In the Shadow of Death

Published: 22 November, 2012 08:53 IST | Hemal Ashar |

Words that resonate louder than ever, in the wake of terrorist Ajmal Qasab's hanging.

There has been a literary fallout of Mumbai’s 26/11 terror attacks. From insider accounts, to tell all books, the carnage spawned a veritable oeuvre of 26/11 literature. More than a year ago, chief public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikkam was the chief guest at a release of a book called, ‘Qasab the face of 26/11’ written by journalist Rommel Rodrigues. The release function was held at the Press Club in South Mumbai.

On guard: Military personnel take position outside the Taj Hotel

As news of Ajmal Qasab’s hanging consumes India and is all-pervasive on news media, one recalls some of Nikkam’s words at the book release function. These seem prophetic today. In that function, Nikkam, sometimes with humour and other times with strong conviction sought to explain to journalists who were present at the launch, why the judicial process must be seen through its entirety and answered the one question frequently asked: “Qasab is guilty, so why must we go through all this? Why can't he hang immediately?”

THE VERDICT IS OUT: Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikkam shows a copy of the verdict to the media on May 3, 2010, after Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab was found guilty of the 26/11 attacks. Pic/Shadab Khan

Nikkam had then pointed to Chapter 22 and Pg 248 of that particular book, Qasab the face of 26/11' where Nikkam said, “the writer has shown that there was a parallel control room in Karachi. It was with the courtesy of all you people (here Nikkam was sarcastic and put the blame on the media) that the handlers knew exactly what was going on, what would be our next plan of action.” Nikkam said that he relied on intercepted conversations to argue that this was a proxy war against the Government of India, and why and how Mumbai was made the specific target of this terror attack.

At that time, Nikkam also addressed a frequently asked question about why India was spending 200 crore on keeping Qasab alive? “This is your figure, the media's figure,” he said to laughs at the launch. “I do not understand how you all have jumped to this figure. Our country is not a Banana Republic and we are proving we are the world’s largest democracy by following the principles of natural justice, even in Qasab's case.”

Nikkam blew away the notion of any sympathy of Qasab as a misguided boy. “Qasab used a mix of truth and falsehood in court. He tried to put the onus on the other dead terrorists, which is a clever ploy. He is a pucca lucha (sly and cunning) a pucca 420," said Nikkam. “Why should I or anybody have sympathy for him? He is very intelligent. He learnt Marathi. He used to converse with me in Marathi sometimes. These dreaded terrorists are being well trained to kill. They are not simply indoctrinated half-wits. They know what they are doing and why they are doing it. We have proved legally and scientifically how terrorism is being indulged,” he had said with force.

Perhaps the words that ring most in one's ears today were the ones Nikkam spoke when asked whether he thought that Qasab would be finally hanged, Nikkam said, "nakki faasi honaar nakki" (definitely he will hang), as the meet had drawn to a close.

How true those words turned out to be, we now know. A dark chapter closes in India’s history.  

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