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HindustanTimes Tue,29 Jul 2014

Indrajit Hazra

Kya body of evidence!
Indrajit Hazra, Hindustan Times
February 28, 2009
First Published: 23:32 IST(28/2/2009)
Last Updated: 23:34 IST(28/2/2009)
Laugh as loud and hard as you want. But I’m totally impressed by the way our investigative authorities have prepared the 11,000-plus-page document that will, I’m pretty certain, get Pakistanis of all hues, sizes and mental constitutions to say, “Well, I’ll be darned. This Kasab fellow is indeed from our country. And all this while, we thought he was some Baniya-Mossad invention. What the hell were we thinking?”

Oh, and I also think that the tome should help nail Azam Amir Kasab and his Pakistani handlers for their role in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks once and for all.

Okay, so it’ll take a bit longer to go through the document than it took to read the three diaries recovered from two alleged ‘terrorists’ who were shot dead in the basement of the Ansal Plaza mall in 2002, just before, according to the police, they were going to blow up the place. These handy diaries, with entries in Urdu and containing some Pakistani telephone numbers, “established” that the two were terrorists from Pakistan. Ideally the clinching evidence would have been finding chits in the pockets of the two dead men that read, “Hi everyone. I’m a Pakistani terrorist on a mission to blow up a packed Hindu mall in the capital of Hindustan.” But that would have been a bit to cheesy even for the Delhi Police whose knack of coming to conclusions first and then laying out the evidence is the stuff of legend.

Let’s just say that this time with 26/11, presenting the evidence leading to legally watertight conviction needed to be better. Thus, the rather detailed chargesheet.

There’s something grand about this tome, prepared meticulously after interviewing 2,202 witnesses and not missing out on any detail, however small, however banal. So not only has Kasab been charged with waging war against India and murder, but the document also points out that he had broken the law of the democratic land of India by entering the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, without buying a platform ticket.

Now you may snigger about such matters being made part of a ‘serious’ evidence-building mechanism whose sole purpose is to nail the perpetrators of the worst terrorist attacks on Indian soil. But why not? I’m not sure whether entering a station without a platform ticket can lead to capital punishment. But Kasab and his droogs certainly were guilty of unlawful entry into CST and that’s legit information. As, I would suppose, is the fact that they had entered India without having their passport stamped.

If you think that these are useless digressions that only add to the fatness of a work of non-fiction — and thereby provide the opportunity of delaying court proceedings, you’re wrong. For starters, you never really know what evidence comes into play to have a watertight case in the courts. Remember that American gangster Al Capone was never successfully convicted of murder or smuggling; he was indicted and convicted for tax evasion.

Second. an 11,000-page document presenting India’s charges against terrorists and their helpers is not a Vikram Seth novel that should be read in bed before lights-out. You don’t edit things out of the chargesheet just to make the document slimmer and therefore a quicker read by those in the court. So if Kasab and Co. hadn’t bought a platform ticket, not having that fact in the text would actually be cutting corners not adding faltoo stuff.

Which brings me to what I think is the real danger: that the law will not be involved in Kasab’s judgment. The signs are already ominous. No one seems to want to defend him. In December, M.P. Rao, Secretary of the Bombay Bar Association, made a comment that is probably shared by an overwhelming majority of Indians. “He has waged war on the country. If he’s waged war, the basic requirement of giving him a fair trial doesn’t really become justified.”

Oh dear, of dear.

Now, I don’t want Kasab and his bosses to not pay. In fact, I want them to pay dearly. But by not being ‘extra-legal’ about this case, we could be blowing our chances of actually getting justice. Mumbai Deputy Police Commissioner and one of the interrogators, Deven Bharti, said this week of Kasab: “He is a 24-year-old boy with the eyes of a killer.” Um, as a clincher, that won’t do, I’m afraid.


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