Ajmal Kasab, the gunman in the Mumbai terror attacks who was photographed stalking CST station with a machine gun and was later caught alive, is appearing in court and has already retracted his confession, stating that it was "coerced". He was photographed and then caught, wasn't he? What is there to confess? Well, one assumes, all the details about the planners and the journey from Karachi and the local accomplices (two of whom are also being tried). This "confession" was sent to Pakistan; other evidence that included identical DNA reports for two different individuals, Kasab and Abu Ismail, which according to Chidambaram was a "minor clerical error".
If by "coercion" Kasab means torture, can we believe his confession? Plenty of evidence says that we cannot (links 1, 2). In fact, eliciting false confessions is often the aim of torture, by totalitarian regimes the world over. I am not sure what "coercion" refers to in Kasab's case, but I really, really hope that it was not torture: if it was, all evidence obtained from him is useless. (And my hopes are not high: we know how Indian police treat common criminals and suspects.) Also, making a mess of this trial -- the only recent case of a terrorist being caught alive, anywhere in the world -- would be a disgrace to our police and investigatory system.
Elsewhere in the world, Barack Obama authorised the release of four memos detailing "justifications" for torture under the Bush administration. The memos make it clear that the authors knew they were endorsing the very methods that they routinely condemn when practised by foreign governments. Several responses are out on the internet; Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan are worth reading. Obama has said he is not in favour of prosecuting the CIA operatives who tortured (though that doesn't close the door on independent prosecutors); however, he did not say anything -- one way or the other -- on those who wrote the memos or those in the administration who authorised the torture. Recently, the Red Cross released its own report on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Both the report and the memos make gruesome reading. Both have spurred international discussion. I wonder if anyone in power in India is talking about the use of torture by our agencies. The media routinely turns up individual cases, but nobody seems to be talking about the issue as a matter of policy.