At 9.30 am on 12 February 2016, I found myself observing David Headley—the Pakistani-American who scouted targets for the 26/11 terror attacks in 2008 that had been planned by the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). I could see Headley on a screen in a specially convened Mumbai courtroom. Since he was deposing via video camera from an undisclosed location in the United States, I could not know what time it was for him. Although he was one of the prime accused in the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, Headley was granted a pardon by a Mumbai special court for turning approver in December 2015. The evidence he provided as a co-conspirator was considered to be of "immense importance and assistance to the prosecution" by the court.
Mumbai’s special court, which, since Monday, has been opening at 7 am—earlier than usual—to conduct the hearing, had taken a 25-minute break during the deposition. The Americans on the other side of the camera, including Headley and three officials, were at ease and relaxed. The audio on both sides had been switched off and the courtroom had all but emptied, but for a few who stayed and watched the screen as if it were playing a silent film.
Headley was dressed in the same grey V-neck sweater he had worn the previous day. He sat behind an oval table that held a smattering of coffee cups and a bunch of papers. Headley was narrating some sort of story to the others, his long slender fingers eagerly describing motions in the air. He was by a good measure, the most talkative man in the room. At one point, he held his face in his left palm and appeared to chuckle. The hint of a paunch was discernible through the sweater, and his hairline was visibly receding. In this anodyne setting, he barely resembled a terror plotter. But what does a terrorist look like?