NEW DELHI, Nov 21: Mumbai terror mascot Ajmal Kasab was hanged in a clandestine operation in Pune’s Yerawada Central Jail early on Wednesday, officials said.
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said neither Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nor Congress president Sonia Gandhi were in the loop about the date of his execution, which was decided on November 7. Only a handful of officials were privy.
President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected Kasab’s mercy petition on November 5, but newspapers were told about the decision only on Tuesday, on the eve of the execution. They were not given the date. There were celebrations with firecrackers in several parts of India with the morning news.
The hanging was carried out on the eve of parliament’s winter session from Thursday, where the government is expected to breathe easier, armed as it is with a new means to deflect charges of corruption. The hanging brought calls from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International asking India to abolish the capital punishment.
President Mukherjee’s rejection of the mercy petition cleared the way for Kasab’s execution at 7.30am on Wednesday. He had been transferred there from Mumbai on November 19, officials said. Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said the hanging was a tribute to the memory of party chief Bal Thackeray. He told a TV channel that Mr Thackeray agreed to support Mr Mukherjee’s presidential candidature on condition that as president he would not delay Kasab’s death.
There was some confusion about what Pakistani officials were told and when. According to one version of the official narrative, Pakistan’s high commission was informed about the execution but it remained unclear whether the information was given before the execution or afterwards.
Mr Shinde said Pakistani officials refused to accept a letter and that it was later faxed to them according to diplomatic norms. It was again not clear what the letter was about. If Pakistan asks for it, Kasab’s body would be handed over to the government, he said. But, for the moment, he lies buried at an unmarked location within the jail premises.
The top secret execution was carried out under the codename of Operation X. Mumbai police officials said secrecy was needed both to protect Kasab following intelligence that be could be harmed. It also helped tame the possibility of a communal flare-up as had happened when inmates in the same jail killed a Muslim terror suspect recently.
In the absence of a hangman to execute the death sentence of Kasab, it was carried out by officials from the Yerawada Central Jail. Reports quoted prison sources as saying the official hangman of Yerawada jail having retired, the position was vacant for some years.
However, there is no specific law that only a hangman would carry out a death sentence. Another report said the makeshift executioner, whose name was kept confidential, was given Rs5,000 for the job.
The execution came barely a week before the fourth anniversary of Mumbai terror attack in which nine other suspected terrorists were killed. The series of attacks by Pakistan-based Islamic militants in 2008, which drew widespread global condemnation, began on Wednesday, November 26, and lasted until Saturday, November 29, killing 164 people and wounding at least 308.
Eight of the attacks occurred in South Mumbai: at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Oberoi Trident, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Leopold Cafe, a women and children’s hospital, the Nariman House Jewish community centre, the Metro Cinema, and a lane behind the Times of India building and St Xavier’s College.
There was also an explosion at Mazagaon, in Mumbai’s port area, and in a taxi at Vile Parle. By the early morning of November 28, all sites except for the Taj hotel had been secured by the Mumbai police and security forces.
On November 29, India’s National Security Guards conducted Operation Black Tornado to flush out the remaining attackers; it resulted in the deaths of the last remaining attackers at the Taj hotel and ending all fighting in the attacks.
Following his conviction, Kasab reportedly claimed that his trial was not fair.