“I Was in denial for the first couple of days, saying to myself it could not have been my son,” Amir Kasab, father of Ajmal Kasab, one of the 10 terrorists who attacked Mumbai on 26/11, has told Dawn.
“Now I have accepted it,” he said in the courtyard of his house in Faridkot, a village of about 2,500 people just a few kilometres from Deepalpur on the way to Kasur.
“This is the truth. I have seen the picture in the newspaper. This is my son Ajmal.”
After his brush with crime and criminals in Lahore, Ajmal is said to have run into and joined a religious group during a visit to Rawalpindi.
Along with the others, claimed the Indian media, he was trained in fighting. Amir, a father of three sons and two daughters, said Ajmal disappeared from home four years ago.
“He had asked me for new clothes on Eid that I couldn’t provide him. He got angry and left.”
While Amir was talking, Ajmal’s two “sisters and a younger brother” were lurking about. To Amir’s right, on a nearby charpoy, sat their mother, wrapped in a chador and in a world of her own.
Her trance was broken as the small picture of Ajmal lying in a Mumbai hospital was shown around. They appeared to have identified their son. The mother shrunk back in her chador but the father said he had no problem in talking about the subject.
Amir Kasab said he had settled in Faridkot after arriving from the nearby Haveli Lakha many years ago. He owned the house and made his earnings by selling pakoras in the streets of the village.
He modestly pointed to a hand-cart in one corner of the courtyard. “This is all I have. I shifted back to the village after doing the same job in Lahore.
“My eldest son, Afzal, is also back after a stint in Lahore. He is out working in the fields.”
Faridkot is far from the urbanites’ idea of a remote village. It is located right off a busy road and bears all the characteristics of a lower-middle class locality in a big city.
It has two middle-level schools, one for girls and the other for boys, which Ajmal attended as a young boy.
The approach to Faridkot also points to at least some opportunities for those looking for a job. There are some factories in the surroundings, rice mills et al, interspersed with fertile land.
But for the gravity of the situation, with its mellowed and welcoming ambience, the picture could be serene.
It is not. Amir Kasab described the people who snatched Ajmal from him as enemies, but had no clue who these enemies are. Asked why he didn’t look for his son all this while, he countered: “What could I do with the few resources that I had?”
Otherwise quite forthcoming in his answers, Amir Kasab, a mild-mannered soul, is a bit agitated at the mention of the link between his son’s actions and money. Indian media has claimed that Ajmal’s handlers had promised him that his family will be compensated with Rs 150,000 (one and a half lakh) after the completion of the Mumbai mission. “I don’t sell my sons,” he retorted.
Journalists visiting Faridkot since Dawn reporters were at the village say the family has moved from their home and some relatives now live in the house. Perhaps fearing a media invasion, nobody is willing to say where the family has gone.