Mumbai, Nov. 21: A calm, polite but unrepentant man who felt lonely in his solitary cell and longed for newspapers, music, the company of his peers and above all his mother in Pakistan.
That is how the lawyers who represented Ajmal Kasab at various stages of his trial and appeal remember their high-profile client.
At Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail, the only people Kasab could interact with were his lawyers and the guards outside his cell.
“He had no access to TV, radio or newspapers. He would complain about the solitary confinement and say he didn’t want to live alone,” said lawyer Farhana Shah, picked with colleague Amin Solkar to represent Kasab in Bombay High Court.
“He was calm and quiet and never misbehaved with us. He never raised his voice and kept his gaze low. But he kept saying his mother was waiting for him and he wanted to meet her.”
Solkar, too, said Kasab was generally calm and seemed more worried about being disowned by his family.
“He wanted to read newspapers to find out what was happening around the world. He once asked us for a book of lyrics, and would often express a desire to socialise with the other accused in the jail,” he said.
One demand Kasab kept making for a long time was for a Pakistani lawyer to defend him, said S.G. Abbas Kazmi, the first lawyer to represent Kasab during the trial in 2009 before the court removed him for “non-cooperation”.
“Kasab was like any other ordinary young man but very intelligent. He was keen to get a fair trial and a Pakistani defence lawyer,” Kazmi said.
“He was disappointed when there was no representation from his country, and this led him to confess in the middle of the trial.”
Shah said Kasab always maintained he was innocent. K.P. Pawar, who succeeded Kazmi as Kasab’s lawyer and argued against the death sentence, found him unrepentant.
“When I saw him the first time during the trial, I realised he was very handsome, just like a (film) hero. But I also found that he was not very repentant. He seemed keener on closing the chapter.”
Kazmi had a grouse: “I was never given the opportunity to speak with him in complete privacy. We would always be surrounded by police, court staff and the media. So, he never opened his heart during our interactions.”
Shah, who met Kasab with Solkar about “5-6 times” during the appeal stage, too said that the constant presence of the police seemed to deter their client from “speaking much even if he wanted to”. Still, it seems he sometimes did open up a bit.
Solkar recalled an instance when their conversation had veered towards songs and Kasab told him he could sing.
“He sang a Mukesh song and a Rafi song. I don’t recall the Rafi song but the Mukesh song went: ‘Hum chhod chale is mehfil ko, yaad aaye to kabhi mat rona (It’s time for me to leave, don’t shed tears for me)’.”
Kazmi said he was “not surprised by the hanging but surprised by the haste”.
He added: “I shall remember him as a young man and the trial as a significant one in the legal history of this country as well as for me personally.”