Ajmal Kasab’s village was angry today at being back in the spotlight, and showed it, turning its ire on the media that converged there a few hours after the hanging of the Mumbai attacks gunman.
“You, media, you have defamed our village. Just get out from our area,” said Muhammad Zaman, a local farmer, who asked his fellow-villagers gathered on the road to attack the assembled journalists and snatch their cameras and equipment if they did not leave the village.
When Kasab’s origins were traced to Farid Kot in 2008, just a few days after he was arrested in Mumbai – the only one of the 10 attackers to be caught alive – the village found itself on the international map for all the wrong reasons.
But after his family – parents,two sisters and a brother –went away from the village, it was easier to forget that association than it was in 2008. People here thought they had closed that chapter for good,
On Wednesday, it all came back to Faridkot as journalists once again descended on the village,140 kms from Lahore.
The villagers gathered at the main approach road to Farid Kot to prevent journalists from entering the village. They tried to snatch television cameras, and even attacked a television van. One of them, a village landlord, could be seen calling people on his phone asking them not to allow any media to enter the village streets and instructed locals not to speak to any reporter.
“This is an Indian conspiracy to defame Pakistan. We have no link with Kasab. We have no sympathy for him. India wants to defame Pakistan with such acts,” said a local politician Ghulam Mustafa Wattoo of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). “Though we are against such acts of hanging, we think this is the Indian government and judiciary's decision. This is an internal matter of India,” he added.
The village, situated off the historic Grand Trunk Road, has about 10,000 people, most of them uneducated and poor. Despite the hostile reception to the journalists this morning, this reporter managed to speak to some of them. They claimed they would not even have known about Kasab’s execution had it not been for all the media attention.
One elderly man, who gave his name as Muhammed Manzoor, said the media was paying “too much” attention to the issue.
Asked about Kasab’s hanging, he said: “He met his fate. As you sow so shall you reap”.
But he then went on to say that the people in the village believe that ``this Ajmal’’ must be from Faridkot on the Indian side of Punjab.
“Such reports linking his roots to this village are a deliberate attempt by enemy India. India might be thinking of using this as a pretext to conduct surgical strikes in Pakistan but it's just their daydream.”
Some journalists who had visited the village earlier this month ahead of the fourth anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks also encountered similar unwillingness to acknowledge that Kasab belonged to Farid Kot, to even speak about him or the whereabouts of his family.