New Delhi/Mumbai, Nov 21: For once, the government, usually found dithering in crucial decision-making over the past years, was seen to have acted swiftly, decisively and with a certain amount of single-mindedness that left even its usual critics impressed.
No media got any wind of it and the first news broke out only hours after Ajmal Kasab was hanged in Yerawada Jail in Pune at 7.30 a.m.
Even then the news was one of disbelief. At a breakfast interaction Wednesday with senior mediapersons at Hyderabad House, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid confirmed the news but sought to downplay the government's alacrity in acting on it.
He said the decisions had a sense of urgency as there was always the danger of someone going to the Supreme Court in appeal, citing previous judicial pronouncements on death penalty.
According to well placed sources, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was keen that the "due process of law" was followed and quickly.
Also, as other sources averred, parliament was convening Thursday for the month-long winter session and the fourth anniversary of Nov 26 attack was later in the week, with the usual questions coming up over the fate of Kasab and why he was not being hanged.
Kasab was the only surviving terrorist of the 10 who laid a siege to Mumbai on the night of 26/11 in what was the worst terror attack on India that killed 166 people and injured over 300.
According to C. Uday Bhaskar, strategic analyst and Distinguished Fellow of Society for Policy Studies (SPS), the government took a prudent and decisive decision.
"This is a prudent decision that was done one with a certain degree of decisiveness and determination which is uncharacteristic of how the UPA government has dealt with issues earlier. This shows prudence and determination," Bhaskar told IANS.
"This will also send a clear signal that the rule of the law exists and India took the decision after showing patience to take the issue to its logical conclusion," he added.
The government's decisiveness is also seen in the manner it moved after the Supreme Court on Aug 29 confirmed death sentence to the 25-year-old Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist.
After Kasab filed a mercy petition Sep 16, it was rejected both by the Maharashtra government on Oct 16 and by the home ministry Oct 23. President Pranab Mukherjee rejected the plea Nov 5.
The signal was clear.
Once Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde signed the file from the president's office on Nov 7 and sent it to the Maharashtra government the next day, the Maharashtra Police team took charge.
Only a handful knew that Kasab would hang on Nov 21 morning.
These included Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh, earlier the Pune police chief, and Meeran Borwankar, who heads the Yerawada Jail, and those at the helm in the state intelligence department and Mumbai CID.
Yerawada is one of the two jails in Maharashtra -- the other being Nagpur Central Jail -- where hanging facilities are available.
In a top secret operation called operation X, Kasab was shifted to Pune, 48 hours before the hanging. Kasab was finally hanged early Wednesday.
But as security officials in Maharashtra were secretly preparing for hanging Kasab, who was informed about the impending hanging on Nov 12, India asked Pakistan to postpone Interior Minister Rahman Malik's proposed visit Nov 22-23.
Shinde conveyed to Pakistan that the dates were not suitable to India.
G. Parthasarathy, former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, gave a thumbs up to the government for handling the matter in "secrecy" and gave credit to the president for taking an early decision.
"It was very well handled (by the government). The decision to hang him came soon after the verdict of Supreme Court," Parthasarathy told IANS.
Ajai Sahni, executive director, Institute for Conflict Management, said the secrecy aspect was "managed quite well" by the government.
It showed, he said, that if the government wanted to maintain secrecy on a decision, it could do it.
"This certainly reflects higher determination both on the parts of judiciary and the state," Sahni said.
Bhaskar feels India should now take the next step - deal diplomatically with Pakistan as Kasab was just a "foot soldier" and ensure that the government tighten legislation so that future terrorists like Kasab are convicted and hanged at the earliest.