Six vehicles, 31 hours and 17 officers were involved in the execution of what is arguably one of India’s most secretive and swiftly actualised operation, referred to covertly as Operation X.
The operation that commenced on Monday night with the transfer of Ajmal Qasab from Mumbai to Pune in a heavily guarded vehicles, ended 31 hours later, when he was hanged last morning.
Sources from the Mumbai police revealed that since Qasab was the lone surviving terrorist from the 26/11 attack, Commissioner of Mumbai police Dr Satyapal Singh handpicked his most trusted officers to form a team to execute the operation that would be a conclusion of sorts to the 26/11 case.
On Monday night, Singh called on Inspector General of Police (Law and order) Deven Bharti, as well as the cop who completed the Herculean task of compiling the 26/11 chargesheet, Police Inspector Ramesh Mahale of Crime Branch Unit I. He also called upon Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone XII, Pravin Patil.
The three senior cops were briefed about the operation. Bharti was asked to monitor the operation, while Mahale and Patil were instructed to accompany the escort team till Yerawada Jail in Pune.
A team of around 17 policemen, comprising mostly Force One commandos and a few jail officials, reached Arthur Road Jail at midnight on Monday in six vehicles, of which four were Scorpios. The team left from Arthur Road jail for Yerwada at around 12.30 am on Tuesday, with Qasab in tow.
Once the operation began, all officers, including Bharti, switched off their mobile phones to ensure secrecy in the operation.
“The retinue was led by a vehicle which had jail officials as well as Force One commandos. Qasab was sitting in a very composed manner. Throughout the journey he was quiet. Since he had been served the execution order, he must have realised that his end was near,” revealed the Force One officer who was part of the escort team, on condition of anonymity.
The second vehicle, which was a Scorpio, carried Force One commandos who were armed with sophisticated weapons including AK-47 rifles.
The third vehicle carried Qasab, whose head was masked by a veil. Riding with him was Mahale. The fourth and fifth vehicles were peopled with more Force One commandos. Patil was travelling in the last vehicle. The team drove straight to Yerawada Jail, without a single halt along the way, reaching there at 2 am.
Initially, Qasab had been told that the transfer was merely a routine one, from one jail to another. It was only around 9 pm on Tuesday that the jail officials informed Qasab that his hanging was only a few hours away.
After being delivered the news, Qasab maintained his composure, but refused food, and was unable to sleep. On the morning of his execution, he wore white clothes, offered namaz and readied himself for his departure. “Inform my mother about it,” was his last wish.
At 7.30 am, Qasab was sent to the gallows. Ten minutes later, Bharti reported this to Home Minister RR Patil via a brief but telling SMS: Operation X completed successfully.