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Operation X was set in motion eight days ago

The cloak-and-dagger execution of 26/11 convict Ajmal Qasab caught the nation — and apparently even the prime minister — completely unawares. Even as umpteen conspiracy theories abound, MiD DAY has learnt that the hanging was carried out in a surreptitious manner following clear directives to the state home department from the union home ministry.¬†According to a senior member of the state cabinet, Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil shared this information with them during a meeting.

One of the prime reasons behind the secrecy was a possible reaction from terrorist groups. Attempts of rescue and retaliation were probable had they got wind of the precise date, timing and location, say sources.

Protocol says family members or close relatives of the convict to be executed should be informed ahead of time. Accordingly, the state dispatched a communication to the union ministry of home affairs (MHA), which forwarded it to the ministry of external affairs (MEA), as Ajmal Qasab was a Pakistani national. Sources said the missive sent by MEA to the Pakistan Embassy in Delhi was not accepted, since Islamabad has refused to concede that Qasab is a Pakistani citizen. Later, the communiqué was sent through courier, said the minister on condition of anonymity.

Even though the state headquarters, police, security agencies, jail authorities, doctors, judicial officers and several union ministries were drawn into the process, everyone involved in the operation managed to keep the matter under wraps, Patil later said at Vidhan Bhavan.

Legal process
The Sessions Court, Mumbai pronounced the capital punishment on May 6, 2010. The sentence was upheld by the Bombay High Court on February 21, 2011 and by Supreme Court on August 29, 2012.

Qasab moved his mercy petition before the governor of Maharashtra on September 21, 2012, which was rejected on September 26. The decision to execute him was finalised on November 8, when President Pranab Mukherjee turned down his plea for clemency. Meanwhile, on September 11 the state had, as per the legal obligations, applied for permission before the additional sessions judge for execution of the capital punishment and the date.

The court gave its order, fixing November 21 as D-Day, along with the time. The body was buried immediately after the hanging owing to no response from any of his family members or relatives. However, Patil refused to disclose the exact location where Qasab was interred.

The terrorist did not want to prepare a will and expressed no last wish, said Patil. He stumped media persons saying the wheels were set in motion eight days ago. He also revealed having had a meeting with senior officials from home and prison departments in Pune on November 12.

Patil also managed to take a dig at the media. “Plan X was successful due to your cooperation, as you people did not keep a tab on the developments,” he said.

Rs 5,000 for execution
Regarding questions about the hangman, Patil said many people had written to the state government expressing the wish to hang Qasab. Some of them were ready to do the job without any remuneration. “Since 1960 the government has been paying the hangman Rs 10 for every execution. But I have decided to increase the amount to Rs 5,000 now,” he said. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said the execution was a testament to the rule of law. “We offered Qasab every opportunity to defend himself,” he maintained.

Sources said after completing his statement on Qasab’s hanging during the cabinet meeting, RR Patil requested the CM to approve the proposal of rewarding police officers who were involved in the 26/11 investigation. As per the rules unless the accused are convicted, such rewards are not handed out. The prize for judicious investigation was announced by late CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, Patil reminded Chavan who, sources said nodded in affirmation and asked for the concerned file. ¬†

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