The chilling image of a murderous young man mowing down innocent people in Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji railway terminus will forever haunt India. That horror will diminish just a little with the hanging of the lone surviving attacker of the November 26, 2008, massacre on Tuesday in a move that has been fervently welcomed all around. Coming as it does days before the fourth anniversary of the attack, it will bring the families of those who lost loved ones one step closer to closure, though the scars of that day can never really heal. The terrorist was afforded all the legal assistance that he required until the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in 2010. It was on the recommendation of the home ministry that President Pranab Mukherjee finally rejected his clemency plea on November 5. The government did well to execute him swiftly and with secrecy to prevent any untoward incident. The government has also carried out the letter and spirit of the law by informing Pakistan in advance as well as Kasab’s family.
True to type, Pakistan being in denial mode has refused to accept his body which is now buried in Pune’s Yerawada jail where the execution took place. In fact, now a spat has broken out betw-een India and Pakistan on whether or not India’s note intimating the execution had been acknowledged. But Kasab was only a pawn in the greater game of proxy terror that Pakistan has been playing all these years. The shadowy handlers who controlled the whole grisly operation from Pakistan are still around. Pakistan’s insistence that it had no knowledge of the operation and that it was carried out by non-state actors does not wash. Those who masterminded the carnage were very much on Pakistani soil and could not have carried out an act of such magnitude without some form of official complicity.
Now that Kasab has been hanged, the next question is the fate of Afzal Guru, the mastermind of the Parliament attack. It now seems unlikely that leniency can be shown to him if the Kasab precedent is anything to go by. The government has signaled that it is not prepared to go easy on terror, a charge it has faced very often in the past. The government has time and again provided evidence to Pakistan that the Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the Mumbai massacre and its murderous leader Hafiz Saeed seems quite free to make the most virulent hate speeches against India whenever he chooses to do so. These are issues that must be tackled in the days to come. The death of Kasab will not resolve so many outstanding issues about terrorism from across the border, but for so many who have suffered these last four years waiting for justice, it at least signals that they can think of moving forward with their lives.