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.