Saturday, May 8, 2010

I am Ajmal Kasab and I plead guilty

Inside the mind of a terrorist

Ajmal Kasab was born on July 13, 1987 in Faridkot, a village in Pakistan. Kasab, was born on November 26, 2008 in Mumbai.

While the country watched in helpless horror, Kasab and others indiscriminately fired at civilians in Mumbai. He became the lone terrorist captured by the Mumbai police after the massacre. The media repeatedly flashed a photograph taken by a Mumbaikar. Overnight, Kasab became the face of terror.

Ten terrorists opened fire at Hotel Trident-Oberoi, Hotel Taj Mahal, Nariman House, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital and Metro Cinema Junction. They also planted bombs in two taxis which exploded killing people.

He looked painfully young to be holding a weapon. His smile gave away the charade of innocence on his youthful face. He was a boy with a gun, a man on a mission and the devil, no longer in disguise. And I often thought that the mind of a terrorist must be a dungeon of distress, dark and dingy.

May 6, 2010 saw a momentous judgment. The death sentence was awarded to Kasab who had been pronounced guilty for waging war against the State a few days earlier.

Voldemort. That’s the first name that comes to mind when I try to understand the mind of Ajmal Kasab. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you would understand. A misguided boy, handed a weapon of power. Tom Riddle had his wand, and Kasab, an AK-47, a violent mind and a numb conscience. Truth stranger than fiction?

He was 21 when he brutally shot over 60 people in Mumbai. Kasab was held at a specially-made bullet and bomb-proof cell in the high-security Arthur Road central prison. Since the trial began, 200 troops of Indo-Tibetan Border Police guarded him round-the-clock. Kasab’s statements since then have lacked consistency as he has continually changed his stand. In February, 2009, he confessed to being guilty and retracted his statement soon after. Occasionally, he giggled and then wept. On a later date in court he brokedown and pleaded that he be punished for what he had done.

His former lawyer, Anjali Waghmare said of her first encounter with the boy that she saw innocence on his face, a clueless-ness as if wondering why he was being questioned and interrogated. They say a man’s eyes are the windows to his soul. I wonder what one would see in Kasab’s eyes. Remorse? Guilt? Perhaps one would see the images of all those he had shot that night, playing in his mind like a film reel. I wonder if he smiled at himself when no one was watching.

Ajmal Kasab knew he had changed the lives of millions forever, on 26/11 and thereafter.

Ujjwal Nikam took great pride in the court’s judgment as he flashed the victory sign to the media while delivering his statement on the verdict. He went on to say that Kasab cried nothing but crocodile tears, he was smart and knew exactly what he was doing.

Or did he?

In a white kurta pyjama, he heard those fateful words. Words, had changed his life forever few years ago, when he decided to take up arms. He was ready to kill. And so he did. Here he was today, listening to the last most important words of his life. There was a day called November 26 which he didn’t quite remember but it changed his life forever. Today was the second such day of his life.

Death sentence on five counts, life sentence on five counts.

Tears trickled down his face. This was it. He wasn’t going down as a martyr, not a man dying for a cause, but a terrorist. This wasn’t the life he had imagined for himself, and now it was too late. The face of his mother flashed in front of his eyes and he wept some more. He saw the angry faces of a billion people and he could feel the air being sucked out of his lungs. And then he saw the face of 11-year-old Devika, whose leg he had wounded that night, and instantly his own young face flashed in front of him.

Ajmal Kasab had become the face of terror. His name would read hatred in the pages of history books. But the little boy he saw, was innocent.

He never told anyone what he dreamt of everyday. Did nobody notice he woke up in the night screaming? He would soon join those who died in that night, not as a perpetrator of terror but as a victim, a boy who had fallen prey to the perils of ignorance.

Whenever that fateful day is upon me, he says, when I walk to the gallows, they will witness, not a man who committed shameful crimes, but a boy with shining bright eyes as if waiting to welcome a better world, a second chance. And when they ask me if I am scared of death, I will say, no, I am scared to be alive.

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