2013, Essay, New Delhi, Telegraph Calcutta

Bombay 1993: The Blisters That Became The Bomb

Or, why we refuse to look where blame might lie

Sanjay Dutt was still only a celluloid khalnayak, protagonist of Subhash Ghai’s magnum, a wickedly stained and lovable villain. What we knew of his real life delinquencies were still juvenile of nature and evoked sympathy, the drifter son of Sunil and Nargis, struggling to emerge from his haze of addictions. What we knew was that posters of Khalnayak were in print. What we still didn’t know was that Sanjay Dutt’s personal life had surreptitiously imitated his public art.

Dawood Ibrahim was still a latter-day imitation of Haji Mastan, no more: a beach bandit, a gully don who had slipped away to Dubai to elude the law and grab more riches. Yakub Memon was still nameless chartered accountant working off a hole in the wall on the ragged Mahim shoreline.

The pigeons at Gateway of India hadn’t been acquainted to mid-flight expiry by explosion. The liveried valets at the Taj knew better manners than to usher guests to submit to metal detectors.

Mumbai was still called Bombay. And Ajmal Kasab was still 15 years adrift, a six-year-old scraping dust and deprivation in Pakistan’s Okara, quite innocent that destiny was setting him up to violently flame and be extinguished.

And yet 1993 seemed like it could never ever get worse for Bombay. An apocalyptic visitation that came well foretold, never mind those that chose not to take note.

A week-long street frenzy had erupted followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid the December just gone. The official toll of sectarian clashes: 278.

Continue reading “Bombay 1993: The Blisters That Became The Bomb”

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2012, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Ajmal Kasab: Boy who took the wrong lane and ended up in a dungeon

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph
New Delhi, 21 November 2012

Deep in my dungeon
I welcome you here
Deep in my dungeon
I worship your fear
Deep in my dungeon
I dwell
I do not know if I wish you well
Deep in my dungeon
I welcome you here
I worship your fear
Deep in my dungeon
A bloody kiss
From the wishing well

— an old prison rhyme quoted in The Executioner’s Song by Norman MailerThere are two images of him from that November night four years ago.

One suggested the menace he’d been trained in — hair dishevelled, face blood-scarred, eyes at once devilish and furtive, hands at the ready to fire from the weapon they held. That was Ajmal Amir Kasab just after the mayhem he’d left behind in the concourse of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). He had charged across the overbridge and was about to leap down the unlit Badruddin Tyabji Lane en route to more havoc at the Cama Hospital. Continue reading “Ajmal Kasab: Boy who took the wrong lane and ended up in a dungeon”

2012, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

A blip, if that, in Pak ties: A ‘pawn’ for his country, not a ‘catch’ for India

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

New Delhi, Nov. 21: This will be a passing blip, if that, in the jagged course of India-Pakistan ties. Ajmal Kasab was a trifling in the 26/11 terror project, his extermination is unlikely to either create new bilateral frictions or close unaddressed grievances New Delhi has with Islamabad.

It might seem an irony that the hanging of the man who became the emblem of the most audacious peacetime assault on India will weigh minimally on the long-term consequences of his bloody assignment. But there are good reasons for it.

Pakistan was quick to disown Kasab despite his well-recorded origins. Father’s name: Amir Shahban Kasab. Mother’s name: Noor Illahi. Domicile: Village Faridkot in Okara district of Pakistani Punjab. These clues vanished swiftly after Pakistani media teams traced Kasab’s roots, and the denial of any association with him lasted to the very end. Continue reading “A blip, if that, in Pak ties: A ‘pawn’ for his country, not a ‘catch’ for India”