by Farzana Versey
Google maps would never have imagined that they would rescue two Indians framed in the 26/11 attacks. Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Sheikh are free. The judge, amazingly, used their own arguments as to why the LeT would rely on crude maps allegedly supplied by them when more sophisticated versions were available.
The verdict might seem to give them relief, but this is not the only thing they were accused of. If their role was all that important that they could be get the death sentence, then what about the other accusations? How have they just vanished? Was there any other logistical support? If not, then why were they being tried under various sections of the IPC, Passport Act, Foreigners Act, the CrPC, Indian Arms Act, Bombay Police Act, Indian Explosives Act, Explosive Substances Act, Customs Act, Indian Railways Act, Prevention to Damage of Public Properties Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act?
Ajmal Kasab has been convicted on almost all charges. "You have been found guilty of waging war against India, and killing people at CST (train station), killing government officials and abetting the other nine terrorists," Judge M.L. Tahaliyani announced his verdict.
On the day of the verdict, a large advertisement with a red background gave the summons to an audience to watch the "non-stop live coverage” of the Kasab court conviction. The media’s role in making this the ‘biggest terrorist attack’ has to be taken into account.
That Kasab would be convicted was a foregone conclusion. That he will keep two nations on edge is also known. That it will feed a media frenzy that has been going on since November 26, 2008, is the story that will not be told, because the storytellers are the ones who need to be made answerable.
Why was the media not held culpable when reports during the attack clearly mentioned that Kasab’s leaders were monitoring the whole action on television? “Fauj aa rahi hai, dekhte raho... cover karo...” referring to the arrival of commandos. These guys who kept up a battle for 60 hours had to be given a blow-by- blow account by their bosses about the arrival of commandos? It begs the question – who did they think the gun-battles were with?
The electronic media had wanted to transform themselves into heroes, not realising that they were exposing the citizens to further damage. No TV channel had captured an image of Kasab. They merely replayed the same pictures, making it seem as though there was new fire, another gunshot at the landmark hotel site which they had converted into a war zone.
Even worse has been the insensitivity that they managed to camouflage with superficial concern. One channel had declared last year to be the year of the Liberal Muslim.
They need a totem and they found it in the youngest witness. Here is one report:
‘Ajmal Kasab and his cohorts may have shaken almost the entire city during those dark days at the end of November in 2008, but a young girl held her nerve and nailed him in court six months later when she identified him as one of the CST attackers. “Kasab should be hanged. When I identified him and narrated the incident to the court, Kasab didn’t dare look at me. I do not fear anything and will stand with the prosecution till Kasab is punished,’’ said the girl, who is now 11 years old. “You can click my photo and show my face in the paper. I don’t fear anyone”.’
This sort of soap opera bravado merely makes her a pawn in the larger game. There is no excuse for what happened, and nothing can take away from the girl’s suffering. She was a victim. Now she is being victimised in other ways.
The police had not made an application for her to appear as witness; her father Natwarlal asked the court to do so. It was he who took over at the hearing. Kasab’s lawyer at the time, Abbas Kazmi, objected to her testifying as it would emotionally surcharge the atmosphere, but the judge said she was a ‘natural witness’. The defence would obviously want to ask inconvenient questions and Kazmi could not go ahead after two queries. Let us not forget that he was appointed by the Indian judiciary. Kasab had not hired him. If at all the girl’s eye-witness account was crucial, it could have been done without the media glare.
In the run-up to the day of judgement she said, “I do not want people to become a victim of terror. I will join an English-medium school, study hard and get into the police force. I want to end terrorism and hatred. I want peace everywhere.” I wonder who her handlers are.
It is unlikely that Kasab will be hanged. This will give an opportunity for those who had never seen blood to come forward to seek justice. The 26/11 industry is a flourishing business. We had the case of the NRI who even went on to get an award for bravery by lying about his role in saving people. He managed to collect funds for rehabilitating victims when all he and a few others had done was managed to scale down the windows of the Taj Mahal Hotel.
Such has become the face of terrorism as understood by the urban elite and consolidated by a shameless media.
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Published in Countercurrents, May 4