On Thursday, Kasab knew what was in store
As the trial date was set, news agencies from across the world descended on Mumbai and security was tight.
Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the terrorist captured alive during 26/11, was kept at an undisclosed location. There was little chance of spotting him. The only place you could see him was in the special court.
As April 15, 2009, the date of the first hearing, neared, my eagerness to see Kasab grew. But the passage into Arthur Road jail was not easy. It had become a fortress with a three-tier security apparatus with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police at its core.
Then started the wait in the crowded court. As the clock struck 11.30 am, Kasab wearing a navy blue T-shirt and cargo trousers walked in through the bomb-proof tunnel specially built for him.
I was amazed at how tiny and meek he seemed. Kasab seemed equally amazed to see the sheer number of journalists in the court. He would regularly flash a smile at us.
I, for one, was caught off-guard when Kasab claimed he was a juvenile. But he went on to employ such tactics regularly and they ceased to surprise us after a while.
There were dull moments during the trial and I found my mind wandering. I had to quickly bring myself to concentrate on the goings on. As the initial excitement withered away, so did the crowd in the court.
But there gripping moments, too. Like when Kasab was shown his AK-47. His eyes seemed to sparkle as he studied it.
There were tense moments also, when Judge M.L. Tahiliyani pulled me up for reporting things in a manner that he felt was sensationalised.
There was a point when I decided not to step into the court again. Errors had crept into one of my reports, and the judge wasn’t too pleased about it. But, I realised, this was part and parcel of reporting the trial.
On Thursday, when Judge Tahiliyani started reading out the sentence, it seemed that Kasab knew what was in store. He seemed as bored as he was during most of the trial.
Kanchan Chaudhari is senior correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He covered the 26/11 trial since its start