Kasab Qatar Mein Hain....
I was at a South Delhi cafe this evening where I happened to over hear a rather animated conversation between a group of youngsters glued to the slim LCD monitor that flickered overhead.
'This Kasab'sa real dude man, he looks so young and still,' paused a twenty-something man with gelled hair and a pierced eyebrow as the girl sitting next to him added, "Imagine brutally killing so many people, and then cooling your heels in prison, gorging on State funded biryani, f*** this happens only in India."
"You're lucky you're pushing off to US soon, pays to be a businessman's only daughter. At least you are in a country with balls. Osama ki dhajiya udha diya saalo ne, and look at us... took us years to even get a bloody Court verdict! F******* Indians," another young man with green eyes, clad in khaki shorts interrupted, wrapping his arms around the young lady in question.
She smirked adding, 'Shiiish shut up Sonu, listen to the news, they are saying there is no hangman to hang Kasab. Now what? More biryani kya?'
A moment of silence passed, outside it was drizzling, the skies overcast, as if in solemn remembrance of those we lost...on an evening like this... on a night like 26/11...in a city like Mumbai.
All day, Indians like these, belonging to various age and ethnic groups, sitting in plush restaurants or in crowded office corners, listening to the radio, or watching the afternoon bulletin on their latest LCD's, clad in trendy shorts or demurely covered in saris, have had the chance to react to the much awaited ruling of the country's highest legal body - the Supreme Court on a man who held our nation hostage.
A 25-year-old boy from Faridkot, Pakistan, Kasab ruthlessly wielded an AK-47 on the streets of Mumbai on a night that has gone down in the annals of our country as the bloodiest terror attack on Indian soil, a high pitched battle that was literally fought in the luxury of our living rooms busting the privacy of glitzy South Mumbai.
"Are you happy that Kasab is going to be hung?" I couldn't help but quiz the young gang that had caught my attention, quickly adding, 'it's a proud moment for us Indians.' All heads turned back.
"Talking to me?" the girl asked, drinking a sip of her cafe latte. I nodded in silence. Someone had changed the channel. MTV I think. Safer perhaps.
The boys began laughing. "What's there to be proud? This also must be a well thought out political plan, isn't our PM in Tehran, on the brink of some talks and shit with Zardari. Socha hoga, chal dara teh ain saalo ko, duffer kahinka!" I was aghast.
The boy with the pierced eyebrow followed politics. Not something I expected. Honestly!
"You know I am from Mumbai, my family still lives there. I came here to study, college... it was scary that night. My parents had just left the Taj, we lost two of our family friends... my mother couldn't stop crying for days. We don't go there anymore, maybe it's why I left too... Mumbai same nahin raha us din ke baad... I mean woh raat... phat gayi hum logo ki samjho... bade keh ke phirte the India's safest city, bakwas! Imagine, he, he...his Kasab chap he entered Leopold, arreColaba man. We all used to roam about in Colaba... it's home... it's the coolest place to hang out. Not any more, now everything feels weird... the café owners also have preserved the bullet marks, framed it... maybe it helps... tourists dig all this shit after all. Terror tourism or something, pada tha kahin pein. Maybe it helps his business... sab chaltahain is deshmein!" the young lady rued, turning away her face, making me regret my rather direct questions.
Maybe that's the problem with this verdict - maybe too much time has passed, maybe it just doesn't matter anymore, maybe all it will lead to are lengthy televised debates and post-dated newspaper jargon. And some FB banter, a lot of Likes and...
Maybe we've already lost whatever we had to - perhaps it really is all in the past. Our grief, our anger, our deep seated grudge towards the political and judicial system of our country that conveniently camouflages its weaknesses and cuts behind the multi-colored umbrella of democracy, whenever it suits their purpose.
Maybe our voice, our nights of wild abandon, the feeling of being protected, the knowledge that we are safe is now no longer a subject of debate. 'This country is f***** up,' the shorts-clad young man mutters, texting someone.
Is it true then that we've got nothing left, nothing except to be cynical, like this? To openly laugh at ourselves, that we fed biryani to a human butcher, all these years... in all this time.
Months, weeks and days,bit by bit, allowing our youth to get jaded, telling them it was cool to take to Twitter and Facebook instead with a vengeance, turning their impotent rage into quirky quotes and strong status messages and then suddenly when we thought we in India were part of a global social media revolution, to slap a ban on some Twitter accounts. To say shut up! You've said enough. Now, it's our turn.
In the interim of course, hundreds of faceless innocents kept facing the brunt of our shallow security systems, all our 'talk' summits and missions, sometimes to Pakistan, sometimes to big brother US, sometimes to other nations routine diplomatic banter.
Slowly, forging an army of dissent, building it up, bit by bit, collecting a crowd of commoners who preferred the ammunition offered by a doddering Gandhian Anna Hazare and a scantily clad Yoga guru turned political commentator Baba Ramdev, as opposed to investing their faith in the Government, the custodians of our so-called democratic bastion...the netas we, we the people, elected ourselves. By our own choice.
So where do I stand? In all this tamasha?
As an ex journalist who lost a colleague to the bloodied violence in Mumbai, I personally also felt nothing but hopelessness today, in a similar vein, like the youngsters who now stared back, stared hopelessly back into my eyes. A friend on Facebook, reacted to my angst about the undue lengthening of the Kasab drama saying and I quote, 'Untrue - this is the natural price that a country must happily pay for a complete and judicious process of justice. We are not a kangaroo court country and before a judgment is passed, it must be duly tried in a court of law with all the procedures. This is called democracy.'
In my defense, he was the only one who seemed to be lauding the verdict.
I wasn't alone. At least on Facebook.
Don't get me wrong though. I'm all for Kasab being hung. But, to me the larger question is when? How soon will this sentence be implemented? I can't help wandering if Kasab too will meet the same fate as Afzal Guru, the dreaded mastermind and prime accused in the Parliament attack who status has been 'Idle' on death row for a while now, with his mercy plea probably rotting in some shadowy file somewhere in Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Here's my next argument - Do men who commit such heinous crimes even merit a mercy plea? Isn't it time we thought of changing some of the laws in our country, to make them more suited for a nation continually under attack, on its home soil by groups sponsored from outside as well as home grown terror outfits? Who does this kind of legal structure serve in the end? The people? The politicians? Our perpetrators?
Second point. And more importantly, are we scared of the larger political repercussions if criminals like Afzal Guru and Kasab finally being hung? Could it lead to more bomb blasts? More blood shed? Maybe another case of high jacking? A dozen more surveillance cameras tucked atop parking lots? Bigger guns and sturdier bullet proof jackets for our police and task forces? In other words, more embarrassment for our Government, security agencies, anti-terrorist groups, police patrol stations? The detection of more loopholes in the system? Greater evidence of corruption, confusion and cowardice? A bigger post mortem?
More Anna's and Ramdev's thronging the pathways rubbing shoulders occasionally with actors and ex cops? More out cry on social networking sites? More TVP's? More fingers pointed, more voices raised, more name calling, more mud slinging - in Parliament, in the papers, in the media, in the minds, in the DNA of our already deflated national pride? In our daily, Dengue infested lives?
Just a basic Google search throws up news reports that Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, is the 309th prisoner in India awaiting execution. At least 256 condemned convicts are awaiting Supreme Court's and high courts' endorsement to their death sentence handed down by trial courts at present.
A sum total of 52 others have filed mercy petitions before the Central Government seeking pardon or reduction of their sentence. The long list of convicts on death row means that Kasab may not be actually hung soon. If executed, Kasab will be the 52nd person to be hanged in India since Independence.
In Maharashtra itself, where Kasab is lodged, 39 prisoners are awaiting execution. Ahead of Kasab are men like Mohammed Afzal Guru, awaiting the President's decision on his mercy petition. Also, giving Kasabcompany are fugitive underworld don Tiger Memon's brother Yaqub Memon and 11 others, awaiting the Supreme Court's decision on the death sentence awarded by an Mumbai anti-terror court in December 2006 for their role in the serial bombing in the city that killed 257 people and maimed 713 others.
During the last decade (1990-2000), the President rejected seven mercy petitions and commuted the sentences of two, while in the previous decade (1980-89) out of 45 mercy petitions, 41 were rejected and four commuted.
Am I only one getting a sinking feeling?
The father of NSG commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who was martyred while fighting the Mumbai terrorists, said earlier to a news website, "I welcome the (Kasab) judgement. I request the President to expedite the punishment and dispose off his mercy petition."
Our new President, Pranab Babu, resigned from being Finance Minister at a time when India was facing its gravest economic doldrums to fulfill his long awaited political ambition. Read making way for Rahul Baba to sit pretty in the Cabinet, possibly being given the defence or home ministry portfolio.
No, not defence! We just nailed Kasab.
Sorry Poltuda, but my Bengali pride also didn't understand your decision. That you preferred the calm of Raisina Hills to the storm brewing outside - in the eyes of every Indian citizen... in their tears when their loved ones were massacred in once upon a time, picture post card perfect Assam, in the gloomy darkness of refugee camps, in the long sighs of middle class, law abiding, Pan card holding Indians who stood in serpentine queues in gas stations hoping to fill up their empty tanks before midnight, in the muffled cries of women being raped daily in metro cities or in helpless suicide notes penned by professionals like Geetika against a tainted, fraudulent minister Kanda who roamed around scot-free for days, shoving a finger up our faith in the security of this country.... once again, perhaps more prominently than the last.
So, is that all we have? A lot of rage and then nothing... nothing except to wait... wait for change. Like Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan's aging father... a man who has no choice but to live in the shadow of his son's heroic and courageous sacrifice. A man we salute with pride.
I remember telling a friend some time back, as we basked in the Olympic limelight, that what are we celebrating? A bunch of runner-ups? The fact that we didn't win gold? Or that at least, at least we won something? After all, God knows India needs heroes? Someone with a story and a medal, or, or just the other way around. Someone who takes the memories of nights like 26/11 away, banishing our failures.
This evening, as I sat listening to a couple of strangers, all of them half my age, I realised in some way what we had actually lost. The hope amongst our youth... the next generation, our progeny, our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, their friends, our aunt's cousins. All they now want perhaps like the group sitting before me was a way out. Anywhere... to a place which felt like home, but was safer. At least in parts.
Safer in a way that Colaba doesn't quite feel anymore, or Lajpat Nagar, or Pune, or Jaipur... despite the candle-lit marches, despite the walkie-talkie holding mustached cops, despite the security checks at malls and markets across the nation. Despite the promise that even a day like today brought.
As I conclude, a close friend texts, "You know With Supreme Court upholding the death sentence awarded by Bombay High Court him, the biggest question arises as to who'll execute him? There is a lack of executioner in Maharashtra." Did I mention it's also her FB status.
As if we didn't have enough on our hands!
"In 2004, Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed in the case of rape and murder of a girl in West Bengal. Nata Mallik conducted his execution. But he died few years ago," I scrolled down on her FB page to get some more dope.
"Hey, I don't mind hanging the son of a b****," someone had commented. 16 Likes.
"Nata Mallik's son Mahadev Mallik who is presently working as a sweeper has appealed that he's ready to execute Kasab. Nata Mallik and his father had executed 25 and 600 people respectively. Mahadev has reportedly declared, 'Hanging to someone death is in my blood, I am well versed in this task,' I add to the post after some more reading online.
There's something about Mahadev Mallik that makes me pause.
I think of my country. I think of my family. I think of Mumbai where I lived and worked once and Kolkata where I grew up and now Delhi where I reside.
I think of all the bomb blasts I've read and heard about, wars I've seen on television... I think of Kasab. I think of all the victims, their deaths, their lives.
Maybe Mahadev Mallik is just one of us.
An Indian who is scared of happiness... an Indian living in fear.
An Indian in exile.
Sick of hearing the excuse, 'aap qatar mein hain.'
More about Sreemoyee Piu KunduSreemoyee Piu Kundu is the author of 'Faraway Music' just out from Hachette India. Her next offering is an erotica 'Sita's Curse', followed by a lad lit 'You’ve Got the Wrong Girl' being published by Hachette. An ex lifestyle Editor with publications like TOI, MetroNow, India Today & Asian Age and PR head, she’s currently working on her fourth title – 'Cut!' Based in New Delhi, Sreemoyee calls herself a 'rebel romantic’ whose writing helps her discover ‘music in the mundane.’ She is an intrepid traveler, an incurable fashionista and an avid poet too.
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