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Mumbai Terrorist Executed in India, But Will it Bring Peace?

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.

Mumbai marks first anniversary of  26/11 attacks

Mumbai marked first anniversary of 26/11 attacks (Nov 26, 2009) by Vinit Gupta © Demotix.

On November 21, 2012 Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, a Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba militant and the only terrorist to be captured alive following the 2008 attack on Mumbai, was executed. The execution came after Indian President Pranab Mukherjee rejected a plea for mercy by the 25 year-old Kasab, a move that marked the end of a lengthy judicial process.

As soon as news broke about the hanging, online reactions poured in fast and furious. The news also rekindled debate about the death penalty in India and whether it was likely to deter or provoke future terrorist attacks.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), who rose to greater prominence after the Mumbai attack, immediately threatened that there would be more attacks. Pakistan’s Taliban also vowed to attack Indian targets.

B. Raman, a former Indian bureaucrat, commented on the dangers in his blog:

Our security agencies must have examined the likelihood of retaliation by jihadi terrorists in Pakistan and India and strengthened security precautions to prevent retaliatory attacks. The LET and the organisations associated with it would want a quick retaliation. A retaliation without at least some preparation may be difficult in Indian territory outside Jammu and Kashmir (…) Strengthening physical security in [Jammu and Kashmir] and Afghanistan should receive the highest priority. The other area requiring attention would be the Indian High Commission in Islamabad which could become the target of attack.

Among Indian citizens, emotions ran high upon hearing the news. Like many of those directly affected by the 2008 tragedy, blogger Matangi Mawley (who lost an uncle during the attack) wrote:

Kudos to the officials for carrying out the execution quietly, thank you President Pranab for being decisive and thank you India- finally the victims get some kind of justice! Remembering my beloved maternal uncle, Shri. P.K. Gopalakrishnan, who lost his life on the fateful day- 26/11

Similar sentiments were expressed on Twitter as many felt that justice, though delayed, had been served as far as Kasab was concerned. Some also expressed relief that the Indian government, which had spent millions keeping Kasab in their custody, would be spared any further expense of public funds. The drawn out process was noted by many, but there was also praise for the upholding of the judicial system.

Nandita Saikia (@nsaikia): India didn’t simply spend on ‘keeping Kasab alive’; it spent on due process and upholding its own law. The expenditure was non-negotiable.

Not everyone who lost loved ones during the 2008 Mumbai attacks found solace (or reason to rejoice) in the death of Kasab. Ashish Chowdhry, who lost his sister and brother-in-law in the tragedy, tweeted:

Ashish Chowdhry (@AshishChowdhry): Why should I rejoice Kasab’s death? I will rejoice when …innocent children will stop being taught to kill in the name of God…

There were also reflections on how Kasab, being a foot soldier, was perhaps easier to convict while the mastermind(s) behind the attacks continue to evade justice.

Laughing Gas (@waatho): Ajmal Kasab was a mere foot soldier. Very little satisfaction or comfort in knowing that a pawn has been removed from the board.

Vishal Dadlani (@Vishal): Don’t be fooled or distracted by the death of Kasab. Be sad that we haven’t been able to get the real masterminds. Or sort ourselves out.

The hanging brought to the fore the debate around the death penalty – a timely discussion, given that the United Nations General Assembly recently approved a draft resolution in favor of abolishing the death penalty worldwide. While 110 nations voted in favor, India and Pakistan were among the 39 countries that voted against the resolution. Netizen Oculus Dada tweeted about the timing of the vote:

Oculus Dada (@daddy_san): FYI, 12 hours ago, India voted against a UN General Assembly resolution banning the death penalty. Now we know why. #Kasab

Many other bloggers expressed their feelings regarding the death penalty via posts and tweets. Some were at a loss for alternative solutions to dealing with Kasab in spite of having reservations about the death penalty. Others favored imprisonment and a life sentence.

As for the long term effects of Kasab’s execution, there is no unanimity. The Christian Science Monitor says it is unlikely to impact the India-Pakistan peace process, while Deutsche Welle argues the opposite. In a guest post on Kafila, Indian blogger Yug Mohit Chaudhry discussed ‘the power of mercy’ in the context of Kasab’s hanging. Echoing the least optimistic voices, he writes:

Executing Kasab in the name of the Indian people will only feed a base instinct for retribution that will make our society more blood-thirsty, vengeful and violent. It will not contribute to our safety or well-being in any way.

ISN logoThis post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

  • Medha Roy

    I was fortunate not to lose any friend or family in the unforgettable terrorist attacks in Mumbai on that fateful day in November of 2008. The crime committed is unpardonable. But does hanging Kasab bring the terrorists to justice? I don’t believe so. Like many commentators said earlier, Kasab was just a pawn in the game. He was recruited to die, if not in the attack, then as a result of trials on the Indian soil. The abominable terrorist groups are ready with hundreds of Kasabs, waiting in the wing to be pushed out on the stage of hatred and meaningless terrorism.

    Ajmal Kasab was 25 when he was hanged – a precious life lost. I use the word precious very cautiously. Precious in the sense of being naive and formative still. Could he not be imprisoned for life and made into a better man? Of course, his crime cannot be forgotten, nor forgiven. But changing the mind of a young man would have served the terrorist group right. That would have taught them a lesson. Every young terrorist caught alive should be given a chance, either to confess and lead a better life, or remain imprisoned for life to undergo a change in heart and mind. My suggestion may sound naive, but if you think about it, there is no harm in giving it a shot.

    What I found astonishing was how adult, educated and respectable men and women, who are often considered role models in society, rejoice at the hanging? What are they communicating to the young minds of India? That ending a life is the right answer to having lost lives? That there is no room for change? That hatred be paid back by hatred?

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