Saturday, 27 December 2008

What's to be Done With Kasab?

The Indian government has decided to appease the public’s craving for revenge. All weapons captured from the terrorists are to be put inside a large cauldron and melted down. The molten steel will be used to construct steps for public lavatories in Mumbai. “Victims of Terror To Be Avenged”, says a popular tabloid, which manages to pass for a respectable daily.

Okay, I made that up, but going by the decibel levels generated by those baying for Kasab’s blood (without a trial, mind you), one gets the impression that weapons captured from terrorists will also be punished. It is not only the general public that’s baying for Kasab’s blood. Even members of the Bombay Bar Association (a non-statutory association of lawyers in Mumbai), have passed a resolution that none of them will represent Kasab in court. This despite the fact that the Bar Council of India Rules specifically say that:

An advocate is bound to accept any brief in the Courts or Tribunals or before any other authorities in or before which he proposes to practise at a fee consistent with his standing at the Bar and the nature of the case. He shall defend a person accused of a crime regardless of his personal opinion as to the guilt of the accused, bearing in mind that his loyalty is to the law which requires that no man should be convicted without adequate evidence.”

In all probability, Kasab (is that his real last name or did the Police make it up?), will be sentenced to death by hanging. Capital punishment is not inappropriate for the heinous crime Kasab is responsible for. However, we need to ask ourselves, is capital punishment the best possible response Indian society can come up with? Before we answer this question, we ought to understand that India and the rest of the world are in the midst of a global war against Islamic fundamentalism. The Islamists are fighting to create a global Islamic order. All over the world, they have recruited Muslim fighters with local grievances and harnessed their energies to the global cause. There is a clear distinction between the Islamic fundamentalists of today and the Arab/Turkish invaders of the past who came to India for loot and plunder. The latter were interested only in looting India and taking away its wealth. The former want India and other secular democratic societies destroyed and replaced with an Islamic state. Pakistan is the breeding ground for many of these Islamic fighters. However, Pakistan itself is not the enemy. There are many, many Pakistanis who do not want Pakistan to be talibanised. They might have a grudge against India over the Kashmir issue or the loss of Bangladesh, but they are India’s allies in this war against Islamic fundamentalists. Not only are they our allies, they are also the frontline fighters against these Islamists.

India has received enormous sympathy from the rest of the world subsequent to the Mumbai attacks. US pressure on Pakistan has forced it to place some leading Islamists under house arrest. Though Pakistan is yet to genuinely crackdown against the Lashkar-e-Tayba, the organisation most likely to have organised the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan has been expanding its war against Islamic fundamentalists to include more and more terror groups. There are two reasons for the western sympathy and support, something we did not always receive in the past. One reason is that the West recognises India to be a fellow victim of Islamic terrorism. Secondly, India is considered to be a democratic country, unlike Pakistan, where there is greater respect for the rule of law. The last thing we ought to do is to blur the distinction between India and Pakistan.

Our fight is against an ideology, the ideology of Islamic fundamentalism, and not against a state or a group of people. How do you fight an ideology? With another ideology of course! With the ideology of freedom, democracy and respect for human life.

Twenty two year old Kasab was recruited by Islamic fundamentalists when he was a teenager, indoctrinated and trained and sent over to Mumbai. The terrorists did not have much of an escape plan, since those responsible for sending them to Mumbai did not really expect them to survive. They used weapons which could easily be traced back to Pakistan, the intention being to make it clear to India that Pakistani Islamists are responsible for the attack. The organisers would have been very happy if India had retaliated against Pakistan, as India almost did in 2001 following the attack against the Indian Parliament. A war between India and Pakistan would be a blessing in their eyes.

Hanging Kasab (by his neck, until he is dead, as the Indan Penal Code decrees), would make him a martyr for the Islamists. All over the world, public opinion is building up against capital punishment since it reduces the state to the same animal level as those sentenced to death for a heinous crime. In my opinion, not only should Kasab be given a fair trial, the courts should also take into account the fact that he was recruited when he was a teenager and brainwashed, without ever having the opportunity to listen to a different point of view. Hanging Kasab would not be much different from melting the weapons used in the attacks. Instead, Kasab should be sentenced to life. While in jail, he should be treated humanely and given the opportunity to appreciate how a democracy functions. Under the Indian Penal Court, a life sentence runs for fourteen years. Kasab will be a free man when he reaches his mid-thirties and should be sent back to Pakistan. In the eyes of his Islamic handlers, he would appear to be brainwashed by secularists. This approach will not only win us brownie points from fellow western and Pakistani allies in this war on terror, but would also be the right thing to do.

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