Man in egg cell who costs India highBy Mauli Buch, IANS
Thursday, November 25, 2010
MUMBAI - He often scratches his head, stretches his arms and yawns with boredom. That is how Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the sole survivor among the 10 Pakistani terrorists who attacked Mumbai 26/11, reacts to his trial proceedings through videoconferencing while sitting in a special bullet-proof cell.
Kasab, 23, lodged at Arthur Road Central Jail in the congested south-central Mumbai, has access to the court proceedings through videoconferencing, has government lawyers to defend and consult him as well as Z-plus security, which is otherwise meant for VVIPs.
Sources within the security circles and the home ministry say Kasab’s security is one of the costliest affairs for the state. It spends a whopping Rs.2 crore ($437,000) per month to keep him safe and secure.
Kasab was awarded the death sentence by a special court, set up inside the jail, in May.
The government spent crores to build a special 20-ft corridor as his egg-shaped cell was reinforced with iron plates, made bullet and bomb-proof and a battalion of armed paramilitary personnel were assigned to the jail when the trial began in the sessions court April 17.
The special cell and the corridor were built in a way that a truck laden with explosives will not be able to affect it, if it were to ram into it.
Besides the special prison cell, another cell was created inside JJ Hospital for Kasab’s treatment. Sources, however, said he was never taken there. Instead, doctors were summoned to the Arthur Road Jail, whenever Kasab had a health problem.
Kasab was chained and handcuffed at all the times while he was produced in court for trial. Arthur Road Jail was virtually turned into a fortress with the deployment of around 1,000 policemen.
Special Judge M.L. Tahaliyani, who is now the principal sessions judge, awarded capital punishment to the Pakistani gunman for his role in the Nov 26-29 terror attack.
However, when the case came up for hearing in the Bombay High Court Oct 18, it was decided that Kasab will follow court proceedings only through videoconferencing and that too only if he wishes.
Maharashtra government’s counsel Ujjwal Nikam formally opened the arguments, seeking confirmation of the death sentence before the high court.
A division bench of Bombay High Court comprising Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice Ranjit More had observed that keeping in view the evidence, the state would begin its arguments.
As the arguments on confirmation of his death sentence began Monday, Kasab presented a happy-go-lucky picture.
After government counsel Nikam started his arguments, Kasab - present in court from 11 a.m. via videoconference - was seen smiling, bored, yawning, scratching his head, playing with his uniform buttons, stretching his arms and appearing totally unperturbed about the crucial life-and-death proceedings.
Nikam started by terming the attacks as “state-sponsored” and said they were executed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba with the aid of the neighbouring country’s security apparatus.
Nikam had during a hearing Nov 19 stated that Lashkar-e-Taiba handlers had instructed Kasab and his companions over the phone to hold as many hostages as possible during the attacks. This would have then led them to demand from the Indian government the creation of a “separate state for Muslims”.
Kasab and his nine co-attackers had killed 166 people in Mumbai during the 26/11 carnage.
Kasab had not appeared on the screen for the videoconference Nov 19.
Perhpas in his cell, Kasab thinks of his life back in Pakistan. He was born into a poor butcher caste family of Faridkot village in Pakistan’s Punjab province, the third of five children.
His father is Mohammad Amir Iman is a petty snacks-seller and mother Noori is a housewife. Financial constraints kept Kasab virtually illiterate as he dropped out of school after primary education. He is now one of India’s most notorious captives.
Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil and Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse visited Kasab in jail Tuesday and interacted with him briefly. He appeared resigned to his fate and felt he had no future left, Khadse told IANS soon after the meeting.
“He said that he would reap as he had sowed when we asked him about his reactions. When we asked him whether he felt repentant, he just kept quiet,” said Khadse.
The hearing in the Bombay High Court is expected to get over by late December or early January 2011.
(Mauli Buch can be contacted at [email protected])