Ajmal Amir Kasab and the politics of hate

Published: January 9, 2013
The writer is an artist, art critic and the owner of The Craft Company. She is interested in fair trade and women’s affairs in Pakistan. She tweets @munasiddiqui

The writer is an artist, art critic and the owner of The Craft Company. She is interested in fair trade and women’s affairs in Pakistan. She tweets @munasiddiqui

The death by hanging of Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab on November 21, 2012 has been the source of much conversation in Pakistan. There is an overwhelming sympathy for this young 25-year-old seen to have single-handed withstood the interrogation and wrath of Indian interrogators.

News channels have broadcasted CCTV coverage of Amir Kasab with an AK-47 and a backpack striding across the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, India. There are also his video admissions of his account of the incident, yet people in Pakistan have their doubts. In fact, when evidence is brought up confirming the cold-blooded killing of 164 people in India, many Pakistanis feel the need to defend this young boy against the torture and persecution they believe he has encountered. Perhaps, the reason for this incredulity lies in the collective history of India and Pakistan and the pain they share.

Since the Partition of the subcontinent in 1947, the people of Pakistan and India remain intrinsically linked. ‘Partition’, as the event is fondly called, implies a portion severed from something whole. The portions are India and Pakistan. Their people share common languages, traditions, beliefs, joys and sorrows. What Pakistanis don’t advertise or Indians don’t broadcast are the many bridges that link them. Indian cinema, music, fashion, food and literature are all a part of life in Pakistan. In India, in turn, Pakistani designers, music, television shows, poetry and so much more are widely respected. Yet, in matters of politics, the waters part and it becomes a simple case of ‘them’ and ‘us’ on either side.

Sadly, we, as in the people of India and Pakistan, do not acknowledge the politics of hatred that afflicts us and results in the pawn that is Ajmal Kasab or ‘butcher’ as he was named by the Indian police.

Indian authorities blame the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its mastermind, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, for planning these attacks. There are many religious zealots with festering hatred in Pakistan and even in India, for that matter. And for the common person, it is so easy to fall prey to their proclamations of hatred. But where are all those people with reason who can accept that a disagreement amongst people doesn’t necessarily mean they are evil and certainly doesn’t justify shooting them down ruthlessly? Why not find the compelling argument for why this atrocity should have never happened and question the motives that led this young man to destroy his life and those of several others?

Does it really help that Kasab has become another pawn in the politics of hatred in Pakistan and India, both of whom are still smarting from the wounds afflicted on them since they parted?

Religious fundamentalists constantly use hate to mobilise people. Violent rhetoric induces social conditioning among mass movements. The Pakistani Taliban has predictably reacted in wanting to avenge Kasab’s death. Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, wants to hang Sarabjit Singh, an Indian political prisoner in Pakistan, in return. Singh has been on death row in Pakistan for over two decades. A senior LeT commander issued an anonymous statement, saying Kasab was a hero who would “inspire more fighters to follow his path”.

But do we as a people want to exacerbate animosity? Shouldn’t we mourn the death of a young man and many like him who are led to believe that their lives are worthless than the hate preached to them.

Hate, we’re told, is the face of evil seen in plumes of smoke and ash on 9/11. It is manifested in the repetitive images of the smouldering hotel in Mumbai and the ashen remains of the bombed hotel in Islamabad. But the impact of these stories comes from repetition. Hatred relies on people accepting, rather than investigating, hate-creating stories. Rather than Ajmal Kasab becoming another repetitive story to incite more hate and damage, we should stop the rhetoric that serves a purpose for those adept at catalysing conflicts. As Martin Luther King Jr said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. Pakistanis must step back from this endless cycle of destruction which is bankrupting us both financially and psychologically. Ajmal Kasab is a product of the history of conflict between India and Pakistan. The blame does not rest solely on his young shoulders; it rests on ours, too, for our silence and our acceptance of the politics of hate that unfolds around us.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (26)

  • John B
    Jan 10, 2013 - 12:08AM

    “Ajmal Kasab is a product of the history of conflict between India and Pakistan”

    The author is mistaken in her synthesis what drove him ( or million others like him). It is not the partition. I’ll leave it there.


  • Insaan
    Jan 10, 2013 - 12:35AM

    Author” Ajmal Kasab is a product of the history of conflict between India and Pakistan. The blame does not rest solely on his young shoulders”

    Kasab was sold by his family for money, like many other suicide bombers/terrorists die for money in Pakistan. He was brainwashed in the name of Islam by his handlers in LeT which was supported by ISI. It is wrong to equally blame Pakistan and India. Pakistan is 90 percent of the problem. Pakistan has even destroyed Afghanistan by playing talibans to gain strategic depth in Afghanistan.

    This so called “war on terror” is a money making machine for government and Mullahs. Kasab wanted to be a big “Mullah” with lot of money but ended up being a part of group that killed 40 INDIAN MUSLIM and 121 non-Muslims from 12 different countries (including 6 Americans). Why do you think these terrorists pretended to be HINDUS and carried ID cards with Hindu names? In phone calls to Indian TV stations they pretended to be Indians.


  • Misery Ghalib
    Jan 10, 2013 - 12:41AM

    question : just because quaid-e-azam said that “kashmir pakistan ki shehrag ha” – was it ok to invade and claim an independent state on basis of religion …. ????? is not the basic basic pakistan-india problem ….. ?????


  • Indian
    Jan 10, 2013 - 2:13AM

    I wonder as an Indian what Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Rehmatullah Allay) would have thought of Kasab and his co-murderers mass-killing the guests in the very same rooms, halls and corridors where he and his wife Ruttie married and spent so much time… Even before that, the Taj Hotel was the place where Qaid-e-Azam used to come to frequently for lunch and drinks. As an Indian I have a very low opinion of Qaid-e-Azam but I still wonder what his reaction would have been… after all, despite the divisive politics he led that we Indians find objectionable and despite the terrible consequences for millions of what he and the League achieved in 1947, Bombay was still his city…


  • Vikas
    Jan 10, 2013 - 2:50AM

    For your information, no muslim died in 26/11.


  • Mirza
    Jan 10, 2013 - 3:48AM

    @John B:
    I agree with both of you. Kasab was a product of hate, religious extremism and bigotry. There is no reason to go so far in history to determine their mushrooming. All this started in the 1970’s and continued in 1980’s. The rest is history. We have factories to produce Kasab by thousands.

  • amit
    Jan 10, 2013 - 5:36AM

    “The portions are India and Pakistan. Their people share common languages, traditions, beliefs, joys and sorrows.”
    u are wrong mam being a young indian i am not share anything to pak or bangladesh .mam current pak culture is more similar from arab and middile east than india .mostly indians also not share belief with pak .


  • Parag
    Jan 10, 2013 - 5:57AM

    For your information, no muslim died in 26/11.”

    Absolutely incorrect. I am very much Indian and a Hindu, and your statement that no Muslims were killed on 26/11 is devoid of fact.


  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 10, 2013 - 7:20AM

    For your information, according to Wikipedia (searching for 26/11), the nine terrorists killed in the Mumbai attack were identified and their Pakistani hometowns listed. Are you saying that these were not Muslims???


  • Jai
    Jan 10, 2013 - 8:06AM

    Yes, it wasn’t partition. For India it was garbage disposal. Unfortunately not all the undesirable garbage genepool got thrown out.


  • John B
    Jan 10, 2013 - 8:09AM

    Well, Jinnah would have most definitely hung him in his own hands in the Gate Way of India monument, despite his dichotomous positions.

    Jinnah was not as bad as many Indians thinks. He was as pragmatic as Nehru was. But Nehru had time to think about India and had peers and guidance while Jinnah was by himself and he did not think it through for whatever reasons and could not reign in the factions due to his short life.

    To be frank, PAK kept India intact and India kept PAK intact.


  • John B
    Jan 10, 2013 - 8:21AM

    Thanks. The recent version of Islam permeating in airways is unrecognizable to me and I sometimes wonder whether the mullahs really read anything of substance in Islam or merely regurgitating what someone has told them. Tragedy.


  • Feroz
    Jan 10, 2013 - 8:43AM

    Your article is well meaning but facetious. No hate against Pakistan or Muslims is taught in Indian text books and there is no State attempt to indoctrinate its masses. No Indian has been sponsored by any group to go to foreign countries and kill anybody on any pretext. Yes we can have sympathy for the youth in Pakistan who have been preyed on like Ajmal Kasab, which is why there is insistence that the Masterminds of such tragedies be brought to justice. Attempts to equate Ajmal Kasab type of terrorism where one country uses it indoctrinated Assets to cause terrorism in another country, has no parallel.


  • MilesToGo
    Jan 10, 2013 - 8:55AM

    Kasab was brainwashed. Somebody brainwashed him somehow.


  • Sidrah
    Jan 10, 2013 - 9:09AM

    Ajmal Kasab was a product of poverty, hatred and delusion. I want to know men who create people lie Ajmal Kasab by taking advantage of people’s misery are also so keen on sacrificing their own kids.


  • Mumbai ka Chor
    Jan 10, 2013 - 11:49AM

    @Muna Siddiqu : I really appreciate your best effort in writing a pretty introspective article. I am an Indian and I have no shame in admitting my nation is not perfect. But thats that, I can rest assure you that apart from few extreme right wing fundamentalist Hindus who are just more vocal then many other liberals out there, my country has never in any level , neither via education or by sponsoring a terrorist group directly or indirectly, not even name of moral support. Yes Pakistanis can call Mukti Bahini terrorist and blame India to help them. But Mukti Bahini was not an organization on Indian soil.
    As I stated earlier despite of your best effort you do succumb to your patriotism and love for your country. Hence you try to equate India and Pakistan in every way. I agree we are quite quite same on many many grounds but one and unfortunately a big one.
    That big monster is our ideology. Pakistan by it’s very sense of complex and awareness that it can never take India in conventional war quite openly started supporting terrorist networks. It allowed ( if not supported ) extremism to brew which it hoped will help them foster a force multiplier of ideologists who will lay down their lives in name of Islam if ever war broke with India. While war with India and how to shame India is constantly in Pakistan’s mind, I can assure you it is far less in minds of Indians. Reason being we do not have our history text books teaching hatred against non Hindus. Neither our justice system is different for different religion. Neither has any group of Indian terrorists crossed into Pakistani soil and killed innocent citizens. I can go on , but it’s useless cause many hyper Pakistanis here will jump to counter comment about Sarabjit and recent claims of Indian soldier’s crossing to Pakistani side. Pakistanis are dying by terrorism and most Pakistanis I see simply comments about how many Muslims died in Godhra. Even though the official figures states close to 2100 total death including quite many Hindus, Pakistani media and people have gone far to say 4000 muslims died. Nobody spoke about any Hindus dead. Pakistanis dont see a human died, they r just concerned about how many muslims died or non muslims died. There is not much hatred for Pakistanis from India as mush Pakistanis hate Indians. And please dont take our ranting as hatred, it does not come close to this statement from my Pakistani sister in law when few people died in Karachi last year ..”toh kyaa huaa….woh sirf muhajirs they”………An educated gal from Karachi speaks this language. It is not tell tale anymore. Khuda Hafiz.


  • Jan 10, 2013 - 11:55AM

    Please – for heaven’s sake do not go about justifying Kasab’s crime – he cold bloodedly mowed down people in the station – poor familes on their way home. And his mandate was to keep killing.
    he was adult enough to know what he was doing – what you have to question is the importance you guys give some words in a book to the extent that that you value those mere words (revelation or not) above human life.
    I hope at some point every so-called religious person starts asking the question. There is no bigger religion that humanity.


  • Hassan
    Jan 10, 2013 - 11:57AM

    @ Vikas Are you saying terrorists were checking identity card to see if his or her name is like hindu before shooting?


  • Foolitics
    Jan 10, 2013 - 12:06PM

    I just fell off my chair when I read this statement

    “Shouldn’t we mourn the death of a young man and many like him”

    Why would any peace loving, sane and rational person mourn the death of mass murderer? Kasab is a pawn but a willing pawn.


  • Imran
    Jan 10, 2013 - 1:20PM

    “Ajmal Kasab is a product of the history of conflict between India and Pakistan”

    I thought he was a product of Muridke, and one of their finest? And Muridke itself is a product of funding, training and encouragement of our finest?Recommend

  • Alex
    Jan 10, 2013 - 3:36PM

    Dear Author,
    May I ask why does Pakistan’s civil society refuses to accept its responsibility?? The responsibility to fight for institutions and systems that make a country? The innate instinct to form a society that is democratic or atleast just in its core and conscience. Ajmal Kasab is the product of this colossal FAILURE!!

    In 67 years of its existence, Pakistan despite being 97% muslim could not achieve peace and tolerance in its society!! The reason for forming Pakistan was muslims wanted equality and growth…we have seen what kind of growth has been achieved….

    Your failures to be stable nation cannot be equated with Indias which has lot more troubles yet manages stability. Kasab is not product of India and Pakistan but Pakistan’s failure to be what it was formed in the first place. Instead of finding fault with intolerance and pervasive hatred that breeded Kasab and many like him, many in Pakistan blame India or USA for troubles. World has long placed Pakistan alongside Afghanistan…it is time to realise this!!!


  • antanu g
    Jan 10, 2013 - 8:54PM

    get your records right.30 Muslims died on 26/11.Mr.this attitude of yours and likes is alienating muslims. go and read the list of dead first then come back before making dumb comments.


  • antanu g
    Jan 10, 2013 - 8:56PM

    @John B:
    kasab is a product of biased attitude of people like you.


  • Milestogo
    Jan 10, 2013 - 10:19PM

    We need to find Kasabs and start reversing their brainwashing so that they don’t commit unislamic crimes against humanity.


  • burjor
    Jan 11, 2013 - 5:28PM

    Pakistan society is indoctrinated. Until those behind Kasab are brought to book this event will repeat itself. It has repeated itself on the streets of Pakistan, over and over. Just yesterday some hundred people lost their lives in Quetta. Many more were injured. Thousands have lost their lives in Pakistan because of this deadly indoctrination, day in and day out, over the last few years. India has to be very very alert all the time. Pakistan has to realize where it stands, where it is heading.


  • jazz
    Jan 13, 2013 - 12:39PM

    @Vikas ….49 Muslims died in 26/7 and I came across this number in a book by Sashi Tharoor named Pax Indica. I hope that he is not saying wrong…lol


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