and undertook the most hideous of killing missions because a) it would make him famous, and b) money from his terrorist masters would help his family to eat.

Now Kasab is dead. Hanged and buried at Pune’s Yerwada Jail. His death at the hands of the Indian state has sparked celebrations across the nation similar to those seen in the United States last year when reports of Osama bin Laden’s assassination broke.

“Let us drink rum and whisky today,” some said.” We will make and eat biryani like that maggot Kasab was fed in jail. I hope he evacuated his bowels before he breathed his last.”

The intense emotions behind these feelings of hate and relief are real, and I have no intention of criticising those emotions. 26/11 was an attack on India. There must be a sense of retribution at seeing the last surviving gunman hanged by the state after nearly two years of due legal process effectively keeping him alive. Such a strong emotional response is understandable.

What I don’t understand is the sense of celebration. One man has been killed. 175 more people were killed on 26/11. Killing and death do not seem like a cause for celebration to me, whoever it is that does the killing and for whatever reason.

Is this celebration at one man’s hanging in proportion to the devastation felt at hearing reports of hundreds dead in the Taj Palace, the Oberoi, Leopold’s and all? Is that why there’s such joy in the air?

If so, what do you actually think about when knocking back pegs of rum or beer, or when consuming celebratory biryani, after a death row inmate and convicted enemy of the state has been hanged? Do you think about his neck snapping, or the faecal matter in his prison clothes? Do you think about the massive government expenditure on keeping him alive all that time? Do you think of the victims he shot down in cold blood at Victoria Terminus/Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus?

What’s to celebrate? Kasab is gone. He can’t see you clink glasses at his execution. He can’t hear you insult him as virulently and bitterly as ever. He can’t see your smiles and tears of joy. I have no doubt that your joy is real - but what is it for?

Who is it for? The victims of 26/11 can’t celebrate with you, either. They are dead. The word ‘tragic’ is overused nowadays but their deaths were and shall always be genuinely tragic, regardless of whether their killers are still breathing. The victims cannot see you clink glasses for them either, admirable though it may be to raise a glass to their memory.

As for the threat of terrorism, it doesn’t stop with Kasab, so we can’t celebrate its end yet either. Many of the masterminds behind the attacks are likely still out there and quite capable of finding more impressionable young men like Kasab to carry out their evil plans. Is it for each other that you celebrate? A nation full of internal conflicts and disagreements taking the opportunity to rally together in demonisation of an Other? If that’s the case, do you want your national sense of celebration to be based around hatred? Or would it be preferable to base it around love - not necessarily for Kasab and his ilk, but for each other?

On Twitter, eminent Delhi-based columnist Madhavan Narayanan wrote: “A young man falls to a hangman. Because they filled his mind with false ideas, a faux-heroism, and rested merrily in the ghosts of their past”. It is a circle of hateful lies and crass, destructive generalisations that led to Kasab committing such a heinous act, and with rancorous celebration of his death, it appears the circle remains unbroken. 


18 Comments

  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    26.11.12 11:50 PM
    All pro Israeli countries say that Israel has every right to defend itself. So why should only India show restraint when its attacked or let go attackers free?

    Playing decent with terrorists doesn't work.
  • AussieDesi
    By
    AussieDesi
    26.11.12 11:24 PM
    Barnaby
    Another thought-provoking article, well done.

    While the hanging might give rise to national feelings of revenge, the other posters are correct in saying that it also shows that India accords terrorists due process of law; however, you can also see from comments that the "rejoicing" is not necessarily universal.

    IMHO, it might be because this shows India is flexing its muscle against the Pakistan-led destabilisers; You will recall after the attacks in December 2001 on Parliament the US called upon India to show restraint. India is constantly under pressure to "show restraint", but Indians see other states (eg Israel) respond to terrorist attacks on its people. The feelings you describe is a self-affirmation that the Indian nation is not emasculated, and stands up for itself.
  • Rajiv
    By
    Rajiv
    25.11.12 07:10 AM
    I agree with the comments here that this was no reason to celebrate. Celebration would put to rest the actual tragedy or the continuing threat. Half the population has probably moved on to the new IPL season or Bollywood flicks. There was no reason for Kasab to be kept alive for so many months until it was for collecting intelligence. Foolish or not he was a terrorist who thought it was OK to kill other humans. What India should do is to hunt down the head of the hydra.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    25.11.12 12:16 AM
    I think the better solution is to bomb him the same way he did the 176 innocent people.
  • kanika
    By
    kanika
    24.11.12 08:42 PM
    After reading few of the posts above I feel good that few of them think it is not the real solution to hang a person till death
  • Rajiv
    By
    Rajiv
    24.11.12 08:07 AM
    Kasab was just what we Indians could get our hands on after 11/26. Only if we had the will and the courage of the Americans after 9/11 or the Israelis after the many attacks they have had...
  • indu chhibber
    By
    indu chhibber
    23.11.12 07:43 PM
    It should be -some want to ...
  • indu chhibber
    By
    indu chhibber
    23.11.12 07:42 PM
    India needed to set an example & Kasab deserved to be killed.But beyond this i would say we all have our own reactions to any event ;if some wants to celebrate let them--they are not harming anybody.
  • Techangelist
    By
    Techangelist
    23.11.12 07:05 PM
    As horrific and detestable Kasabs actions were, I would not personally celebrate his death. His hanging is a coda to a horrific tragedy. The tragedy remains. Whats to celebrate?
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    23.11.12 11:59 AM
    A simple impressionable man wanted to become famous. I only hope it won’t be an annual celebration to make him even more famous.He paid
    the price with his life for his foolishness.

    I am certain the cowards who set him up won’t feed his family for a lifetime. Probably Kasab would never know that his family would continue to suffer without him and what he wanted to end.

    This article made me look back at how Gaddafi and his people celebrated when the Lockerbie killer was freed and gave him a hero’s welcome home. Those very people brought down Gaddafi to his miserable ending and celebrated his death.

    May be Kasab was given a hero’s welcome by those who set him up if he had been freed. Such articles only stir up the already strained relationship between the two countries.

    To celebrate or not to celebrate why, when, where, whom and how?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1207816/Obamas-desperate-appeal-Lockerbie-bomber-die-Scottish-prison-killers-fate-decided.html
  • Hiten
    By
    Hiten
    23.11.12 02:49 AM
    Hi Barnaby,

    I really enjoyed your post and it was interesting to read your views.

    The questions you raised about the celebration of a person's death in this way have definitely got me thinking.
  • Roy
    By
    Roy
    22.11.12 04:42 PM
    @ Ashish A simple person. Wow. Kasab must be smiling in hell. This simple person was involved in killing of 166 people forget the financial losses. I m wondering if one of those killed was ur relative then you would have posted the same comment.
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    22.11.12 04:11 PM
    @ Barns

    I agree with the points you are making and the arguments that is put forward by you. BUT and this is a BIG but, why I don't agree with you on this 100%, and I will explain this why?

    When you and I celebrate our birthday, why do we do it even though it's celebrating a day closer to yours and mine demise. The main reason for this is to show the living, it's our way of looking things in a positive way. We don't have to do it but we do it. Some cultures celebrate death and some celebrate life but in the end it's the same thing.

    Ajmal Kasabs may see or doesn't, if we celebrate his death or not, but we want those who sent him to do this and his family, who has to know what he did will never be accepted by others and that is the main reason we should celebrate this.

    The world is full of irony, but some actions by others and the likes of kasabs will never be accepted by all. Why do we have a phrase which says that we will dance on your grave when you are gone. The reason for this is to prove to the living that your actions will never be justified even if you think it's just.

    I do agree with Roy on most points put forward by him.

    The only way you and I value what we have is when we lose things in life and until you don't, you will never know the pain of the victim's family. And for them this has to be done.

    HARRY
  • Roy
    By
    Roy
    22.11.12 03:29 PM
    And the author pls don't bring internal differences of india over such issues. We may not seem to be united but whenever such external threat comes we are one.
    We don't want to rejoice hatred, we are celebrating our judiciary and justice. There is no country in the world which is more peace loving than india but we are facing the brunt of terrorism which is not acceptable. We know our government is also a culprit for not taking adequate security measures so when government does something like this then we are happy as it rebuilds our confidence in our government.
    I know he was not the main culprit and I wait for that day when india attacks Pakistan and destroys all Pakistani terrorist factories or in the process destroys Pakistan itself, I don't care but I want peace at any cost for my country and hanging kasab was just a small beginning to this long battle.
    Jai hind
  • Roy
    By
    Roy
    22.11.12 03:19 PM
    @ Jayanath I don't care even if u consider him 99th brother of duryodhan. I know he wasn't the planner but he was the executioner. It's a war and u don't see how the sepoy was recruited only thing that matters is that soldier is carrying a gun and fighting from ur enemy's side.
    A clear message has to be sent to those terrorist that we are a merciful and peaceful lot but not for them.
  • Ashish
    By
    Ashish
    22.11.12 02:02 PM
    i agree with jayanth, he was a simple person, every one is giving unnecessary publicity to his hang
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    22.11.12 11:19 AM
    Wonderful piece... that is exactly how I felt about the news.

    @Roy: Before we start on mythology based metaphors, remember that Kasab is neither Raavana nor Mahishasura. He is more like the 93rd brother of Duryodhana and killing him doesn't necessarily signify triumph of good over evil. The magnitude of chest thumping over this symbolic execution is way out of line with the tragedy that 26/11 was.
  • Roy
    By
    Roy
    22.11.12 06:11 AM
    I think something really wrong with ur senses coz if this is so then we should never celebrate Lord Ram killing Ravana or Krishna killing Kansh or Maa Durga killing mahishasur plus many others becoz someone was killed that day too. It's not death of kasab people are celebrating its victory of justice over injustice or good over evil that people are celebrating.
    I know main culprits are still out there in Pakistan but we can not go for a direct war with them for obvious reason which u know too but with this death sentence we gave two clear messages 1) whoever crosses the border with such intention will have his appointment fixed with 72 virgins and 2) india has a judicial system which give even such terrorist a chance to have their say. We gave all the legal support any criminal can expect from our gov.

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