Embalmed Mumbai terrorists remain government headache

April 12th, 2009 - 3:35 pm ICT by IANS  

By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, April 12 (IANS) The bodies of nine terrorists who were killed during the terror assault in Mumbai last November are still in the J.J. Hospital morgue here. Now, the authorities are hoping they will be told what to do with the bodies, once the trial of the sole surviving militant Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab begins Wednesday.

Highly placed sources told IANS that Mumbai Police would file an application before Special Judge M.L. Tahiliyani, who is conducting the trial, seeking directions on what to do with the embalmed bodies that have been lying for over four months.

“Special Public Prosecutor Ujwal Nikam will move the application. We cannot have the bodies lying there indefinitely even though Muslim organisations refuse to give them a burial,” said a top government functionary, requesting anonymity.

The 10 gunmen killed over 170 people in a series of coordinated attacks that began Nov 26 last year. Kasab was the only one captured alive after the terrorist strikes that targeted two luxury hotels, the city’s main train station, a hospital and a Jewish centre.

The Muslim Council flatly refused to allow the burial of the bodies of the nine slain terrorists in the Marine Lines Bada Qabrastan (cemetery). The council said it also sent a message to all cemeteries in India that none of the bodies should be buried on Indian soil.

The influential Muslim Jama Masjid Trust, which runs the 7.5-acre Bada Qabrastan graveyard, said it would not bury the gunmen because they were not true followers of Islam.

Since then both the Maharashtra government and police have been caught in a bind over what to do with the bodies.

“We had informed the Pakistan government about the bodies. However, there has been no response from them so far,” Nikam told IANS.

Some outfits had even suggested soon after the attack that the terrorists’ bodies be dumped at the premises of the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi or thrown into the Arabian Sea.

“In view of the strong sentiments, police will have to be careful about how to deal with the issue,” said a state government official.

Shortly after the attackers were gunned down, their bodies were brought to the hospital where a team of doctors performed autopsies and filed post-mortem reports with police.

Thereafter, the bodies were embalmed and shifted to a separate room in the morgue.

Unlike the rest of the morgue, this particular room is sealed with round-the-clock security. “The room is out of bounds for all, barring those who have the relevant clearances from police headquarters,” said a senior police officer.

“So far, apart from the investigators from Mumbai Police, state and central agencies, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) representatives were the only ones permitted to view the bodies.”

The temperature has been kept at four degrees Celsius to prevent any decomposition.

According to hospital staff, the bodies are “in perfect condition, recognisable and identifiable.”

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at q.najmi@ians.in)

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