The hanging of Ajmal Kasab — mysteriously codenamed Operation X — resembled a secret, intelligence operation.
Coordinated between governments in Delhi and Maharashtra by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), utmost secrecy was maintained till Kasab was hanged in Pune’s Yerwada Jail at 7.30am.
The Maharashtra government had indicated to the Centre nearly two months ago that November 21 would be a suitable date for Kasab’s execution.
The files moved fast once Maharashtra rejected Kasab’s plea and sent the file to the ministry of home affairs (MHA) on October 1. Shinde signed it on October 16 and President Pranab Mukherjee put his signature on the death sentence for Kasab on November 5.
Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, among the first to break the news of the hanging, even went to the extent of saying that so secret was the operation, that even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh learnt of it from television.
The state government in Mumbai soon laid the groundwork for hanging the lone surviving terrorist.
Only 17 people — ministers, bureaucrats and police officials — were privy to the details of Operation X.
Of these, 10 included ministers, bureaucrats and desk officers who signed the files and the remaining seven were police and jail officials who transported Kasab from Mumbai's Arthur Road jail to Pune's Yerawada prison. The entire operation — from transporting the convicted terrorist to hanging him — was videographed, according to an insider.
Revealing details, a Mumbai home department official said that Operation X was drawn up in a closed-door meeting in Pune on November 12 where state home minister RR Patil was present. Every aspect of the operation — from paperwork to the burial — was worked out.
A core team of jail officials was readied and trained for the hanging and Shinde briefed in Mumbai the following day. Patil revealed that the choice of hangman and maulvi was also a high-security decision.
The hangman, in fact, did not know who the accused was till he saw Kasab walking towards the gallows.
In Delhi, Union home secretary RK Singh informed the ministry of external affairs about the impending execution of Kasab. But the Indian high commission in Islamabad told the Pakistan foreign office about the hanging only on November 20, a day prior to the hanging.
By then, Kasab had been secretly whisked away to Pune in the dead of night by select officers of the ITBP and the Mumbai police.