Kept an SMS Ready That Kasab Has Been Executed, Says Ex-IG Prisons

Meeran Borwankar said keeping the execution a secret was challenging because so many agencies were involved.

Updated
India
4 min read

Camera person: Shiv Kumar Maurya

Video Editor: Vivek Gupta/ Mohd Ibrahim

(This story was first published on 21 November 2017 and has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark the day Ajmal Kasab was hanged on in 2012.)

“We were trying to name the mission [Ajmal Kasab’s execution]. Then we thought we will give a very neutral name to the project, Project X.”
Meeran Chadha Borwankar, Former Maharashtra Inspector General (Prison)

In an exclusive interview to The Quint, the former Maharashtra Inspector General (Prison), Meeran Chadha Borwankar, recollects the hanging of 26/11 terrorist, Ajmal Kasab. Apart from supervising the entire process of Kasab’s hanging, she said secrecy was the priority for their ‘Project X’.

The swift and secret hanging of Kasab happened on 21 November 2012 at 7:30 am in Yerwada jail in Pune after a four-year-long trial. He was buried in the same jail on the same day at 9:30 am.

The home minister of Maharashtra, RR Patil, broke the news to media after one hour of his hanging.

Meeran Chadha Borwankar.
Meeran Chadha Borwankar.

Why was Kasab’s hanging kept a secret?

I used to ask Mr RR Patil, the then Maharashtra home minister, ‘So what if people come to know about it?’ He had his own apprehension that some international organisation in some other country, not so well-disposed towards India, could interfere. He was very clear, to the extent that he asked me if I could take my mobile into the prison. I said ‘It is not permitted but in view that it’s a secret mission, I will do that, why?’ He said, ‘You make an SMS that Project X was successfully executed, and you keep that draft ready. And just press send after the execution.’ He didn’t want that time to be wasted.

So did you keep the draft ready and pressed the send button after execution?

Yeah, I did that.

Did you get any response from him?

I don’t recollect whether I got a response from him. I was too stressed out.

Was Informed of Hanging Date 15 days in Advance, Says IG

It was the first time that Borwankar had overseen an execution. She read the prison manual to ensure that the hanging process is followed as per the law. She had only 15 days to complete the mission.

Borwankar said she had carried out many secret missions but this one was tough because so many agencies were involved like home ministry, judicial officials, medical officers etc apart from police staff. Hence, there was high risk of mission being leaked to media.

Kept an SMS Ready That Kasab Has Been Executed, Says Ex-IG Prisons
When I went through the prison manual, I realised that I have to inform a Magistrate, we have to have a doctor, religious ceremonies and another fact that I was not aware of till then was that the execution is a highly sensitive operation which you have to practise, so a sand model of the person to be executed is prepared and then mock exercises are carried out. For that, the prison staff gets involved, so having so many agencies involved and keeping it a secret was a big challenge.
Meeran Chadha Borwankar, Former Maharashtra Inspector General (Prison)

To Keep Secrecy, Borwankar Took Unorthodox Measures

Very few people were informed about the execution. Borwankar reached the Yerwada jail at around 9 pm on 20 November and stayed in the jail till the hanging was over.

I decided not to take my official vehicle because the chief of prison coming to prison so late at night would raise alarm among the staff. I sat behind my staff on his motorbike and I took my laptop and dongle. Once I reached, I told my DIG and Superintendent of Yerwada prison not to come to prison in their official vehicles.
Meeran Chadha Borwankar, Former Maharashtra Inspector General (Prison)

To carry out mock drills and to inspect Yerwada jail, Borwankar visited the jail on a pretext.

I visited the prison twice under the pretext of initiating some new bakery project, but I was going to inspect where the execution was to take place. Somebody can be irresponsible and leak it, so that was creating a lot of tension. 
Meeran Chadha Borwankar, Former Maharashtra Inspector General (Prison)

India Should Adopt Modern Technique of Execution, Says Borwankar

The 26/11 terror attacks on the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.  
The 26/11 terror attacks on the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.  
(Photo: PTI)

As per the prison manual, the prison staff have to take the height, weight and measurements of the person to be hanged and make sand bag replicas of the prisoner. Then the staff have to carry out mock drills to ensure that the entire process of execution is painless.

I felt I would be relieved, which I was not. I also very strongly felt that the process of hanging should be replaced with some modern technique. I felt stressed for the next 2-3 days. 
Meeran Chadha Borwankar, Former Maharashtra Inspector General (Prison)

Borwankar also recommended that counselling for those involved in overseeing executions be provided.

“I never discussed with the staff but I definitely feel that we needed counselling, I used to tell myself that I was doing my duty, the government ensured that proper procedure was followed. The law was followed, and that so many innocents had lost their lives [in the terror attack]. I continuously talked about it to myself and I definitely feel staff involved in such processes need psychological help, pre- and post-execution.”   
Meeran Chadha Borwankar, Former Maharashtra Inspector General (Prison)
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