Operation X: The inside story

Sayli Udas Mankikar

Mumbai, Nov. 22 -- For nearly a fortnight, the Maharashtra government quietly laid the groundwork for the execution of the sole surviving gunman of the 26/11 siege. The secrecy was absolute. Only about 17 people - ministers, bureaucrats and police officials - knew of Operation Execution, or Operation X, as it came to be known.

All those involved in transporting Kasab from Mumbai's Arthur Road jail to Pune's Yerawada prison, for eventual execution, were told only the details that they needed to know.

The pieces came together swiftly, though. And on Wednesday, a surprised nation awoke to the news that the 25-year-old gunman was dead.

The entire operation - from the transportation to the hanging - has been videographed, sources in the home department said.

The blueprint of Operation X was drawn up in a closed-door meeting in Pune on November 12, four days after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Kasab's mercy petition, a senior home official told HT.

At this meeting were state home minister RR Patil, additional chief secretary (home) Amitabh Rajan, principal secretary (prisons) Medha Gadgil, Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh and a few other police officials.

Every aspect of the operation - from paperwork to burial - was worked out.

The home department had already kicked off the legal process by then, which involved getting signatures from various senior officials, including chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and Governor K Sankaranarayan.

All the paperwork was then conveyed to the special sessions court handling Kasab's case, which gave the final go-ahead.

Following prison norms, Kasab was then asked about his will and his signature taken on his final statements, which were then forwarded to the union home ministry, then the union ministry for external affairs.

The MEA contacted the Pakistan high commission, which informed the central government that it had received the communication. This was communicated to Maharashtra government only on Tuesday.

A hangman and a maulvi or Muslim priest had already been quietly selected. Neither was told whom they would be dealing with.

On Monday, Kasab was escorted out of Arthur Road jail and driven to Pune. As they had decided, his body was buried within the jail premises.

The process, however, was kicked off almost 10 weeks earlier, home minister Patil told HT.

"Maintaining secrecy was a gigantic task, given that so many files were moving and so many permissions being sought and given," said Patil. "I am glad it all went according to plan. The police and government officials deserve hearty praise."

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.