NEW DELHI -- Indians woke up to a huge surprise Wednesday when the nation’s television news channels began splashing the news about the hanging execution of the lone surviving terrorist from the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Ajmal Kasab, in a secret operation code-named “X’.
In a country where few things remain secret, where everything is argued in public, and where courts take decades to complete trials, Kasab’s swift hanging was a welcome surprise for many.
“This is a big achievement for us – completing the whole legal process in just four years, and keeping this important decision a secret till the end,” said Sanjay Nirupam, a lawmaker from Mumbai.
The Hindi television channel, ABP News, reported that the cell phones of 16 of the 17 officials who knew about the operation had been switched off since Tuesday evening.
“We did not want to make this into a whole hoopla with the whole media,” R. P. N. Singh, deputy home minister, told NDTV 24X7 news channel.
The predominant emotion among Indians seemed to be one of relief as they learned that one of the most high-profile cases had come to a conclusion.
The 2008 Mumbai attacks shocked Indians like no other terror attack before. Dramatic pictures of the city’s iconic Taj Hotel in flames, explosions, fire-fights, a prolonged hostage crisis and the rescue were telecast live and non-stop for three days. Many called it “India’s 9/11.”
In fact, many questioned why Kasab was kept alive in jail for so long with taxpayers’ money. Every year on the anniversary of the attacks, survivors and members of victims’ families would ask when justice would be delivered.
Kasab’s hanging was the second since 1995; the last was in 2004 of a man who was convicted of raping and murdering a 14-year old girl.
Surveillance cameras caught Kasab prowling with a gun in the train station that night, where 55 people were killed.
“I saw him with my own eyes, I did not need any more proof,” said Mukesh Agarawal, a 52-year-old man who ran a food court at the station and was shot at by Kasab at the train station. “It was record time by Indian standards. But for me, it took too long. Every year felt heavy. Now, I feel like a child who gave an school exam four years ago, and test results are out today.”
At a tea stall in New Delhi, Sunil Tiwari, 24, said: “The Pakistani planners should know that India can act tough against terrorists.”
Television news channels ran non-stop coverage of the news and invited viewers to call in with their comments.
On Twitter, #Kasab began trending almost immediately.
FYI, 12 hours ago, India voted against a UN General Assembly resolution banning the death penalty. Now we know why. #Kasab
— Oculus Dada (@daddy_san) November 21, 2012
A popular Bollywood actor tweeted:
Justice may not replace the feeling ofloss but it gives strength & hope to continue life with renewed belief in system we live in. #Kasab
— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPkher) November 21, 2012
Another tweeted a picture of the memorial built for the policeman who died catching Kasab that November night in 2008.
— Sandeep (@SandeepUnnithan) November 21, 2012
One of India's prominent film directors wrote:
If I were to be the hang man I would have shown the pictures of all his victims to Kasab before hanging him
— Ram Gopal Varma (@RGVzoomin) November 21, 2012
See more Twitter reactions on #Kasab and his execution.