Ajmal Kasab, Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, biryani and me
A large number of people have been asking me on Twitter over the last few days why I had signed a petition asking for Ajmal Kasab to be granted mercy and spared capital punishment. Kasab was hanged 21 November, why have all these people woken up to that petition now? That’s thanks to a belated but concerted online campaign initiated by the Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga-led Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena (BKSS), a rag-tag vigilante organisation which goes around threatening and committing violence against people it has political disagreements with.
The BKSS has put out the list of 203 signatories as a sort of ‘expose’ but if they could get the list of signatories I am sure they got the text of the petition, too. The petition was initiated by lawyer Yug Mohit Chaudhry in the last week of October and probably put out in the first week of November. Here is what the full text of the petition said:
We, the undersigned Indian citizens, urge the Government of India to grant mercy to Md. Ajmal Kasab and commute his death sentence to one of imprisonment for the rest of his natural life. We believe that it is wrong and immoral to kill a human being by way of revenge or punishment. Executing Kasab in the name of the Indian people will only feed a base blood lust that will make our society more blood-thirsty, vengeful and violent. It will not contribute to our safety or well-being in any way. On the other hand, keeping Kasab in jail for the rest of his life and treating him like a human being allows for the possibility of him regaining his humanity, repenting his crime and atoning for the harm he has caused. That would indeed be a big victory in our battle against terrorism. We believe that all of us – the best and the worst – are in need of mercy, and it is only by showing mercy that, morally, we ourselves become entitled to receiving it. Bereft of mercy, our society becomes impoverished and inhuman. If we have to become a more humane and compassionate society, and leave a better, and less blood-thirsty world behind for our children, we have to curb our instinct for bloody retribution and abandon the practice of killing those who have hurt us. In the land of Buddha, Mahavira and Gandhiji, let it not be said that there is no place left in our hearts for mercy or that the national conscience can only be satisfied by the killing of Kasab.
The text of the petition was made available here, with names of some of the initial signatories. Someone plagiarised the text and added some more lines to it and posted it on Change.org,where it got another hundred odd signatures.
When people started asking me on Twitter why I had signed the petition, I gave them links to two articles I had written arguing against death penalty for Ajmal Kasab, basically coming from a position of being against death penalty, no matter how heinous the crime. One article was in September and another was published on the day of the hanging, in November.
So when people asked me why I had signed the petition and I gave them these links, they continued to ask me why I had signed the petition! Some engaged with my reasons but only some. I figured they don’t really want to know, they only want to portray me and the 202 others as people who loved Ajmal Kasab, who don’t want justice for 26/11 victims, and ‘traitor’ was the politest of the many words they used.
But if there are people who really want to engage in a constructive debate, they may also want to see this post by Yug Mohit Chaudhry and this release by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. The Hindu newspaper opposed the execution, pointing out that the paper has long opposed death penalty. For all the claims due legal process, Kasab was denied his right to judicial review of the President’s rejection of his mercy petition. V Venkatesan has pointed out that the President should have disclosed the reasons for rejecting the mercy petition. Yug Mohit Chaudhry has faulted Kasab’s execution by showing how his case was treated differently from that of other death row convicts. Many human rights groups across India condemned Kasab’s hanging and asked for death penalty to be abolished. Former Supreme Court judge VR Krishna Iyer, who heads the Peoples’ Movement against Death Penalty, wrote an excellent piece outlining his reasons.
Many have asked me if I would have opposed death penalty for Kasab if a loved one of mine had been killed in the 26/11 attacks. Yes, I would still have opposed death penalty, as does actor Ashish Chowdhary, who lost his sister and brother-in-law at the Oberoi Trident hotel.
My Twitter bio says, “Will do anything for a good biryani”. Many of the trolls sent over by the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena asked me if a biryani was what it took to me me sign the petition. No, I don’t even need a biryani for that. This biryani obsession of Hindutva-Taliban trolls is part of their agenda to police the dietary habits of Hindus according to their wishes. I police them back by blocking them. Hilariously, some put two and two together: since Ajmal Kasab was served biryani in jail at the tax-payer’s expense, and I love biryani, hence… The truth is that Ajmal Kasab was never served biryani in jail. But when did the atheist Veer Savarkar’s followers let the truth come in the way of their anti-Hindu agendas?
Verily, that which is Dharma is truth, Therefore they say of a man who speaks truth, “He speaks the Dharma,”
or of a man who speaks the Dharma, “He speaks the Truth.”, Verily, both these things are the same.
—(Brh. Upanishad, 1.4.14)
The tweets used to start a hate-campaign against the 203 signatories pointed out, as though a great discovery had been made, that many of these signatories were known to be anti-Modi. Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga pointed out that in a TV show I had said that he should be arrested for spreading false rumours about non-existent fatwas on Facebook. I stand by my comment, but these points are some indication why this hate-campaign has been initiated against the signatories two months after Kasab was hanged. It’s not about Kasab – if it was, Bagga would also have put out the text of the petition so people could see our reasons. But you can not expect honesty from the Hindutva-Taliban.
But if there were those who were genuinely curious, I hope this post has been of use to them.
The article I wrote in September 2012 saying Kasab should not be hanged, was on the occassion of the Naroda Patiya judgement. The Naroda Patiya massacre in Gujarat in 2002 was an equally horrific case of mass murder, but the judge cited her opposition to death penalty as the reason why she wasn’t awarding that punishment to Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajarangi. So I asked the Hindutva-Talibanis why they weren’t demanding death penalty for Kodnani and Bajarangi? They replied innocently, let the court award it. That is not the point. The High Court might yet do that. And I will oppose it. My point is this: The Hindutva Taliban constantly accuses left-liberals-secularists etcetera of selective outrage, of bias, of political and intellectual dishonesty. They wanted Kasab hanged because he killed people. They wanted him hanged here and now,in public, without due process, without ‘wasting tax-payer’s money’. So why are they not similarly outraging over another set of mass murderers – whose crime wasworse than Kasab’s because they were not even from the ‘enemy’ nation. They were our own!
It is clear to those who want to see: Untruth is the weapon of choice in the adharmic war of the Hindutva-Taliban.