In the first of a five-part series, we bring to you an exclusive excerpt written by journalist Ashish Khetan detailing the initial interrogation of an injured Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving terrorist, in the early hours of November 28, 2008, even as the siege continued at the Taj Mahal and Oberoi-Trident hotels and Nariman House.
Additional Commissioner Tanaji Ghadge is fifty-one and more than half his age has gone into policing. A smile always lingers on his cherubic face but tonight it is sombre, almost mournful. Dyed black hair parted neatly down the side and hands held across the chest, he is staring into the camera, waiting for the cue. Above his right shoulder, the word 'Police' is painted on the wall in Marathi, in bold black letters. He is seated at a police desk outside the emergency ward of the Nair Hospital, a corner assigned to the police for fulfilling legal formalities and paperwork for cases involving accidents, shootout injuries, anything that falls under medico-legal cases. The time is 1 am, the date November 27, 2008.
On cue, Ghadge begins: 'I am the additional commissioner of Girgaum division. There were incidents of indiscriminate firing at the Taj Mahal hotel, the Oberoi hotel and the VT station last night which appear to be a well-coordinated terror attack. In an encounter with the police at Girgaum Chowpatty one terrorist has been killed while another has suffered injuries and has been brought to the hospital. It is important to interrogate him and therefore I am proceeding to question him.'
Next frame. A youth, seemingly in his early twenties, lies prone on a green plastic, the sheet being a protection from bloodstains for the white sheet that covers a mattress. A fine brown blanket has been pulled close to the chest of the young man who lies naked underneath. His thick mop of hair, greasy and dishevelled, is pressed against the bed's headrest. Wheatish in complexion, the youth is well built -- round arms, pumped-up biceps, and thick neck. His clean-shaven oval face bears a high forehead. There is a fresh injury on the chin smeared with an ointment, and a sledge-shaped bandage covers the right side of his neck. Apart from both the arms, which are bandaged from wrist to biceps, the torso bears no injury. He shows no signs of physical pain, only his forehead is creased and eyes are tightly shut, the stiffness of his face making clear that he is not asleep.
'Maine bahut galat kiya (I have committed a big mistake),' move the parched lips, catching a glimpse of the policeman walking into the room before shutting his eyes again. No question was posed, but Ghadge's walking in inspired the unsolicited admission. 'On whose instance?' 'Chacha ke kehne pe. (At the behest of Uncle.)' Eyes still closed; the voice betraying an effort to exhibit pain and earn empathy, more beseeching than replying. 'Who is this uncle?' Ghadge is staring down with bewilderment, still standing by the right side of the bed, near the young man's shoulder.
'The one from Lashkar.'
'Lashkar what? Which village he is from?'
'I don't know about his village. But he has an office... he keeps visiting the office,' the voice relaxes for a second.
'Who sent you here?'
'My father said we were very poor... our condition would improve... we will have food to eat... clothes to wear,' an emotional explanation, an excuse embedded in the reply.
'Was he your real father?' an incredulous Ghadge enquires.
'Real father... real father,' the man seemed determined to condemn his father.
'What's your name?' asked Ghadge, a fountain pen ready to scribble on a writing pad.
'What's your age?'
'Where is your gaon (village)?'
'Faridkot in tehsil Depalpur (administrative division), district Okara.'
'Who all are there in your family?'
'Mother's name,' asks Ghadge, hardly looking at him, concentrating hard on the writing pad.
'Wahi koi chaalis ke aas paas. (Must be around forty years.)'
'What's your father's name?' Ghadge continues.
'Amir,' eyes still closed, head at ninety degrees to the pillow, body, hands and legs stiff like dead.
'What's his father's name?'
'Shahban.' His eyelids open for a split of a second before closing again.
'What's the surname?'
'What's the surname? Khandaan ka naam kya hai?' Ghadge makes his question simpler.
'Are you a butcher?'
'No. We are not in this business� just the name has stuck.'
'So, Amir Shahban Kasab, that's your father's name.'
'What's his age?'
'Somewhere around 45 years,' head jerks a trifle, before stiffening again.
'What does your father do?'
'He sells dahi-wade. Sometimes in the village... sometimes he goes to Lahore city ... It's difficult to run the family,' Kasab now opens his eyelids, catching a glimpse of his interrogator from the corner of his eyes.
कोई भी मूल्य एवं संस्कृति तब तक जीवित नहीं रह सकती जब तक वह आचरण में नहीं है.