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The Punjabi language can melt even a hardcore terrorist


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How Ajmal was broken

Baljeet Parmar

Thursday, December 25, 2008 04:05 IST

MUMBAI: Well trained and heavily brainwashed, Mohammed Ajmal Amir aka Kasab, the lone terrorist to be captured alive by the Mumbai Police after the November 26 attacks, proved to be a hard nut to crack in his initial days in the custody of the crime branch.

All Lashkar terrorists are trained to avoid spilling the beans during interrogation. They are put through extreme physical torture and mental exercises to help them maintain their resolve.

True to his training, in the initial days of captivity, Ajmal remained arrogant and even abused and shouted at his interrogators in an effort to provoke them to harm him physically. This way he would have had to be moved to hospital and extracted mileage from it.

But his captors were too experienced to fall for this tactic, and Ajmal was apparently ill prepared for the shift in interrogation tactics employed by the crime branch.

In the initial days, ace crime branch officers studied his behaviour minutely and prepared notes on his strong and weak character traits. Based on their observations, different officers were sent separately to talk to Ajmal. While one tried to bully him, another promised that no harm would come to him.

But the technique went beyond the good-cop-bad-cop routine that is now standard operating procedure in criminal investigations. A key insight the early interrogators obtained was that Ajmal, like many Punjabis, was emotional.

That set the stage for joint commissioner of police (crime) Rakesh Maria to step in. A Punjabi himself, Maria began conversing with Ajmal in Punjabi.

Reliable sources revealed that once the ‘Punjabi chord’ was struck between the two, Maria spent hours with the terrorist and extracted much information from him. “In a couple of days, he started singing like a canary and even started asking for favours, like wishing to talk to his mother,†said a police source.

The request came as a big relief to the police. It was a signal that they had broken through Ajmal’s mental defences and that he would be willing to cooperate.

“Till the time a captive remains adamant, it becomes difficult to break him,†the source said. “Once he starts asking for favours, it shows that he has lost resistance. It is an age-old interrogation dictum.â€

The police told Ajmal that though they could not give him a telephone to talk to his mother, but he was free to write a letter - which he did. It was a double-edged weapon. Without any coercion, the police procured a sample of Ajmal’s handwriting while discovering a weakness - his affection for his mother. That was enough to dismantle whatever little resistance Ajmal had retained till then.

The Punjabi chord further helped to convince Ajmal to write a letter to the Pakistani high commissioner asking for legal aid as he was a Pakistani national. “Maria saheb’s Punjabi really helped us in a big way,†the source said. “Most times the religious and linguistic barriers become stumbling blocks during investigation of sensitive cases. Ajmal felt at ease talking in his mother tongue.â€

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