'Maar diya jaaye ki chod diya jaaye'?
When it comes to Kasab, this is a no brainer you would say. 'Maar diya jaaye.' One of the few terrorists in the world who was caught alive, Ajmal Amir Kasab has now been in jail for around 18 months. And in this period he has been a living, breathing, unscathed reminder of the horrors of the most dramatic terror attack in the history of the world. As I write this, the Mumbai police is in deep discussion with journalists of the city to provide for unhitched and secure media coverage. Security has been increased near the Arthur Road Jail complex and by Monday there will be many more road diversions and restrictions around the area. Newsrooms are abuzz with discussions on how to carry the story, who would follow it and who are the talking heads to consult about this trial.
Everything about Kasab has till now generated a lot of curiosity. He was the one man the nation could punish for not just his acts but for the failure of important security agencies. He was the embodiment of the nation's frustration, the living proof of why we no longer felt safe in this country. And so the brash behaviour of this 21 year old became the topic of great discussion. 'Look at how fearlessly and remorselessly he was shooting those people at CST', 'He is the one who killed our brave officers', 'Look at how he mocks the judges at court', these were oft repeated sentences showing our collective hatred of one man who reminded us time and again of what we lost and how we failed on 26/11. We burnt effigies, staged plays, made Ganpati pandals and did whatever we could to act out our anger towards him and the ideology he represented.
Since day one every report has been about what is going on in Kasab's mind, what did he eat, what was he wearing, was he laughing, was he frowning, did he understand the question, has he picked up Marathi, any and every information about the kind of person the aam aadmi is never going to become. We even had people commenting on how well kept he looked, how he was 'handsome' (yeah right) and there was also the youngster who declared live on FM radio how she found Kasab cute and would like to meet him (Stockholm syndrome or its variant?). Notoriety after all is not exactly the opposite of popularity, its just the other side of the same coin.
The trial itself went through a lot of twists and turns. First there was no lawyer and the late Shahid Azmi had said that Kasab should be hanged without trial after declaring him a state enemy. Then a little known Anjali Waghmare came in, was spooked out by the Sena and enter Abbas Kazmi, who was later sacked for inconsistencies. And all through this time there was the push and pull between India and Pakistan about who was Kasab. There were the various confessions and retractions and allegations and counter allegations. And despite the heinous crimes, it seemed that Ajmal Kasab had also become a prime time entertainer for our voyeuristic pleasures. Every story about him fed the curiosity of a public trying to decode the mind of a terrorist. The only ones who hated every bit of it were understandably, the victims. Many of those from the lower strata of the society wondered why 31 crores were spent on him, when some of them are still waiting for the lakh or two of compensation sanctioned by government authorities.
On Monday, though it might seem to be the beginning of the end. A verdict shall be pronounced and the question Maar diya jaaye ki nahin would hopefully be answered. But the saga seems to be far from over. In a country where there is a huge gap between the sentencing and the actual punishment, this could just be the beginning of another long drawn process. The questions might shift from whether to hang him to when to hang him, where to hang him and even is there an executioner available? If there is another appeal, then the process could even get longer.
But these questions seem irrelevant to many Mumbaikars. The bigger question as always is whether this would be an exemplary verdict, which would discourage any such attacks in future. Doubtful. Or maybe the mundane question of the layman is more important, 'Madam Kasab ko phaansi hone ke baad Arthur road ko jo one way banaya tha voh wapas se two way hoga ki nahin?'