Kasab’s Execution: After Hanging 2008 Terrorist, What Lessons Has India Learned?

In secrecy, Indian authorities executed Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving assailant of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. But that dark chapter of violence has hardly ended

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The Times of India / Reuters

Ajmal Kasab is seen walking outside the premises of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai in this Nov. 26, 2008, photo

Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist whose boyish face came to embody the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was hanged in the western Indian city of Pune early morning on Wednesday, just a week before the four-year anniversary of the Nov. 26 attack that killed 166 people and injured 300. Kasab was the only terrorist who had been captured alive at the scene of the violence. The grainy image of the young man, a gun in his hand and a backpack slung casually over his shoulder, has become an icon of the attack.

Kasab’s death sentence was carried out at 7:30 a.m. in extreme secrecy to forestall any retaliation by terrorist groups; even the executioner was reportedly unaware of the identity of the man he was about to hang. The news started flashing on Indian television channels an hour after the hanging was over. Reports have since come out that Kasab was transferred from a Mumbai jail on Tuesday night, where he has been lodged for the past four years, to Pune’s Yerwada Jail. Kasab’s death sentence had been pronounced by a lower court in Mumbai in 2008 and was subsequently upheld by the Bombay High Court in 2011 and India’s top court in August 2012. Earlier this month, his mercy plea — his last chance to stay his sentence — was rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee. “It was a very somber duty that we had to perform,” Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said in a press briefing on Wednesday evening. “It could have developed into a simmering sore in our country.”

(MORE: India: After the Horror)

The hanging was, indeed, welcomed in many quarters, as euphoric reactions from citizens, victims and politicians alike flooded television channels and social-networking sites. Many applauded the ruling Congress Party for its tough stance on terrorism. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh tweeted, “Finally Kasab hanged.” Devika Rotawan, a 13-year-old who was shot in the leg during the attacks, said she had personally watched Kasab “fire away at the Victoria Terminus and he was laughing remorselessly. All terrorists should meet this end.” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi hawkishly told reporters that the hanging served as “a stern warning to the enemies of India, especially those across the border who want to terrorize India.”

Whether Kasab’s hanging will prove to be such a potent deterrent is a matter of much debate. As the initial cheers faded, India was almost immediately beset with questions of what, apart from a sense of reprisal for the victims and their families, the execution would accomplish. Kasab was among 10 men who carried out attacks on key Mumbai landmarks on Nov. 26, 2008, including two hotels, a railway station and a Jewish center. Many worry that unless the real masterminds of the attack — who are still hiding in neighboring Pakistan — are brought to justice, Kasab’s hanging will achieve precious little. “This man came to die four years ago. His life for the last four years was an incidental footnote in the trajectory of international terrorism,” says Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management. “What he has done and what has been done to him … has no impact whatsoever on the trajectory of terrorism or on the balance of power between the various players, including the nonstate actors and state sponsors.”

Indeed, some say Kasab’s hanging may even invite more violence from terror groups. Within hours of his death, a senior commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani militant group accused of masterminding the Mumbai attacks, told Reuters that its former foot soldier is a “hero” whose death will “inspire other fighters to follow his path.”

(MORE: Kasab’s Sentence: After Mumbai Terrorist, Should India Abolish the Death Penalty?)

If the worst were to come to pass, is India better prepared today than it was in 2008 to handle a domestic terrorist attack? At least some in the government, including former Home Minister and current Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, assert that it is not. “Have we done enough to build capacity since the Mumbai terror attacks?” Chidambaram told a gathering of top police officials last year. “The answer is yes and no.” Chidambaram, after he took over as Home Minister following the 2008 attacks, revamped the country’s security architecture by plumping up the police forces, arming them with sophisticated weapons and establishing the National Investigation Agency, a robust investigation bureau aimed at coordinating national efforts against terrorism. “There have been some marginal changes in police capabilities and capacities and in certain cities or areas responses might be marginally better but that doesn’t meant that the cities are more secure,” says Sahni. “The amount of vulnerability remains the same … The people we are talking about, with their ideologies, the hanging of a man is not going to have any kind of dampening or freezing effect on them because these are people who are willing to die and kill.” Khurshid said no specific, nationally coordinated measures were taken to secure municipalities before or after today’s execution, saying that precautions were left up to local authorities. “Before anybody could have reacted, the matter was over,” Khurshid said.

That may be, but the larger threat looms large. Though Islamabad’s Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan said Pakistan was “willing to cooperate and work closely with all countries of the region to eliminate the scourge of terrorism,” the Indian Foreign Minister said cooperation was not as forthcoming as India would like: “It’s been a long time. From any point of view, patience would run out in any country. He says India has submitted a “wish list” to Pakistan authorities, including requests for information on individuals India believes masterminded the attacks, but Pakistan has as yet not delivered on that intelligence. Indeed, it was only a few weeks back that Islamabad admitted, based on the testimony of five Pakistani government detectives, who testified in the ongoing Nov. 26 trial in Pakistan, that perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks were trained in Pakistan. “It’s not an issue that time can make us forget,” said Khurshid. “There has to be some delivery on this issue … A lot will now depend on what we see Pakistan do.”

— With reporting by Krista Mahr / New Delhi

MORE: Top 10 Defining Moments of the Post-9/11 Era: The Mumbai Attacks

25 comments
AmarGirdhar
AmarGirdhar

It is very easy to blame terrorist organisation who come forward and took responsibility of attack. Blaming Pakistan for not sharing intelligence. Instead authorities India should look what went wrong ? Is intelligence of India anymore intelligent. Marginal security improvement depicts the attitude towards citizen's safety. At least now, India  can respond back to threats of Taliban.

pvariel
pvariel

His hanging does not go in line with India's Heritage and Civilization. How can we keep up the word “Ahimsa” The mantra of  Mahatma Gandhi- Rashtrapitha (Father of the Nation)?  It is high time that the Indian leaders and administration should take up one or two lessons from the life of it's Mahatma!  The new developments of the administration are showing dead against policies of The Rashtrapita. http://pvariel.blogspot.in

Anpadh
Anpadh

This article is devoid of signs of intelligent life.

RavindraAdhav
RavindraAdhav

I m happy, you have referred to to him as a 'terrorist' and not just a 'gunman' for the first time...

4thAugust1932
4thAugust1932

During Indo-Pak partition in 1947 all Muslim majority regions are to be merged with Pakistan. Indian forward caste regime betrayed and occupied both Hindu majority Hyderabad state and Muslim majority Kashmir state. Any type of hegemony will have awkward repercussions and collateral damage.

SalimShaikh
SalimShaikh

A good gist of events.  India is so stubborn to learn any lessons as since its inception it always denied the universal rights as a hindu state to other non-hindu populations.  India's hypos is much evident from its vote against death sentences in the world fora and see how they acted against, they mocked the rest of the world. Would they now plead mercy for many hindus awaiting capital punishment in Pakistan as part of their tesrrorist activities!!! on humanitarian grounds .... how India will justify its stand???  

PadmanabhanSudarsanam
PadmanabhanSudarsanam

Lessons learnt by India? It is very difficult to normalise relations with Pakistan where training of terrorists with State support  is justified on the basis defending the religion (Jihad). This philosophy of Pakistan will not change as long as they continue to be funded by other nations which gives them economic and armament muscle.  Unfortunately we in India cannot choose our neighbours and so we need to continue to defend our nation to the best of our abilities.

sucorazon20101
sucorazon20101

A couple of nuclear bombs on Lahore,Islamabad and Karachi, could see a reformed Pakistan. And of-course wiping out the residential areas where Pakistani army's upper echleon livesd would be a great start too.

Martian_14
Martian_14

They learned that muslin fundamentalists are garbage, and have to be treated as such.

HannoPhoenicia
HannoPhoenicia

What have they learned? What they need to learn is that putting one killer to death means nothing if Pakistan can send in a hit squad anytime they want to kill hundreds of Indians. Also, they need to learn that a government as corrupt and incompetent as they have can't defend it's country from deadly enemies next door.

pngolla
pngolla

It's not as much that it took so long and so much to get ONE man. It's that he was found in Pakistan; Safely hiding, of all places, in a Pakistani "Military town." Coincidence?

Leaders of countries must be honest. I am talking about the US and India. US invaded a wrong country. Not that I am for invasion. But if you are invading a country for its connections to terrorism you might as well shown honesty and integrity.

Also, let us not forget that Pakistan itself has been a victim of terrorism. The fear of terrorism is so much, it seems to me, that the officials cannot talk against their terrorists; so they are implicitly or explicitly supporting it.

emelgee
emelgee

I do realize that the focus of this article is terrorism, and such a horrific thing is clearly more important than correct language usage, but seriously Time?  "What Lessons Have India Learned?"  Is India suddenly plural? 

sadief1880
sadief1880

Terrorist must be synonymous with "prelude to a death sentence".  Protection from violence is one of the very few functions with which governments should be involved. 

Anpadh
Anpadh

I am not sure if Ms. Krista Mahr is aware of it but terrorists are people who create terror. Over the last hundred years, hundreds of governments have killed millions of terrorists. Yet, terrorism continues. It took the richest, most powerful government in the world two presidential terms, a change of presidents, two wars, in two different countries, a multi-million dollar bounty and team of commandos to kill ONE man. And yet, terrorism goes on. I wonder if Ms. Mahr has a workable solution that would permanently end terrorism worldwide and instantly, that includes never punishing anyone but terrorist leaders.

someramguy
someramguy

@4thAugust1932 both were princely states and not provinces.. If you are that ignorant in history, don't waste other people's time here

m.joey15
m.joey15

Would you please care to elaborate on the Hindu terrorist activities in Pakistan. It's great fiction. Also would love to hear what rights have been denied to Non-Hindus. For the record, India is not a Hindu state, it is a Secular state. Please do not make such untruthful statements just to hide your own doings. The whole world has been made aware of the facts about Pakistan as the breeding ground of widespread terrorism not just against India. Refrain from commenting if you have nothing constructive to say. Kasab's execution was imminent given the number of lives he took, but it is by no means a happy situation. He could have had a better, productive life had he not been recruited by the proponents of terror operating out of Pakistan. Pakistan itself is suffering from Terrorism that is so prevalent and so deep rooted that its economic and social advancement is severly throttled. But you don't care about that, do you?

KiranQamar
KiranQamar

@sucorazon20101 Are you running high fever, It will take less than a minute before it would be all in ashes, that what you preach, Is your head working riht or you simply an Idiot

Anpadh
Anpadh

@HannoPhoenicia According to your logic, the US should not have killed Bin Laden. And there should have been no outcry at the release of the Lockerbie bomber. No murdered ever should be put in prison and/or executed. Murder continues, regardless. Saddam Hussein should not have been executed. After all, the country now has another leader. All governments, according to your logic should close all prisons forever. No matter how many criminals any government imprisons, there will always be hit squads and other types of criminals.

RamKumarsingh
RamKumarsingh

@"Dev**********"...ur profile pic is dishonouring india and its soul..i am going to lodge a complaint against you if u donot apologise for ur mistake...

emelgee
emelgee

@ShailendraSingh  

Right, but the subject there is India, not lessons.  If you reword the question into a sentence, you have, "India has learned what lessons?"  Besides, look at the URL of the article..."has" is correctly used there.

Actually, now, the title has been fixed.