The culmination of what was code-named Operation X on Wednesday saw the whole of India heave a sigh of relief. Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, 25, the only terrorist caught alive during the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai four years ago, was hanged at Pune’s Yerwada Jail at 7:30 am on Wednesday. A few hours after, his body, unclaimed by the Pakistani government or his family, was buried in the jail compound itself.
Operation X started on November 5, when President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Kasab’s mercy plea. The file was sent to the Maharashtra government three days later, after which a special team of 17 officials was created. So top secret was Operation X that even the 200-strong ITBP, which had been guarding him since March 2009, was not informed about his transfer to Pune from Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail in the intervening night of November 18 and 19. Even the senior-most officials were informed only on a need-to-know basis.
Soon after Kasab’s hanging, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said India had informed the Pakistani government yesterday but Islamabad had refused to acknowledge the letter, both couriered and faxed through its high commission in Delhi.
When terrorists sailed into Mumbai in November 2008, over three days of terror in the city, 166 people were killed. Since his arrest the same year, Kasab had been kept in a high-security bulletproof cell in the Arthur Road jail.
Relatives of victims and survivors of the Mumbai attacks said justice had finally been done. K Unnikrishnan, the father of Sandeep Unnikrishnan, an NSG commando killed in the Taj Hotel strike, said: “The way the execution has been done is a model way. Before anybody could react to the rejection of the mercy petition, everything was over. That is the thing I cherish.” Smita Salaskar, the wife of Vijay Salaskar, an encounter specialist who fell victim to the bullets of terrorists during the carnage, said: “Though the execution was delayed, Kasab was finally hanged. With this hanging, homage has been paid to my husband.”
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The celebratory postings on Facebook and Twitter through the day reflected the popular mood. Politicians also joined in. While BJP welcomed the step, saying “it’s better late than never”, it demanded the government now expedite the execution of Afzal Guru, convicted for an attack on Parliament a decade ago. Shiv Sena Spokesman Sanjay Raut said Balasaheb Thackeray, who passed away last Saturday, would have been happy today.