New Delhi: Ten years gone, the nation still shivers with the haunting of one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in the country’s history. 166 people were killed and over 300 injured as 10 heavily-armed terrorists from Pakistan created mayhem in Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Subodh Kumar Jaiswal says ten years on, the city is now safe and police are competent to handle any terror threat.
“We have come a long way in the last 10 years,” Jaiswal told PTI in an interview on the eve of the terror attack’s 10th anniversary.
“I can assure Mumbaikars that the city is safe and police are capable of protecting you from any eventuality,” he said.
“We have a strong and trained police force having latest equipment, weapons, strategy tactics and are always ready to deal with all the challenges,” he said.
He said that a “strong vigil” is being maintained by the coastal police to secure the coastline.
Two hovercrafts are being procured to enable security personnel to reach inaccessible areas along the coastline, he said. This will complement the existing fleet of speed boats and patrolling vessels, he said.
Deven Bharti, Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) said, “We are increasing our coastal strength by procuring new boats and intermediate support vessels. We have sent proposals for the same to government”.
“In the aftermath of the 26/11 attack, Mumbai police procured speed boats and amphibious boats for coastal patrolling and also set up marine police stations,” he said.
Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said there has been a paradigm shift in coastal security as vulnerabilities and risks were fixed and a layered maritime surveillance and security architecture was put in place, making the coastline almost impregnable.
“The country is now better prepared and better organised,” Admiral Lanba said when asked about possibility of terrorists taking the sea route again to mount a similar attack on India.
On the eve of the terror attack’s 10th anniversary, several survivors and kin of victims recalled the chilling details of that fateful day.
Ex-BSP Recalls Horror of Fateful Night
Former BSP MP Lalmani Prasad, who was in the Taj Hotel for an official meeting on that day, can still recall each detail — the bone-chilling scenes of visitors running for cover to protect themselves from the bullets of terrorists, and the deafening sound of gunshots jolting him.
The former BSP legislator says three of his acquaintances who had come to meet him in the hotel were among 166 people who lost their lives in the attack.
“I am lucky that I survived to see this day,” he told PTI.
Prasad says he was on the second floor of the hotel and had witnessed the gunfight between security forces and terrorists from close quarters.
“I was trapped there for nearly 48 hours — from November 26 to November 28 afternoon. I was rescued by NSG commandos. By that time, news had reached my home in Uttar Pradesh, and I my phone won’t stop ringing,” the 64-year-old Prasad said.
The politician says he had got a new lease of life that day, and the horror of 26/11 terror attack haunt him still.
Father Remembers Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan
Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan lost his life while battling the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists during the 26/11 attack. His father Unnikrishnan said he always had a winning attitude and liked Sachin Tendulkar for the same reason.
The last message of the braveheart to his personnel while carrying out the operation was, “Don’t come up, I will handle them.”
These words have left a deep impression on his troop commandos.
“Sandeep used to say he did not want to see a mother weeping over his colleague’s body and preferred his mother to bear the loss,” said Unnikrishnan, as he recollected the sterling qualities of his braveheart son.
Major Unnikrishnan was leading a team of NSG commandos to flush out terrorists from the Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai when he was fatally wounded. He was conferred the Ashok Chakra, the country’s highest peace time gallantry award, on 26 January 2009.
Kasab Was ‘Grinning And Abusing’ While Firing Indiscriminately: Railway Announcer
The railway announcer, whose presence of mind save the lives of hundreds of commuters at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus that fateful night, said he is unable to forget the terror attack and the “barbaric” way in which Ajmal Kasab went about slaying people.
“I remember the evil grin on Kasab’s face. Armed with an assault rifle, he was walking towards the suburban platform,” he said.
Zende, 47, vividly recalls Kasab “grinning and abusing people” while spraying bullets from his assault rifle.
“While firing indiscriminately, Kasab also waved his hand at us, signalling that we (railway staff) come out of the control room,” Zende said.
The terrorist was mercilessly firing at people who were running to save their lives, he said. “When Kasab found nobody to kill at the platform, he also fired at a dog,” he added.
Of the 166 killed in the 26/11 attack, 52 died at the railway station. As many as 108 were injured in the firing at the station.
While nine of the ten terrorists were neutralised by the security forces, Kasab was arrested and later hanged on November 21, 2012 in Pune’s Yerwada Jail after being awarded capital punishment.
10 Years After 26/11, Time to Move on: Leopold Cafe Owner
The popular restaurant and bar on Colaba Causeway in south Mumbai was one of the first sites to be targeted during the 26/11 terror attacks in 2008.
Ten years later, owners of the iconic Leopold Cafe, a symbol of the city’s resilience and cosmopolitan ways, feel it is time to move on from the grim reminders of the attacks.
The proprietors and many patrons feel the restaurant was a star attraction in its own right, much before it earned the attention from the book Shantaram, and the 26/11 attacks which left eight persons including two staff members dead.
Farhang and his brother Farzad are co-owners of the restaurant. “We were up and running on December 1 2008, just four days after the attack. There is nothing more to it. There is no point of these anniversaries or anything and that is why I have decided it is enough. I will not say one more thing on 26/11 anymore,” he told PTI.
Cops Were Afraid, Let Kasab Flee From Station: Photojournalist
The photojournalist who captured the chilling image of 26/11 Mumbai attack terrorist Ajmal Kasab at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, says police let Kasab and his accomplice flee from the railway station.
On November 26, 2008, Sebastian D’Souza ran out from his office next to the train station armed with nothing more than his Nikon camera and lenses, after hearing the gunfire.
The photo and testimony of ‘Saby’, as he is known in media circles, was to play a crucial role in the 26/11 trial, which led to Kasab’s hanging in 2012.
“Had policemen posted near the railway station killed Kasab and the other terrorist inside the station, so many lives could have been saved,” Saby told PTI.
“There were two police battalions present near the station, but did nothing,” said Saby, who retired in 2012 and settled in Goa.
Saby, 67, won the World Press Photo award for the close-up photograph of Kasab, holding an AK-47.