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When night fell, Khan, the leader of the group and Qasab's partner, placed a call to his handler in Pakistan, the dossier from India states. Khan was directed to kill Solanki. Qasab and the rest of the group abandoned the Kuber and boarded an inflatable dinghy with an outboard motor. It took them only an hour to reach shore, and the murdered captain's body was discovered much later, after the attacks had begun.
Killing the Commuters
When Qasab landed, he found himself in a place not so very different from his home village of Faridkot. The jetty at Budhwar Park, where the dinghy pulled in, is the domain of fishermen who struggle to make a living. A few challenged Qasab and his partners when they landed, but the rest were busy watching a cricket match. The strangers strode past them to the main road, and Qasab and Khan hailed a taxi, reaching VT, Mumbai's main railway station, at about 9:20 p.m. (See more about terrorism.)
Qasab does not explain why VT was chosen as his first target, but it looks like the kind of grand, imposing building that represents the power and vitality of Mumbai. More than 3.5 million people pass through the station every day. But the 58 people who were killed in the attack on VT, which injured an additional 104, were a world away from the wealthy élite at the Taj and Oberoi hotels or the foreign visitors killed at the Leopold Café and the Nariman House Jewish center. They were office clerks commuting back to the suburbs and migrant laborers waiting for trains to their villages. Those who died included Chandulal Thandel, a bookseller closing his stall in the station for the night, and a police inspector, Shashank Shinde, who came by almost every day to buy a magazine from him.
Qasab seems to have thought little about who his victims would be; there was no singling out of foreigners as at the Taj and Oberoi. "We went inside the railway station threatening the commuters and randomly firing at them," he says in his statement. Qasab and Khan left after less than an hour, using the footbridge made famous by Slumdog Millionaire the perch from which, in the film, Jamal looks for Latika. Qasab's only instructions were to find a building with a rooftop where they could take hostages and attract the media. They headed west out of the station, and nearby, Qasab spotted their next target, a pink seven-story building.
Dr. Sushil Sonawane was on duty on the second floor that night at Cama and Albless Hospital, and he recalls hearing the first shots at about 10:15. The building Qasab and Khan had chosen was an unlikely source of hostages a public hospital for poor women and children, funded by a wealthy Mumbai family. The second floor was the neonatal intensive-care unit, and one of the eight people killed at the hospital was a relative visiting the maternity ward. Sonawane said he and the other doctors locked the doors of the unit and tried to keep everyone quiet as the grenades went off, causing the entire building to vibrate. "We put the babies on the breasts of the mothers to stop the crying," he said. Five police officers were killed in an intense exchange of fire, along with two ward clerks.
Having failed to find any hostages, Qasab and Khan left the same way they had come and met a police vehicle carrying three top officials, including the chief of the state's antiterrorism squad. "One police officer got down from the said vehicle and started firing at us," Qasab says in his statement. "One bullet hit my hand and my AK-47 dropped down. I bent to pick it up when the second bullet hit me on the same hand." But his partner managed to shoot and kill all three of the senior officers. Khan pulled out the bodies and drove away.
By now, the other gunmen had begun the siege of Mumbai, terrorizing the occupants of the Taj, the Oberoi and Nariman House. Qasab and Khan drove almost aimlessly through the streets. They ditched the police car, which had a flat tire, and took a white Skoda, ejecting three women without hurting them. Veering toward the sea, they bypassed the Oberoi on Marine Drive before being stopped by a barricade the police had set up ahead of them at the Girgaon Chaupati intersection.
Interviews with three of the police officers who were there reveal the last moments of Qasab's mission. Khan tried to make a U-turn but bumped into a concrete median. The car stopped, and the officers ran toward it. Khan started shooting from the driver's seat and was killed by police fire. Qasab first put up his hands as if to surrender, but when police officers opened the car door, he leaped out and dropped with his back to the ground, guns blazing. An unarmed assistant subinspector, Tukaram Ombale, grabbed the barrel of Qasab's AK-47 and was killed. Police then beat Qasab with their lathi sticks until he was unconscious. One officer remembers that Qasab looked different from Khan, the driver of the car. "The driver looked like an angry man," the police officer said. "The other one looks normal."
Back to the Village
Being beaten senseless by the police was not the exit Qasab had trained for. Instead of standing out from the thousands of other young men from villages like Faridkot, he was treated like a common criminal. The standoff between India and Pakistan, meanwhile, has escalated beyond him. The Indian government's dossier of evidence builds on Qasab's statement with details of the GPS coordinates and satellite-phone data retrieved from the scene of the attacks. But it does so not to strengthen the Mumbai Crime Branch's case against Qasab but to prove to the world that it was Pakistan and LeT that created him. "The evidence gathered so far unmistakably points to the territory of Pakistan as a source of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai," the dossier concludes. The ordinary things that Qasab and the others left behind on the boat a matchbox, detergent powder, Touchme shaving cream and a bottle of Mountain Dew are all included as exhibits, their MADE IN PAKISTAN labels presented as damning evidence.
So, too, is Qasab's story. He may have been no more than a small player. But in the places he came from and passed through and the sights, sounds and messages that he experienced, he is part of a much bigger tale, a violent drama that has rumbled over much of the subcontinent. The role has done him no good. Qasab may have escaped Faridkot and Rawalpindi. But he's no closer to the other side of the fence than when he started.
With reporting by S. Hussain Zaidi and Shashikant Sawant / Mumbai and Ershad Mahmud / Lahore