Kasab Se, why is that man smiling?
It's rather bizarre. Kasab has been in such a good mood lately that the judge presiding over his trial has actually had to tell him to go slow on the happiness display. The TOI story on Monday's proceedings in the courtroom quotes judge Tahiliani as warning Kasab, "Don't laugh unnecessarily. Remain serious in court." Tahiliani was also forced to comment on Kasab smiling away all the time at the media galleries, and had to remind him to stop 'behaving like this'.
What is he so happy about? Is it that he finds the whole process of what he did having to be meticulously and painfully 'proved' afresh funny, even as he takes the legal option of pleading not guilty, seems to recall all of a sudden that he is actually a minor, and engages the time of the court in issues such as whether he be granted access to the nearby balcony in prison for him to stretch his legs a bit? He seems to be being looked after pretty well, and displays no physical or emotional signs of being under the weather. His 'displaying no remorse' has been much noticed, and is anyways old hat now. And anyway, if he was one of the 'displaying remorse' types, he really wouldn't have been handpicked for the bloodbath, would he?
Now, I am all for the sanctity of the law and all that, but honestly, what's with the guy having fun here? I am not for the Guantanamo Bay model, let me assert - lest the Human Rights lobby rips into me. But I find something fairly obscene in the very fact that we are required to figure in, among other things, the comfort levels of the accommodation of Ajmal Amir Kasab.
It takes me back to the days when I began my journalistic career in J&K, when we released half a dozen militants so that the Union Home Minister of the day, Mufti sahib, could have his daughter back home safe and sound. No father should have to take such a call, agreed, but the eagerness which the Govt fell on its knees was an unpleasant sight to behold. It takes me back to a bizarre episode, the siege of the Hazratbal shrine that lasted a month, where militants holed up inside the shrine with hostages were able to last that long since they were supplied freshly cooked food from outside – on judicial orders. Which, among other things, specified details such as the calories that each meal should provide. It was black humour being played out amidst a crazy legal backdrop. It takes me back to the kid glove treatment that Masood Azhar used to be dealt in prison in J&K, where other prisoners, and even the odd jail guard, would address him as Peer sahib. He led a fairly distress-free life till the day we flew him off to Kandahar, since we couldn't stomach the possibility of hostage casualties.
And I still can't understand why it takes us this long to take a death sentence to a terrorist to its logical conclusion. Someone, somewhere, sooner or later may well find a "big" hostage to use as a bargain chip, and we may well fly Mohd Afzal off to safer pastures. We're quite, quite capable of doing it all over again, irrespective of either the BJP or the Congress being in power. Let's not delude ourselves by thinking it can't happen again.
Is it a national psyche thing with us? Do we have a fixation with treating our biggest headaches with kid gloves? We have made a fad out of people who should be doing hard labour in some remote prison "falling ill" and being admitted to the country's plushest hospital wards – that is, when the legal system does manage to come close to them. We suffer the most absolutely outrageous nonsense and abuse from people in critical power positions and then generally laugh it off by saying, politicians are like this only. When we do occasionally actually manage to catch molesters and rapists, someone or the other is instantly concerned whether the "future of the boy will be spoilt" if he is treated harshly.
Perhaps, sometime in his infancy, the poor baby's nanny didn't give him enough affection, so he developed behavioural problems. Couldn't really help it, could he?
In our political system, we tolerate, even encourage, the people who rave and rant the most, the ones who threaten to bring life to a standstill and break the bones of ordinary people walking past after a day at work, stop trains, set buses alight - for no bloody reason beyond proving that they can do it. In our families, we often give self-obsessed misfits amazing leeway in the name of 'keeping everyone together', and let people who don't give a damn for anyone else ride roughshod and get their way, while everyone else 'adjusts'. In our workplaces, we exhibit great tolerance for drama and theatrics, usually shying away from belling the problematic cats, and instead, often work to mollify the ones who can give us the greatest headache – just so we can "settle the issue".
Is there something here in our collective social reflexes that has a clue to why Kasab smiles as he watches the process of 'proving' that he actually was there, putting slugs into everyone he came across on 26/11? Does he expect someone to convincingly argue something along the lines that he is just a emotionally disturbed little boy who is being unfairly victimised by a grand conspiracy? Or does he hope that something will work out to get him out of there long before the sentencing – and the execution of the sentence – ever comes to its logical conclusion. I wouldn't know. But if there is any set of fundamentally very different reasons to have Kasab cheerful, I, for one, can't figure it out.
Aren't we, as a nation, falling into the trap of finding justifications for everything done, and of treating all categories of people who are a pain to the rest and quite proud of it – local goons and school bullies, workplace cacklers, family "rebels", arsonists, criminals, psychopaths, and mass murderers – with great attention, concern, even deference? We may well be a nation that takes great pride in its value system, but increasingly, we seem to be placing one value above all else. The ultimate, almost aspirational index of how much attention someone will command in many ways is increasingly, consistently, his nuisance value.
Meanwhile, I can't stand the theatrics. Maybe we'll see a soap opera on it all soon – it has the mandatory "K" anyways, which is usually all that is needed to justify a script. In the meantime, I wish someone would wipe the smile off the bugger's face. With apologies to Hobbes, but for someone who brought to us continual fear and the danger of violent death, do we need to be remorseful if his life is solitary, nasty, brutish - and short?