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Boy Monster at the Center of the World

New America Media, News Report, Mark Schurmann Posted: Mar 27, 2009

Editor's Note: With his trial under way, the "boy monster" Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab -- the sole surviving gunman of the Mumbai terror attacks -- may also be the most influential human being on the planet. Mark Schurmann is a India-based writer for New America Media.

MUMBAI There may be no one more reviled in India today than Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole surviving gunman caught during the Mumbai terror attacks last November.

With his trial under way, the "boy monster" may also be the most influential human being on the planet, chief protagonist in a volatile political drama that is unfolding in one of the most populous regions of the world.

Only 22 years old, Kasab looks less like the monster of public outrage and more like any typical South Asian college student. Yet Indians hang effigies of him from light poles in neighborhoods throughout Mumbai.

New Delhi based journalist Praful Bidwai says Kasabs high profile during the attacks has given the public a focus for its anger. Everyone saw him shoot. This was the worlds biggest incident of open gunfire in a public place killing such a large number of people.

Bal Thackeray, head of the Hindu nationalist group Shiv Sena, wants him hung from Mumbais India gate without trial, an example to international terrorists. Some Indian Muslim groups have echoed that call, eager to distance themselves and Islam from the brutality and bloodshed committed by the accused.

Officially, there have been demands for his execution by the Mumbai police department and a prohibitive ban by the Bombay Bar associationone of Indias largest legal councilson members acting in his behalf. Indias constitution guarantees even foreign nationals the right to council.

The few lawyers that have come forward to offer their services have been attacked and intimidated into rescinding them.

Currently at trial, Kasab still finds himself without a lawyer.

Captured on video-- unmasked and carrying an assault rifle--seen by millions around the world, Kasabs criminal trial is a fairly open and shut case, but given his Pakistani nationality and alleged membership in the Lashkar e Toiba, the militant Kashmiri separatist group suspected of carrying out the attacks, the politics surrounding the case are complex.

What is going to be interesting will be the evidence substantiating the charge sheet, said former Indian ambassador to Pakistan, G. Parthasarathy.

Kasabs charge sheet runs some 11,500 pages long and reportedly includes allegations of how and where the attacks were initiated and carried out.

Like many in India, Parthasarathy believes that core elements within the Pakistani military and secret service were responsible for providing training and equipment to the Mumbai attackers.

With the cooperation of the FBI, evidence for the trial has been compiled and corroborated in a massive dossier recently sent to Pakistan as well as 220 other governments throughout the world.

The circumstantial evidence in Pakistans involvement in past terrorist attacks was always strong, such as in the attacks on Parliament in 2003, but this is the first time you have a smoking gun [Kasab], says Parthasarathy.

Indeed, Pakistan has distanced itself from Kasab with President Asif Ali Zardari calling him a non-state actor, and questioning the LeTs involvement in the attacks. Even the LeT have, in essence, turned away from Kasab by denying any responsibility for the Mumbai attacks.

Despite FBI cooperation in the investigation, Parthasarathy believes that full disclosure from Pakistan of information and participants involved in the attacks wont be forthcoming because of US-Pakistani cooperation in the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Well get a lot of lip sympathy and thats as far as it will go, he admitted. Kasab is the only guy we can try.

Publicly and politically charged and with tensions running high the security measures provided for the trial have been extraordinary. Instead of the Maharashtra High Court, the trial is being held in Mumbais Arthur Road prison where he is currently in custody.

The specially constructed courtroom is covered in steelreinforced concrete in case of rocket or grenade attacks and is directly connected to Kasabs jail cell by tunnel.

Indian special commandos have been assigned to case the local area and its residents for suspected assassins leading some residents to complain of harassment.

The judge assigned to the case communicates with Kasab via video link.

Earlier, the fears were that some ISI (Pakistan Secret Service) sponsored group might bump him off now the fear is that it might be vigilantes that might do it, says Bidwai, adding A lot of people dont have any faith in the justice system. They think instant justice is justifiable.

In addition, there have been reports from Indian media that Kasab has been targeted for assassination by Indias criminal underworld, allegedly an effort to silence any potential information concerning its cooperation in organizing and carrying out the attacks.

Ironically, protective custody and the special criminal court constructed specifically for the trial maybe the only reason Kasab is alive today, with the death penalty almost a certainty once his trial concludes. That may seem moot considering that Kasab considered himself a Fedayeen or suicide soldier never intending to be captured alive.

Born and raised in small village in Pakistans Punjab province to an impoverished family who grew up with few opportunities, its reported that Kasab initially joined the LeT for financial reasons but took its militant ideals to heart soon after, agreeing to take part in the 11/26 attacks.

There is no argument about the severity of that crime. 188 Indian citizens and foreign nationals lost their lives during the bloody three day siege of Mumbai carried out by Kasab and nine others that left the city traumatized and India searching for answers.

However, whats unusual is how isolated Kasab has become. Most terrorists and high profile criminals have support from sections of the general public, even when guilt is beyond question, who believe the ends justify the means.

It seems as if the entire world has disowned Ajmal Kasab.

Related Articles:

Mumbai Terrorists Wear Uniform of Young India

Live Blogging the Mumbai Attacks

Lessons From 9/11 For India Today

As the Mumbai Fires Die, the Terror of the Aftermath

Dawood -- Did Criminal Mastermind Stage Mumbai Nightmare?

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