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'Even hangman did not know who was being executed'

November 21, 2012 18:49 IST

Vicky Nanjappa describes 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab's nervous last night.

Ajmal Kasab's execution was probably Yerawada jail's best kept secret. Prison officials informed the hangman about the person he executed only after it was done.

"We were directed to maintain the highest levels of secrecy and only the day before he (Kasab) was shifted from the Arthur Road jail (in Mumbai) to Yerawada, were we informed," a prison official told

"The same day all arrangements were made and even the anda (egg shaped) cell was kept ready. Even the hangman, who was chosen to carry out the execution, was not told about who he had to execute," the prison official added.

"We only told him that there was a terrorist in the jail who was to be hanged. There were strict instructions from the Union home ministry to keep this a secret," revealed the prison official.

Kasab left Arthur Road jail late on the night on November 18 -- hours after Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray's funeral -- and was driven to Yerawada. He was escorted by officers from the Quick Response Team, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and members of the state crime branch.

Only the superintendent of the Yerawada jail knew the prisoner's name. Other prison staff were only told that a high-profile prisoner would be coming and hence the necessary arrangements had to be made.

Jail authorities add that despite the secrecy, they ensured that all the norms were followed. Only officials who dealt with Kasab at the Arthur Road jail spoke with him till the end.

The final questions -- asking him his last wish and if he wanted to write a will -- were asked by Arthur Road prison officials.

The night prior to his execution Kasab did not sleep and was seen praying. He told an official that he repented what he had done and sought Allah's mercy. He also told one guard that he would never be forgiven for what he had done. He was a nervous wreck and spent the entire night sitting.

On Wednesday morning he was woken at 4 am and ordered to take a bath and given new clothes. A prisoner is usually hooded as he approaches the gallows, but in Kasab's case he was hooded in the cell itself.

There was a struggle as prison officials tried to tie his hands from behind. He walked to the gallows by himself for sometime, but then he had to be supported after he felt faint.

Priests from three religions were summoned at the last minute and after the chanting of prayers, the lever was pulled.

Jail authorities point out that in such cases, the prisoner is very quiet and nervous. However, when the prisoner approaches the gallows there is usually a struggle.

It happened in Kasab's case as well and some force had to be used before the noose went around his neck.

The rope with which Kasab was hanged was brought from Bihar. The specially made Manila rope is made at the Buxar Central Jail in Bihar. It is priced at Rs 180 a kilogram. The jail authorities keep it in stock for use when needed.

Before an execution, the rope is greased in oil and ghee. In this case, prison staff used a rope which had a drop of seven feet since the prisoner weighed over 75 kilograms.

Vicky Nanjappa