Qasab execution does not erase unanswered questions

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving suspected gunman in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, is seen under police custody at an undisclosed location, in this undated still file image taken from video footage shown on the CNN-IBN television channel since February 3, 2009 India has voted against abolishing death penalty

The execution of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks, came on a day when the newspapers interestingly are full of stories about the death penalty.

The Indian Express, quoting the Press Trust of India, reports that India is among the 39 countries that have voted against a UN General Assembly draft resolution which called for abolishing the death penalty. A total of 110 nations voted in favour of the resolution, and 36 abstained.

Though it rarely carries out executions - Qasab's hanging was the second since 2004 - India joined countries such as Bangladesh, China, Korea, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Kuwait, Libya, Pakistan and the US in supporting the death penalty.

A second and more interesting story in The Times Of India says the Supreme Court feels the need to have a fresh look into the "rarest of rare" crimes, a condition for handing out the death penalty in India. These have to be "exceptionally heinous and cold-blooded murder cases", the paper notes.

More than 30 years after the court came up with this condition to send convicts to the gallows, two judges say there was "little or no uniformity in [its] application". The newspaper said: "In short, the court suggested that the present system was not working."

Qasab's appalling crime of gunning down innocents at Mumbai's main railway station surely qualifies as a "rarest of rare" crime. The execution may also provide closure for some of the grieving families of the victims of the tragedy.

Although there has been an outpouring of tasteless retributive glee over Wednesday's execution, there is also a rising tide of moderate opinion which advocates that India should rethink its attitudes towards the death penalty.

"How does legal sanction for retaliatory murder redeem the savagery of what is in essence an 'eye for an eye' act of revenge?" tweeted senior journalist Malini Parthasarathy.

It's a good question.

On the other hand, many believe, the government, beset by allegations of scandal and inaction, timed the execution perfectly.

It came a day before the beginning of the winter session of the parliament, where it's primed to face a noisy and tough opposition. It also came five days before the fourth anniversary of the attacks when the main opposition BJP would have almost certainly reminded the government of its "failure" to execute Qasab.

India, believe many, should continue to put pressure on Pakistan to ensure that no attacks should be mounted from its soil. But India also needs to protect its citizens much better.

The Mumbai attack exposed the incompetencies of the country's fragile security system - mainly the under-equipped, politicised police. How else could 10 armed men virtually take over a thriving city and wreak bloody havoc for 60 hours?

It is not clear whether things have improved radically despite the government spending thousands of dollars to beef up Mumbai's ragged police forces. The less said about the state of police in other parts of the country the better.

The best tribute to the victims of Mumbai would have been a move towards reforming India's weakest security link. Nothing of that sort has happened. The victims of Mumbai continue to be humiliated.

Soutik Biswas Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Make no mistake, as a british born subject and citizen i can tell you, had a similar atrocity occurred in Westfield or Bluewater Shopping mall causing indiscriminate and callous death of 166 innocent british shoppers, the law would soon have been changed in reaction to public outcry that would have ensued.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    You seem to suggest that some see this execution as an 'eye for eye' revenge or retribution. I would contend it is no such thing, had the Indian public sought such avengence, they would have demanded swift action in not only executing Kasab but also attacking and anhilating training camps and known hideaways of the masterminds behind such atrocities as the Americans or Isrealis would carry out.

  • Comment number 77.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Its a pity that whatever Kasab gave his life for, his own country and even relatives refused to accept his body. What greater punishment can India or anyone give a person ?!! It is an example for all wannabe Ladens and Omar Abdullahs and Kasabs ..... whether or not you find heaven afterwards..... you will definitely live through hell before you die !! Choose life over death guys, open your eyes...

  • Comment number 75.

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  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 73.

    I think Kasab and his supporters should be satisfied that he has lived for 4 more years after the incident.
    Which is due to the diplomatic indo-pak relations.
    He would've been hanged much before if he was an indian.
    Any good reason why a person who brutually killed 163 innocent people cannot be called a terrorist.
    Any reason why he cannot be given capital punishment.
    Irrespective of his faith.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    It's disgusts me how the UK media, with the BBC as the main culprit refer to the Mumbai terrorists as "militants" or "gunmen." When those who attacked New York, London and Madrid were rightly called terrorists. Are Indian lives inferior to you??

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    With its immense population, large border, hostile neighbors and generally peace-loving friendly people,India will always remain a soft target for terrorists like Kasab.Indians realize that education,health and other basic amenities for everyone is more a need of the hour rather than militarization of the people or Government. Its India's progress that hurts its enemies more than bombs ever would

  • Comment number 70.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Satyajit, there is a beautiful humane side to the Islamic law. After trials if death penalty is the judicial verdict, the close relatives of the killed, can pardon the accused. In Oklahoma Bombing in 1995, protestors who tried to rescue McVeigh's life, who wiped out 168 lives,did not consider the feelings of their relatives. Islam prefers their feelings to any other judgement! Ain't it BEAUTIFUL?

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    India with a populaiton of more than 1.2 billion had executed only 2 people since 2004 (i.e. in 8 years). Indian judiciary has been very responsible and sensible in awarding death penalty. Country like US, China, Iran executed 100s each year. and US and Iran has less than 1/3 rd of india's populaton.
    If US did not have death penally, India would have been branded primitive by onw by the west.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    why do we kill people, who kill people, to show that killing people is bad? Capital punishment is retribution and it accords no chance for remorse, repentance and reformation and i am therefore against it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Soutik Biswas who?

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    "This death penalty was given to Qasab after a long legal procedure."

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Here we go again...Mr Biswas giving his bias opinion about India...
    This death penalty was not given to Qasab after a long legal procedure...
    Also India does not use Death Penalty frequently only in exceptional cases and definitely this is an exception. Please show some respect for the people who have suffered because of his brutal merciless attack...and stop comparing our legal system to others..

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    @hunzai. But sir is it not politicizing the issue. I think this should not be a case of 'if we hang their man, they will hang ours'. Kasab was a terrorist. The world saw it. There is not way to prove that what Sarbjeet has done is equivalent to what Kasab did. Any state, be it Pakistan, if it believes in the fundamentals of Humanity will not hang Sarabjeet as a reaction to what was done to Kasab.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Come on Shoukat and Hunzai ..... name one instance where an Indian went around killing Pakistani daily passengers just because they are 'Infidels'.can anyone still believe beheading by sword publicly still belongs to the 20th century? that too with trials conducted by illiterate headmen drowning deep in ignorance and obsessive hatred of people they do not even know.

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    Comment number 60.

    Hanging of Kasab will adversely affect the chances of mercy to Sarbjeet Singh, an Indian terrorist waiting death in Pakistan. Pakistan abstained from hanging him due to protests by Human Rights Activists but now it seems that he will be hanged to avoid any political fallout. Hanging Kasab hasn't served the purpose given the fact that he was already on a suicidal mission.


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