A Davis model for Kasab?
Ajmal Amir Kasab is again in the news. Couple of days back, the media reported that six cooks had been kept on duty for the last three years by the Mumbai police in the Arthur Road Jail, to serve proper food for the young convict. This even as a police hospital and emergency 24-hour vigil police in Mumbai were suffering without cooks. To recall, for benefit of those with a short memory, Kasab and nine other terrorists killed 166 innocent people in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. The killing was in the open; a reality show on television. Kasab was caught killing red-handed — again on television. No further evidence was needed. He was convicted and handed a death penalty after 18 months of trial, in April 2010; the Bombay High Court upheld this verdict in February 2011. Following this Kasab appealed to the Supreme Court in July 2011.
Bound by its own rule of due process of law, the Supreme Court stayed the verdict to hang Kasab. What is the due process of law? With Kasab’s guilt proven, the only question is whether he should be hanged. In 1983, the Supreme Court, dwelling at length on the need to prefer life of the killer over the lives of those killed, had said that death penalty should be given only in ‘the rarest of rare cases’. Human rights activists glorified that that decision which resulted in commuting many death sentences into life imprisonment made India more civilised. According to reports, there are 300 convicts, including Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins, in queue before hangmen. Yet, in the last 17 years just one person — Dhananjoy Chatterjee — was permitted to be hanged for raping and killing a school girl, incidentally by ‘the rarest of rare cases’ judgment. See how the noble rule against death penalty, made by the Supreme Court, offers hope for Kasab. The court had said in its judgment that age of the killer would be a relevant, though not determining, consideration for commuting death penalty. After all was Kasab not just 21 years old when he committed the massacre? The amicus curie appointed by the apex court to argue for Kasab, relied on the court’s ruling and cited Kasab’s age as a mitigating factor. The amicus also argued that Kasab had acted not on his own, but, under the influence of “skewed religious faith and false ideology” — meaning the “skewed religious faith”, not Kasab, was the criminal. Are these mitigating factors sufficient to save him, is the issue before the court. The result: thanks to the court’s tight schedule, Kasab’s case hangs, not Kasab, who lives like a state guest in Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, with six cooks at his and his guard’s disposal. So far `26 crore has been spent to keep him secured in jail. Now, see the other side.
With nine of his colleagues killed even as they kept killing the innocent, Kasab was the only terrorist to be caught alive. Had Kasab been killed like the others, the only and live evidence of LeT and Pakistan’s ISI involvement in the 26/11 carnage would have been irretrievably lost. The brave police inspector, who took the bullets Kasab’s AK47 rained on him to enable his fellow policemen to get him alive, was Tukaram Omble. That he was forgotten as early as on October 6, 2010 was evident when Union Home Minister P Chidambaram asked Parliament members, “how many of you still remember Tukaram Omble who grabbed the barrel of the gun and took the bullets on his chest in order to help his fellow policemen to overcome Ajmal Amir Kasab?”. Omble is even less remembered now as the kind-hearted elite in India plead for clemency to Kasab.
Now go back to the midnight of 26/11. Kasab, who massacred many innocent persons, and another terrorist hijacked a Skoda car to drive along Marine Drive in Mumbai. Omble who had been asked to take up position on Marine Drive, was alerted at 12.45 am about the hijacked Skoda. Minutes later, Omble saw the Skoda whizzing past. He jumped on to his two-wheeler and began chasing it. As it approached the Chowpatty signal, the car with the terrorists, who kept firing on all sides, had to slowdown because of barricades. Omble, who had no arms, overtook the Skoda, forcing it to swerve and hit the road divider. Omble sprang on Kasab and gripped the barrel of the AK47 rifle with both hands. With the barrel pointing to Omble, Kasab sprayed the bullets into Omble. But Omble engaged Kasab till his last breath, enabling the other cops, who had killed the other terrorist meanwhile, to pounce on Kasab, who was still in Omble’s grasp, and capture him. Omble died but got the vital human evidence of Kasab alive for his nation and saved god knows how many more from Kasab’s AK47. Omble left behind his wife and four daughters, two of them unmarried college going girls then. The government duly awarded Omble the Ashok Chakra for his bravery. But, with that, Omble and his family were forgotten. Now it is human rights season to show empathy to Kasab.
Imagine Kasab’s case emerging as an issue in Indo-Pak relations, just like the case of CIA operative Raymond Davis — held guilty of killing in Pakistan — had become in US-Pak relations last year. The crisis in US-Pak relations was resolved thanks to the Sharia principle of diyat, namely blood money to relatives of the killed. The US paid $1.4 million as diyat for Davis’ clemency. In Afghanistan too, the US bought clemency for its soldiers involved in the Khandahar massacre, by paying off the families of 17 murdered Afghans $46,000 each and of the injured, quarter of that amount. To make such diyat deals easy in future, Saudi Arabia, which sets the global Islamic legal standards, has raised the rates of diyat from $29,330 to $1,06,654, effective from September 2011, to reflect the increased cost of camels. Why camels? For diyat payment, a man’s life is considered to be equal to the value of 100 camels. A woman’s life costs half that of a man’s. Apply this rate for the 26/11 Mumbai massacre. The 166 killed including Omble equal 16,600 camels, whose current total value in Saudi Arabia is close to $18 million. If Pakistan, like the US did in Pakistan and Afghanistan, proposed a $18 million settlement for saving Kasab, what will the human rights activists here say? The diyat law will compensate the victims of Kasab at 100 camel rates. Human right un-law will set Kasab free, free of cost. More liberal than the diyat law, isn’t it?