Mumbai: Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, 25, the only terrorist caught alive during the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, was hanged at Pune's Yerwada Jail at 7:30 this morning. It was a swift and secret execution, just two weeks after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition. Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who said it was all in a day's work, told NDTV that not one of his Cabinet colleagues knew that Kasab would be hanged today and would have learnt of it from TV.
A few hours after he was hanged, Kasab's body was buried at the Pune jail. Pakistan's interior minister Rehman Malik told NDTV that no request had been made by Kasab's family for repatriation of his body. "As and when such a request is made, we will approach India accordingly," he said. A Pakistani human rights activist, Ansar Burney, has now offered to claim the terrorist's body, "on humanitarian grounds."
Soon after Kasab was hanged, Mr Shinde said India had informed the Pakistan government yesterday about Kasab's hanging, but, he said, Islamabad had refused to acknowledge the letter that was both couriered and faxed through its high commission in Delhi. Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said it was faxed after India tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully, to give it to Pakistan by hand. (Read)
Pakistan has refuted this saying it has "received and acknowledged" India's note. India's foreign ministry sources say Islamabad did, however, accept its request for enhanced security for Indian diplomats in Pakistan.
Sources said the government also sent word about Kasab's execution by a special letter to an address in Pakistan that the terrorist had given as that of his family. Kasab, who was informed on November 12 that he would be hanged, had reportedly requested that his mother be informed about it. He had no other last wish and left no will.
The President rejected Ajmal Kasab's mercy petition on November 5, Mr Shinde said. Paperwork between Delhi and Mumbai done, Kasab was moved from his bullet-proof, secure cell in Mumbai's Arthur Road jail to Pune on Monday. The Yerwada jail is one of two in Maharashtra equipped to handle execution by hanging.
The process thereafter was kept top secret, with even the most senior officials informed only on a need to know basis. "These are sensitive matters...we managed to keep it secret," Mr Khurshid said.
Mr Shinde was more specific. He said his department kept the execution plan under wraps since it did not want to encounter pressure from international NGOs or "someone moving Supreme Court. "It is my nature that I maintain secrecy on such things. I am trained to be a policeman," Mr Shinde, adding that none of his cabinet colleagues or UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi knew about the execution happening today. "They would have got to know from television when channels started reporting this morning," he said. (Watch: Shinde to NDTV on secrecy surrounding Kasab execution)
An hour after Kasab was hanged today, Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil made an official announcement saying, "I sincerely believe this is a tribute to all innocent people and the officers who lost their lives in the Mumbai attacks." (Read: Kasab had no last wish, no will)
This evening, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said India has set an example of the rule of law through the trial and execution of Kasab when even the United States never tried Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks.
"The majesty of the Indian justice system has been upheld. We have done better than the Americans, who could not try Osama bin Laden and had to liquidate him. But we went through the due process of law," Mr Chavan told NDTV in an exclusive interview. (Read | Watch)
The chief minister said keeping Kasab's execution confidential was the biggest challenge. "I was worried about another adventure by Pakistan for publicity or that somebody opposed to capital punishment would move court," he said.
The execution comes one day before the Winter Session of Parliament begins and five days before the fourth anniversary of a day that will haunt Mumbai for many days. Mr Shinde says not too much should be read into those details. Mr Khurshid said India's message to the world was that "India stands by the rule of law."
166 people were killed over three days of terror, when 10 men from Pakistan sailed into Mumbai in November 2008. They split into pairs and spent 72 hours targeting the city's landmarks. A hospital was attacked; so was a Jewish centre. Kasab was the only terrorist who was caught alive. (Read: The terrorist caught alive on 26/11)
While it has been established that Kasab belonged to Pakistan, Islamabad has continued to deny that there was any state involvement in the massive terror attack planned and executed by the deadly terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The abiding image of Kasab - captured by a photographer at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station - is of him in T-shirt and cargo pants, strapped with ammunition and holding a deadly Kalashnikov rifle. On 26/11, his partner Ismail and he attacked the station first, killing 52 people and wounding more than 100.
They then escaped, hijacked a police vehicle after fatally shooting three senior policemen - Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar - and drove for a distance before being brought to halt at Girgaum Chowpatty by a flat tyre. Ismail, who was driving was killed in gunfire. Kasab, who was wounded, got out of the car and pretended to be dead. An unarmed Assistant police inspector Tukaram Ombale approached him and when Kasab suddenly pulled his gun on him, grappled with the terrorist, holding on to his rifle, and ensured that he was captured alive by other cops, before succumbing to his injuries. (Read: The man who caught Kasab)
Since his arrest in 2008, Kasab was kept in a high-security bulletproof cell in Mumbai's Arthur Road jail. He had moved the Supreme Court on February 14 this year against the High Court verdict of October 10 last year, which upheld a lower court order sentencing the terrorist to death. The lower court had pronounced its judgement on May 6, 2010, 18 months after he was captured. (Case Timeline)
Kasab's mercy petition was filed first with the Maharashtra Home Ministry, which rejected it in September, and forwarded it to the Union Home Ministry. Then, in October, the Home Ministry recommended that President Pranab Mukherjee reject his plea.
In his plea before the Supreme Court Kasab had said that he had not been given a fair trial. But the Supreme Court had rejected that contention and Justice CK Prasad had observed, "I am more than certain that the planning and conspiracy to commit the crime were hatched in Pakistan, the perpetrators of crime were Pakistani trained at different centres in that country, and the devastation which took place at various places in the city of Mumbai, were executed by the appellant in furtherance thereof." (Full text of Supreme Court's judgement on Kasab's death sentence)
There had been an overwhelming demand among people in India since 2008 that Kasab be executed for his role in the Mumbai attacks. Also, as Kasab's trial continued, the cost of keeping him alive had been a huge burden on the state exchequer.
While the Government has spent over Rs. 5 crore on his high security cell at Mumbai's Arthur Road jail, his security, entrusted to the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), has cost the state several crores. (Read: Centre may deduct Maharashtra's funds to pay for Kasab expenses)