The TOI lensman who nailed Ajmal Kasab’s fate

22 November 2012

Sebastian D’Souza, the photo editor of Mumbai Mirror, with the photograph that he took of Ajmal Kasab inside Victoria Terminus on the night of 26 November 2008

Sebastian D’Douza, then photo editor of Mumbai Mirror, took 19 photographs on the night of 26 November 2008, including the iconic one of Ajmal Kasab striding across the corridors of Bombay’s Victoria Terminus station, spraying bullets.

Now retired, “Saby”, as the lensman is known to friends and colleagues, testified before the trial judge, M.L. Tahiliyani, who called his testimony “blemishless”.

In August this year, the Supreme Court noted:

“While dealing with the VT carnage, we must take note of two witnesses (Saby and Shriram Vernekar). Their evidence is extraordinary in that they not only witnessed the incident but also made a visual record of the event by taking pictures of the two killers in action and their victims… Both the witnesses, caring little for their own safety and displaying exemplary professionalism, followed the killers,” said the SC.

After Kasab was hanged yesterday, The Times of India quotes Sebastian D’Souza as saying:

“While I can’t be happy over anybody’s death, Kasab’s hanging does put an end to this sordid chapter and may help the victims get some closure.”

***

Thomas Fuller profiled D’Souza for the International Herald Tribune:

When the gunfire started, Sebastian D’Souza was well placed to respond. From his office directly across the street, D’Souza, the photo editor of Mumbai Mirror, grabbed his Nikon and two lenses and headed out into the blood-soaked night.

Peering from behind pillars and running in and out of empty train cars, he emerged with the singular iconic image of the attacks: a clear shot of one of the gunmen.

“I was shaking, but I kept shooting,” D’Souza said as he scrolled through his pictures of the attacks in a recent interview at his office.

D’Souza’s photo of Muhammad Ajmal Kasab confidently striding through Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus carrying an assault rife with one hand, finger extended toward the trigger, has been printed and reprinted in newspapers here and flashed daily on television screens.

Sebastian D’Souza recounted the story in The Times of India:

“In the distance we saw two dark figures carrying rucksacks but weren’t sure who they were.”

Saby asked the constable to fire. One of the two figures swung at the sound and fired back. Looking over the barrel of a government-issue rifle Saby took his first shot of the night. Seconds later, he saw the owner of the book stall at the platform slump down, writhing in pain.

This was Saby’s second shot before he saw Shashank Shinde’s lifeless body. “It was the first realisation I had that I was in a far more serious situation than anything I’d covered before.” He watched the gunmen pump two more bullets into the book stall owner to make sure he was dead.

He also saw, from his hiding place, an old woman in an orange navwari sari walk past, oblivious as a sleepwalker; the gunmen looking at her and then away for other targets.

“I was terrified for her but they just let her walk by. I wonder why.”

By now he was hiding in one of the empty train compartments where he fitted the telephoto lens onto his Nikon D-200, and then crouching out barely a few inches he shot a couple of frames of one of the terrorists. He was no more than a boy, hair cut like Shah Rukh Khan in his Baazigar days, dressed in neatly ironed gray cargos, black tee-shirt, and carrying a bag that seemed heavier than his weight.

In the other hand he carried a Kalashnikov which, Saby saw clearly through his lens now, was raised in his direction.

Link via M.V.J. Kar

Also read: ‘I wish I had a gun rather than a camera’

External reading: Supreme Court praises TOI photographers

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3 Responses to “The TOI lensman who nailed Ajmal Kasab’s fate”

  1. Sapna Says:

    Sebastian D’Souza and Shriram Vernekar, both truly deserved the praise by The SC.

  2. Kerala Varma kelappan Says:

    simply blood curdling and ‘Wheeler & co’ bookstall in the V.T.concourse used to be one bookstall I surrounded in the sixties for latest paperbacks and copies of the ‘Encounter’ magazine. One always found a crowd squatting mostly villagers waiting for the connecting train.Recall receiving The first kashi yathra group of Ikkammas in 1964 who got down early morning in VT and proceeded to Mahalakshmi for a dip before they could slake the thirst after two nights after leaving Coimbatore.

    kelappan (Rajendranivas)


  3. Ajmal Kasab was an evil incarnation. He was a Mephistopheles. Though they deserve to be banished, keeping him in a dungeon, death cell with no fan, freedom; giving food not to his taste and keeping him live without life – undergoing torture daily would have been a better punishment for his heinous crime!


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