Police personnel outside the Yerwada jail in Pune on Wednesday. (PTI)
Mumbai, Nov. 21: In Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail, where Ajmal Kasab spent four years since his arrest in 2008, dinner is served at 3.30pm in a designated common area. But for inmates in solitary confinement like Kasab, police constables provide room service and they can eat the food later.
This Monday, Kasab had his dinner of dal, roti, rice and vegetables as usual around 7.30pm — a couple of hours before he was shifted to Yerwada Central Jail in Pune for the execution of his death sentence.
Kasab’s identity remained ‘C-7096’ throughout his prison term and even in the official dossier prepared for his hanging. In the Yerwada jail prisoner’s record book, too, all entries on his arrival and execution have been made under this identity.
The high-security Anda cell segment (called so because of its egg shape) in the Mumbai jail was his home from December 2008. The trial court on the jail premises was reinforced with concrete walls and a special tunnel had led him from the cell to the courtroom.
A 200-strong contingent of ITBP personnel was deployed to guard Kasab. This August, the ITBP submitted a bill of Rs 26 crore to the Maharshtra government as the fee for guarding Kasab. In July 2011, gangster Abu Salem was shifted out of Arthur Road Jail, where he was Kasab’s neighbour in another Anda cell.
“Initially, Kasab was not allowed to step out of his cell but after he started showing signs of depression and losing weight, he was allowed to spend an hour in the sun between 10 and 11am on doctors’ advice. But he always kept to himself,” said a jail official.
“He would often try to chat up policemen on guard outside his cell, talking about his life back home or sing old Hindi songs to get over boredom,” said the official.
He would have a breakfast with banana, milk and poha (puffed rice flakes and potatoes) followed by lunch and dinner.
“He did not find the vegetarian food palatable and stopped eating. So we got the cook who made food for some jail staffers to prepare non-veg food for him. But later, the courts directed that he should be served the same food as all inmates and the practice was stopped,” said the source.
“Even in police custody during his interrogation, Kasab had demanded and was provided non-veg food,” says Mumbai ATS chief Rakesh Maria, who interrogated him after his arrest.
Kasab apparently read biographies of Turkish medieval military generals during his spare time.
In a letter to his first lawyer, Abbas Kazmi, in April 2009, he had said: “Janab Abbas Kazmi Sahab, I need a few things urgently. These are Urdu Times newspaper, a bottle of perfume and toothpaste. Also please seek court’s direction to police asking them to deposit the amount, seized from my possession, in my jail account.”
The trial court Judge had agreed to all his requests, barring the one on attar.
During the trial, he would at times try to make eye-contact with woman reporters — smiling and winking.
On Monday, when six policemen went to his cell at 10pm to inform him of his impending execution, Kasab was up, though the lights were out and it was bedtime in Arthur Road jail. “Kasab did not sleep well since he came here,” said an official.
“He quietly took in the news. He was prepared in a way because he had been informed on November 12 that his mercy petition had been rejected by the President. He had asked if he could appeal to some other authority. When told that the President was the highest authority, he had kept quiet,” said the jail official.