The police were able to ascertain that 26/11 accused Jundal and Kasab were together during the preparatory stages in Pakistan and when the operation was being launched. Vicky Nanjappa reports
The 26/11 Mumbai attacks probe on Thursday night brought together Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving attacker, face to face with Abu Jundal whom he identified as one of the main conspirators of the mayhem.
This was an interesting exercise and an important one, as investigators need to corroborate both sides of the story to make their case stronger.
However, one obvious question was whether the two were made to sit in front of each other throughout the questioning.
The answer to that is, no, as the normal mandate as taught in the National Police Academy in such cases is that barring the identification the rest of the questions would not be asked face to face due to various legal reasons.
Sources privy to this part of the investigation told rediff.com that both the accused are brought face to face briefly at first. A set of questions were asked regarding the identification of both the persons. Kasab said that Jundal was the man who taught him and the other attackers Hindi. This meant that he had seen Jundal when the attack was being planned. The first question that the investigator asked Kasab was whether Jundal was the man he was speaking about. The same question was then put to Jundal. Abu Jundal was asked if he had trained Kasab when the operation was being planned. Both the persons identified each other and told the police they knew each other.
In the next round of questioning the accused were put in two separate rooms and they were asked the same set of questions. The question put to Kasab was then verified by Jundal.
The investigators, prior to this exercise, had two sides of the story -- one by Kasab and the other by Jundal. It was clear that Kasab had information only pertaining to the training for the operation. Both the persons confirmed that there was a training programme in Pakistan and Jundal had met Kasab during this time.
Thursday's questioning also confirmed that there were in all 14 persons chosen for this operation, but four of them had dropped out. This cleared the lurking doubt about the number of terrorists involved in the operation. It is now clear that ten terrorists carried out the attack.
Investigators say that they were not expecting both versions to be exactly the same.
During such an exercise the police are extremely careful in ensuring that the two persons are not face to face listening in to what the other has to say. There are legal hurdles that can arise out of such a situation.
This was a big operation and Kasab was a foot soldier while Jundal was part of the top rank. Kasab has a vague idea of the ideology behind this attack while Jundal has a better understanding. Although the questions pertaining to the ideology were asked to both the accused, the police would ensure that each others answers are not known to the other person.
"There are bound to be contradictions and more often than not the accused pick it up and inform their lawyers about it which is used in the court to seek an acquittal. It is impossible that two versions will be exactly the same in such an investigation and there are bound to be contradictions," explains a senior officer.
The officer narrated an incident in Kashmir where such an exercise was carried out. Some of the foot soldiers who were interrogated told the officers of the Intelligence Bureau that they had come to Kashmir not to fight against India. They had come here to defend Islam, but when they landed here they saw the mosques and heard the loud speakers which made them feel that Islam was not under threat. But they still went ahead with the operation since they were told to do so.
However, the version of the mastermind was entirely different and he had to say that the war was against India. "This amounts to a contradiction, but not a fatal one in the mind of the investigator. The case is similar in the Kasab-Jundal case. Kasab was made a promise of a 100 virgins and money and he carried out the instructions. However, Jundal knew all along this was a war against India," the officer said.
Thursday's questioning also brought clarity on Jundal's role in the control room. Jundal handled those at Nariman House, where Kasab was not present. Kasab's information regarding Jundal ended with the confession that he had taught them Hindi.
The biggest plus point for investigators after this exercise was that they were able to ascertain that Jundal and Kasab were together during the preparatory stages in Pakistan. Both were also together when the operation was being launched.
However, the point of disagreement was the objective. Although it cannot be termed as a disagreement it is something that they could not verify thoroughly since Kasab was never in the loop regarding the ideology and objectives behind the attack.
Another reason why the accused are not allowed to hear each others versions, say officers, is to avoid them to fine-tune their answers and make their position stronger based on a contradiction. In a set of 60 questions there were around 15 contradictions, but all of them were not substantial in nature.