Mumbai citizens burst firecrackers, distributed sweets and relived memories of the November 26, 2008 massacre as soon as they heard the order on Thursday of the Special Sessions Court sentencing Kasab to death by hanging. Crackers went off in South Mumbai in the predominantly Muslim areas of the city, and people carried placards welcoming the verdict. Various groups came out on the street with banners and posters, passing sweets around.
At Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), where Kasab and Abu Ismail wreaked havoc, crackers were burst to welcome the verdict. People queued up to pay homage at the memorial to victims. Right from 10-year-old Devika Rotawan, who was a witness, to Kavita Karkare, wife of the killed police officer Hemant Karkare, families of victims and survivors have been demanding death for Kasab for that night of horror which claimed 166 lives.
For Assistant Police Inspector Hemant Bowdhankar, this was the day he was waiting for ever since he helped in the capture of Kasab. Mr. Bowdhankar was part of the police team from D B Marg police station which stopped Kasab and Abu Ismail at Chowpatty as they drove up in a stolen silver Skoda on the night of November 26, and engaged them in a short gun battle.
The Mumbai police will always remember the sacrifice of policeman Tukaram Ombale who fell to Kasab's bullets that night. The death sentence has vindicated somewhat his sacrifice, feel the policemen. Mr. Bowdhankar told TheHindu: “I was expecting the maximum punishment for Kasab. Everyone did a good job of giving evidence and the truth was what made the difference. We all welcome this judgment.”
Another policeman, who was part of this team and who does not wish to be named, says that this is a judgment that should make all Indians proud. It was the result of teamwork of the Mumbai police, and the Indian judiciary showed the world how it could conduct a fair trial. This is a moment to feel proud of our judiciary as well, he said.
However, Ms. Karkare, while welcoming the death sentence, was disappointed that two persons were acquitted in this case. Kasab should not be given an opportunity to go to the Supreme Court and his sentence should be executed immediately, she added.
Vaishali Ombale, daughter of Tukaram Ombale, expressed fears that the punishment would be delayed. She, like many other families of victims, called for a speedy end to the whole thing.
Vishnu Zende, the announcer at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) who repeatedly made announcements asking people to clear the station that night, was happy. “I saw what Kasab did that day at CST and this is a fit punishment. Nothing less would have done. We are all very happy to hear this verdict,” he said.
The government too welcomed the death sentence for Kasab. Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and State Home Minister R.R. Patil praised the judiciary and Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, and said there must be no delay in executing Kasab's death sentence.
Mr. Chavan said the verdict reflected the public sentiment. The trial was fair and democratic and ended within a year. He complimented judge M.L. Tahaliyani and also senior police officials, Rakesh Maria, Deven Bharati and the Mumbai police for the way in which they handled this case.
Mr. Patil said India was a soft target for terrorists and this judgment should send a strong signal to the world that terrorism would not be tolerated. Considering the gravity of charges against Kasab, that of waging war against India and murder, it could be nothing less than the death sentence. Given the brutality of the attack, the punishment seemed less, he said.
Mr. Patil once again said that all those convicted who were in Pakistan must be brought to India and the world community must bring pressure on Pakistan to do so. Responding to newspaper reports that the State had no hangman, Mr. Patil said the government would find one.
He said the government would appeal to the Centre to fast track the legal procedure so that there was no delay in executing the sentence. In regard to the acquittal of the two Indians in the case, Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed, Mr. Patil said the government would file an appeal against it in the High Court.