Mohammed Kasab was hanged weeks after his mercy plea was denied. But others involved in some of India’s most infamous attacks have languished on death row for years because governments are wary of triggering unrest.
Kasab, one of 10 gunmen who laid siege to India’s financial capital Mumbai in November 2008 and left 166 people dead, was one of more than 400 people on death row in India before his execution on Wednesday.
His hanging was remarkably swift in a country where the death penalty is now extremely rare, and where experts say successive governments have been fearful of a violent communal or ethnic backlash.
Even three Tamils convicted for their role in the 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi have yet to be executed. Their hanging was stayed after huge protests in the southern state of Tamil Nadu last year.
Prior to Kasab, only one execution had taken place in India in the last 15 years, when a former security guard was hanged in 2004 for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl.
Sanjay Hegde, an advocate at the Supreme Court, said there was widespread popular support for Kasab’s execution and it would likely have few domestic repercussions. “Kasab is a one-off case in that it’s not politically divisive at all. The national sentiment was overwhelmingly in favour of handing down the death penalty to him,” Hegde told AFP.
Among those awaiting consideration is the case of Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri Muslim sentenced to death for his role in the 2001 attack on India’s parliament which left 15 people dead, including five militants.
Any decision to grant Afzal Guru clemency would risk a backlash, especially from Hindu right-wingers.
And the scheduled execution of a Sikh radical over the 1995 assassination of a chief minister was stayed at the last minute last year after large-scale protests prompted the Punjab state government to file an appeal to the president.
“In other cases, whether in Tamil Nadu or Punjab, the attackers have benefited from local support from state-level politicans,” Delhi-based political commentator R Jagannathan told AFP.
“Kasab has no godfather in India. It was a politically expedient hanging and the government played its cards, knowing full well that no one was going to stand up and protest it.”
Kasab’s execution came two days after India voted against a UN resolution to abolish the death penalty.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2012.
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