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Of flying pigs & Kasab

india Updated: May 09, 2009 23:14 IST
Indrajit Hazra
Indrajit Hazra
Hindustan Times
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Can pigs fly? I think not. But how can I be so sure? If I’m pigheaded enough, I can start throwing pigs off a cliff and after an agreed upon number of pigs have turned to pork down below, I can say with almost certainty that porcine flight is impossible. The downside to this method is not that too many pigs are killed to prove a point, but that for believers of flying pigs, too few will have been tested before we, considered as anti-flying pig bigots, come to a conclusion. (‘The next one could have been the pig, you know.’)

Another way to prove that pigs don’t fly could be to read the scriptures, the law if you will. For instance, if those awaiting proof are believing Christians, then the tactic could be to read out Chapter 8 Verse 32 of the Book of Matthew in the Bible: “And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.” Not one pig fluttered to safety there.

The downside to this method is that it’s fundamentally stupid: to gather a fact by what’s simply mentioned in a fable, no matter how sacred and profound the fable may be, is a leap of faith not too unlike that taken by the swine mentioned above.

So what’s with all this pig metaphor? Has the swine flu over the cuckoo’s nest? Have I been reading that 1984 edition of Animal Farm again to show off my lit crit credentials? No, it’s just that I’ve been going mad cow trying to figure out why otherwise bright sparks have been going on and on about how abnormal it is for 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab to plead ‘not guilty’ during his ongoing trial. Why would a guilty man, they ask in that gobsmacked way that will become a look by the next fashion season, tell a court that he’s not guilty? Because, honeys, that’s what most people accused of committing crimes do: say they’re innocent.

The smart set’s not only upset by Kasab’s plea of ‘not guilty’ but is also appalled that someone, an Indian to boot, is defending him. Surely, they murmur, Kasab’s lawyer Abbas Kazmi will be just pretending to defend his client and actually hanging out with and helping the prosecutor to nail the bastard, right? More expectedly, the villagers with their pitchforks are baying for blood. The Islam Gymkhana in Mumbai has expelled Kazmi as he “agreed to defend the most dreaded terrorist Kasab. This is against the essence of Islam”. Will the Koran ever be used to defend terrorism again? Never! Only club rules apply. Just to prove he isn’t above loving ‘patriotic Muslims’, Shiv Senapati Balasaheb Thackeray has endorsed the Gymkhana decision.

In any case, Anjali Waghmare, who had been earlier appointed as Kasab’s lawyer, had her house pelted with stones by a mob. I believe that Waghmare was taken off the case of her own volition and not because of the technical reason cited: because she is also representing a 26/11 victim, she couldn’t be defending Kasab. Hmm. If a lawyer is seen to be professional enough to keep her personal views about a terrorist outside the court and defend him, why is prosecuting and defending the accused in two separate cases such a legal taboo?

So what about the pigs? Well, ‘Is Kasab guilty?’ is as tough a question to answer as ‘Can pigs fly?’ But according to the law, that secular scripture we bow to whenever it suits us, you need to jump through a set of agreed-upon hoops before effectively proving that Kasab is a guilty man. It doesn’t matter a bacon-nibbling rat’s ass if it seems obvious to you and me that Kasab’s a mass-killer who brought India to its knees. A good defendant can upset all expectations by arguing that the prosecutor’s evidence simply doesn’t add up. That’s his job. And that’s what makes a trial in this country legit and not an ‘Off with their heads!’ procedure.

So why have such a non-foolproof, leaky system to establish the guilt of such a real bad guy? Why don’t we just hang him from the nearest lamp-post? Or from the more telegenic Gateway of India? Well, the reason we need to pass a ‘jurisprudence exam’ to prove the ‘obvious’ is that without it, we’ll lack legitimacy to punish Kasab. Let’s be honest. The trial is about seeking vengeance and closure, not about deterrence or something airy-fairy. But if we are not to smell like a Talibanistan or a Putinistan, we’ll need a proper, fair trial. If that doesn’t happen, it won’t be the fault of the examination system but of over-confident, lazy examinees who confuse ‘obvious’ with ‘evidential’. Law Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj’s remarks in the context of the Bofors-Quattrochhi case weren’t reassuring at all: “Foreigners are not like us. They want to take things to a logical conclusion.” The law, like the minister, is “a ass”. But it’s the best four-legged mammal we’ve got for settling this kind of thing.

I want Kasab to hang. I hope Kasab will hang. That’s why I’m so keen the trial is conducted quarantined from the pandemic hoopla surrounding it. That’s also why I don’t want the prosecution to screw things up.

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