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The Kasab verdict alone is not enough

May 10, 2010 15:20 IST

It is time we moved beyond abstract wooly notions and formulate a sound plan of action that produces concrete results. For all the brouhaha that followed the Mumbai massacre we have let things slip into a state of ennui, writes Vivek Gumaste.

The Kasab trial and verdict was a necessary and inevitable function of our democratic process; nothing more nothing less. To ascribe to it a higher mission or to view it as an omnipotent panacea to the terrorist scourge afflicting our nation is nothing short of hyperbole. Let us not kid ourselves with the notion that this is a game changer with the potential to effect a paradigm shift in Pakistan's India policy or an ethereal magic wand that will instantaneously deter gun-toting, hate-spewing extremists and transform them into law abiding citizens of the world.

Hailing the verdict against Kasab, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram pontificated: "That shows the independence, fearlessness and integrity of the court."

For good measure, he went on to add that it: "is a message to Pakistan that they should not export terror to India. If they do and if the terrorists are apprehended, we will be able to bring them to justice and give them exemplary punishment."

True, the Kasab trial demonstrated the 'independence, fearlessness and integrity' of our judicial system. True, it gave us a sense of vindication. But its impact on the larger problem of terrorism facing the country or as a missive to Pakistan remains questionable.

Will the independence of our judiciary impress Pakistan and goad them to reign in their terrorists? Unfortunately, the answer is in the negative. In fact, a perusal of the Pakistani news media post the Kasab verdict confirms the unchanged nature of the warped Pakistani mindset.

The Nation, one of Pakistan's leading English newspapers, in an editorial deemed the verdict as a 'highly political conclusion', orchestrated by the Indian government and one based on a confession 'acquired under duress.' Below are some excerpts from the editorial (The Kasab Verdict. The Nation. May 4):

"The much awaited verdict on the Kasab trial in India finally came and it was no surprise, given how the deck was loaded against him from the start.

The sentencing will come today, but Judge M L Tahiliyani's verdict that Kasab was a member of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and that his handlers were in Pakistan was reflective of the Indian government's claims.

It is interesting how the judge came to this highly political conclusion. The judge also stated that Kasab's confession was not acquired under duress, despite Kasab's claim and the general knowledge about how police torture to squeeze confessions in our part of the world."

Additionally, Pakistani's remain convinced that the verdict is a ruse for both India and the United States to pressurise Pakistan:

"The Indians, along with the US, have been keen to lay the blame at Pakistan's doorstep and more specifically the LeT leadership, while Pakistan continues to claim that the Indians have not furnished any hard evidence to support their claims. Nor has India responded to Pakistan's request to hand over Kasab and co-defendant (now acquitted) Fahim Ansari to Pakistan for trial. Undoubtedly, India will use this verdict to further pressure Pakistan on all manner of issues, and no doubt the US will add its voice to the pressure."

Another leading daily, The International News concurs with this line of thinking describing the verdict as a reflection of media fervour and popular sentiment rather than a balanced judgment of right and wrong (Kasab's Fate. The News, May 5):

"The verdict has been hailed in India, with the Indian home minister stating that it delivered a strong message to Pakistan. Across the border, in the town of Faridkot, from where Kasab hails, the verdict has been angrily protested. The tone adopted by the judge, who stated that Kasab had been trained in Pakistan to 'wage war' on India, echoes popular sentiment found in that country. Such feelings have been fanned by the media and politicians who cashed in on the Mumbai bombings immediately after they occurred. The Lashkar-e-Tayiba, consistently identified by New Delhi as being behind the attacks, has once more been named by the judge."
Moreover the editorial casts aspersions on the fairness of the trial and categorically refutes the culpability of LeT:

"The climate in which the trial was held also leaves open doubts as to whether it was conducted in a manner that was free and fair. Hostile environments have, in many places in the world, occluded the process of impartiality necessary for a just court process. There is of course no reason to believe that the Indian justice system is immune to this problem. The swift pointing of fingers at the LeT and Pakistan also creates misgivings."

Pakistan's continued denial of Kasab's criminality and LeT's terrorist links is a skillfully crafted charade meant to absolve Pakistan of corrective action. Therefore, we are wasting our time if we believe that this is going to change; Pakistan is not going to see this verdict as an unbiased assertion of truth and take prompt measures to shut down the terrorist factories operating within its boundaries.

Such naive and unrealistic assumptions are at the crux of our failed foreign policy vis-à-vis Pakistan; an inherent flaw that cripples our psyche and inhibits us from decisive action. We presume that the mere appropriation of a moral high ground will effect an altruistic transformation in our enemy and produce instant results .We also believe that our display of fairness will be reciprocated in full measure by our foes. While such qualities are commendable in the realm of personal relations, they fail to cut ice in the cold and calculating world of nation to nation interaction or in dealing with callous terrorists. Such situations warrant firm, mundane and practical measures.

The safety of our people cannot be left to the mercy of evil terrorists or to the change of heart of a rogue nation. A stance against evil has to be backed up with physical courage and action to have teeth.

It is time we moved beyond abstract wooly notions and formulate a sound plan of action that produces concrete results. For all the brouhaha that followed the Mumbai massacre we have let things slip into a state of ennui. Eighteen months have elapsed since those fateful days in November 2008 when a nation watched dumbstruck as terrorists ran amuck in our largest city massacring our citizens at will and precious little has been achieved so far.

The sword of terrorism still hangs like a Damocles sword over our heads. Even as Judge Tahilyani was pronouncing the verdict, the Delhi police were gearing up to ward off another potential 26/11this time directed against the nation's capital. Terrorist activity in Kashmir has been increasing day by day.

We need to be able to walk down the streets of our country without having to look over our shoulders; we need to be able sit down in places like the Taj or the German Bakery for a nice dinner or a snack with our loved ones without the fear of being gunned down or blown apart by a bomb. And it is the duty of our government to take whatever measures, military if necessary, to ensure the safety and security of our people. Mere words and moral posturing have proved ineffective and will not do.

Vivek Gumaste