10 weeks of frantic activity, tracking of every file transfer

Sayli Udas Mankikar & Dharmendra Jore

Mumbai, Nov. 22 -- Having Operation X exposed was not the only hurdle. Home department officials say they had listed three major issues to watch out for, issues that could have busted Operation X. The first was ensuring that foreign intelligence agencies did not get wind of the planned execution and stage a reaction. They also had to fast-track the legal paperwork. And finally, they had to follow the prison manual carefully but quickly.

Way back in September, the court had named November 21 as the execution date and the team behind Operation X knew they had to move fast if they were to make it on time.

Missing the date would have meant applying for another one from the court and that would have blown their cover, alerting the media and the public to the execution date.

In the run-up to Wednesday's execution, every file was tracked at every point to ensure that no leaks occurred. This was a serious challenge, given that everyone from peons to desk officers was involved in passing on files.

As a matter of procedure, the Indian government also had to inform the Pakistani embassy of an impending execution, despite the fact that that country still maintained that Kasab was not a citizen.

In the end, the plan was helped along by the fact that Kasab expressed no wish to frame a will or inform his relatives.

Both requests would have had to be respected, as per prison manual rules, and could have delayed the process of planning the execution and further raised the risk of exposure.

It was vital that total secrecy be maintained in the matter of Kasab's execution, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told HT on Wednesday. "The matter was of international importance and we needed no compromise whatsoever in the issue."

The security and jail personnel involved lived up to the highest expectations, the CM added, despite the additional stress of heightened security following the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Saturday.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.