Minutes before he was hung to death on Wednesday, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone 26/11 terrorist to be caught alive, sought forgiveness from a police officer and Allah.
Standing on the gallows inside Pune’s Yerawada jail, Kasab looked at the senior-most officer present and said: “Saheb ek baar maaf kar do”.
And then just after he was hooded and the noose placed around his neck he said: “Allah mujhe maaf kare”.
Within seconds the unofficial hangman — Balu Mohite, an elderly constable due to retire in March next year — pulled the lever.
After spending 1,456 days in India since his capture on the night of November 26, 2008, Kasab was hanged at 7.30am and he died at 7.36am on Wednesday. Normally, a person takes about two minutes to die after he is hanged. But Kasab, a jail source said, took six to seven minutes because he had held back his breath.
Once the doctor declared him dead, a photograph was taken and a single copy was printed and retained for official records. The negative was burnt soon after.
The process of hanging the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist — codenamed Operation X — began in mid-October with the ministry of home affairs sending his mercy petition to president Pranab Mukherjee.
After going through Kasab’s dossier briefly, Mukherjee left for his hometown in West Bengal for the Durga pujas. After he returned to Rashtrapati Bhavan, Mukherjee sought legal help to study the dossier and on November 5 rejected it.
The rejection was kept under wraps and work on the hanging began almost immediately.
Prithviraj Chavan, Maharashtra chief minister, was notified on November 8. Apart from Chavan, only four cabinet ministers — home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, his predecessor and current finance minister P Chidambaram, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, and defence minister AK Antony — were kept in the loop.
Each would play a key role and advise the prime minister while three bureaucrats at the Centre would tie things up.
Chidambaram, who had played a major role immediately after 26/11, would play a leading role this time too. And Khurshid would prepare the grounds for informing the government of Pakistan.
A letter was couriered to Kasab’s mother informing her about the hanging. The Pakistan high commission too was notified but they refused to acknowledge it.
Nehchal Sandhu, director, Intelligence Bureau, would play the lead role along with Union home secretary RK Singh and the R&AW chief Sanjiv Tripathi.
It is understood that Sandhu impressed upon the government that it is imperative to hang Kasab because a delay could create a major hostage situation reminiscent of the IC 814 hijacking in 1999 when four major terrorists were released in exchange of the trapped passengers.
In Mumbai, three top police officers were roped in the operation — Sadanand Date, joint commissioner (law & order Mumbai city), Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner (crime), and Deven Bharti, special IG (law & order Maharashtra).
Date, who had played a key role on the night of November 26 in capturing Kasab, planned the operation along with Roy. They kept director general Sanjeev Dayal and the city’s police commissioner Satyapal Singh in the loop.
Kasab was moved out of Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail at 1am on Tuesday. A convoy of three vehicles, including a Scorpio with seven commandos from Force One (raised after the 26/11 terror attack), moved out quietly from the city and took the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.
Three hours later they reached Pune and Kasab was whisked away to a special cell. On Tuesday morning, Kasab was made to stand twice on the gallows to measure his height and weight. Two pits were dug side by side. Once the official formalities were over after he was declared dead, Kasab was buried in one of the pits inside the jail premises at 8:30am.
The disposal of Kasab’s body had became a major issue with some officials even suggesting a sea burial similar to what the US did with Osama bin Laden in May last year.
The aim was to ensure there is no marked grave, which fundamentalists might exploit.