A GLIMPSE INTO THE UNLEASHED TREPIDATION
November 26, 2020 marks the 12th anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The terror attacks on major landmarks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 that eventually turned into a three-day siege were a wake-up call for India to secure its cities from attacks that could come from the unlikeliest of places. When 10 heavily-armed terrorists sailed towards the Mumbai coastline from Pakistan under the cover of darkness, people in the city were going about their lives, unwary of the tragedy that lay ahead. By the time commandos of the National Security Guards (NSG) killed the last terrorists who had been holed up in south Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace hotel, over 160 people were killed and hundreds were left injured, many with wounds that would take a lifetime to heal.
WHAT WAS THE 26/11 ATTACK?
The 2008 Mumbai attacks (also referred to as 26/11) were a series of terrorist attacks that took place in November 2008, when 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an extremist Islamist organisation based in Pakistan, carried out 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai. The dreadful night of 26/11 has been etched in the memories of Mumbaikars. The attacks, which drew widespread global condemnation, began on Wednesday 26 November and lasted until Saturday 29 November 2008. At least 174 people died, including 9 attackers, and more than 300 were wounded.
A BRIEF TIMELINE OF THE HORROR
November 23, 2008
The 10 heavily armed terrorists leave Karachi, the port city in Pakistan, by boat. As they were nearing the Indian coastline, they hijack a fishing dinghy and kill four of the five-men crew. The terrorists then force the last boatman to take them to the Mumbai coast.
November 26, 2008
The terrorists kill the boatman as their vessel reaches some 7 km from the Mumbai coastline.
The terrorists switch to three inflatable speedboats and leave the fishing boat. Six of them sail quietly to a settlement of fishermen at Macchimar Nagar in Mumbai’s Cuffe Parade neighbourhood. They disembark and break into smaller groups. The rest keep sailing.
The remaining terrorists emerge at Badhwar Park, split up and head two different ways.
The first group of terrorists enter Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus ‘CST’ railway station and fire the first shots. Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan fire indiscriminately into crowds. It is here that they are pictured in their most commonly seen photograph as “backpackers with assault rifles”. The attack lasts about 90 minutes. Some 58 people are killed and more than 100 are injured.
The terrorists blow up a gas station near the second site, the Nariman House business and residential complex housing the Jewish Chabad Lubavitch outreach centre, to divert attention. This draws people to the windows, where the terrorists fire upon them. After killing a Kosher food inspector, they took the rabbi, his wife and five Israelis hostage and subsequently killed them. The two-year-old child of the couple survived.
The third site, Leopold Cafe, is attacked. Four terrorists enter the posh restaurant frequented by locals and foreigners, before opening fire on the crowd. About 10 people are killed in the attack which lasts 10 to 15 minutes. The terrorists also plant bombs in two taxis that kill 5 people and injure 15. The terrorists then proceed to the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel.
Two terrorists Shoib and Umer, who attacked the Leopold Cafe, enter the grounds of the Taj Mahal hotel by breaking down a side door. They first attack guests around the swimming pool and then move inside to the bars and restaurants of the hotel. Two other terrorists Abdul Rehman Bada and Abu Ali enter the hotel through the front entrance and start to shoot and throw grenades. A small team of the Indian Navy’s marine commandos Marcos enter the hotel and fight the terrorists.
The last site, Oberoi-Trident Hotel, is attacked. Two terrorists enter the hotel via the restaurant and immediately begin firing into the crowd. They later move throughout the hotel looking for targets.
Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan, who struck CST first, arrive at the back gate to the Cama Hospital. The hospital staff, alerted to their approach, lock all of the patients’ rooms. They leave the hospital and ambush a group of police officers, killing six of them including chief of the city’s Anti-Terrorism Squad Hemant Karkare. They hijack a police vehicle before being intercepted by a team from the Gamdevi police station. Khan is killed and Kasab is arrested.
November 27, 2008
Midnight: Police surround the Taj Mahal hotel. By this time, many of the guests inside the hotel were huddled up by the staff into small rooms. The Mumbai Police’s Rapid Action Force positions themselves outside Oberoi-Trident hotel.
After midnight: Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan leave the hospital and head north towards the Metro Cinema area.
1:00 am: The central dome of the Taj Mahal hotel is bombed and a massive fire rages in the building.
3:00 am: Large fires break out on the top floors of the Taj Mahal hotel.
4:00 am: Security forces undertake the first round of evacuations of people trapped inside the Taj hotel, helping people escape in two groups.
6:30 am: A team of 200 NSG commandos reach Mumbai from New Delhi and take charge of the rescue operations in Taj Mahal and Oberoi-Trident hotels. The government gives orders to storm the building.
11:15 am: Nanny Sandra Samuels escapes from Nariman House carrying the 2-year-old son of Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg.
4:40 pm: 30 hostages are freed from the Oberoi-Trident Hotel.
5:30 pm: A team of 20 commandos try to enter the Nariman House building from the ground floor but find the elevator and the entry point destroyed by terrorists.
6:00 pm: 14 more hostages are freed from the Oberoi-Trident Hotel.
6:45-8:00 pm: A series of loud explosions are heard in the Oberoi-Trident Hotel as fires break out.
11:00 pm: Commandos rescue eight hostages from Nariman House.
November 28, 2008
12:00 am: Commandos rescue about seven more hostages from Nariman House.
12:47 am: A powerful explosion rocks the Taj Mahal Palace hotel.
7:00-7:30 am: Commandos begin landing on top of Nariman House by helicopter.
10:30 am: Between 35 and 40 hostages are rescued from the Oberoi-Trident Hotel.
1:00-5:45 pm: Gunfire and explosions are heard as security forces fight terrorists at Nariman House.
6:00 pm: Troops secure Nariman House and end the siege. Seven people are killed in the three-day siege of the building.
2:40 pm: The siege officially ends at the Oberoi-Trident Hotel. Approximately 30 people are killed.
November 29, 2008
12:00 am: Commandos secure the lobby at Taj Mahal Palace hotel.
6 am-9 am: The last terrorists are killed and the siege ends at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. Approximately 31 people are killed in the three-day siege at the hotel.
The Pradhan Inquiry Commission, appointed by the Maharashtra government, produced a report that was tabled before the legislative assembly more than a year after the events. The report said the “war-like” attack was beyond the capacity to respond of any police force, but also found fault with the Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor’s lack of leadership during the crisis.
The Maharashtra government planned to buy 36 speed boats to patrol the coastal areas and several helicopters for the same purpose. It also planned to create an anti-terror force called “Force One” and upgrade all the weapons that Mumbai police currently have. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on an all-party conference declared that legal framework would be strengthened in the battle against “terrorism” and a federal anti-terrorist intelligence and investigation agency, like the FBI, will be set up soon to co-ordinate action against “terrorism”. The government strengthened anti-terror laws with UAPA 2008, and the federal National Investigation Agency was formed.
The attacks further strained India’s slowly recovering relationship with Pakistan. India’s then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee declared that India may indulge in military strikes against terror camps in Pakistan to protect its territorial integrity. There were also after-effects on the United States’s relationships with both countries, the US-led NATO war in Afghanistan, and on the Global War on Terror. FBI chief Robert Mueller praised the “unprecedented cooperation” between American and Indian intelligence agencies over the Mumbai terror attack probe. However, Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble said that Indian intelligence agencies did not share any information with Interpol
A new National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) was proposed to be set up by the then-Home Minister P. Chidambaram as an office to collect, collate, summarise, integrate, analyse, co-ordinate and report all information and inputs received from various intelligence agencies, state police departments, and other ministries and their departments.
Movement of troops
Pakistan moved troops towards the border with India voicing concerns about the Indian government’s possible plans to launch attacks on Pakistani soil if it did not co-operate. After days of talks, the Pakistan government, however, decided to start moving troops away from the border.
A MAIMED ECONOMY….
The insurance companies offering terror cover decided to increase the premium rates by around 20-30%, from April 2009. There was heavy foreign investment in India in the months before the attacks. But the foreign investment showed a dramatic decline following the tragedy.
Political Impact: There was a huge political fallout due to statements like: “Attacks like these are common in big regions. They came to kill 5,000 people but we managed with very few casualties.”
The attacks came at a time when India’s economy had already begun to slow as a result of the global recession. Tourism became the first area to be hit, with hospitality and transportation feeling pain the most. Gross earnings from foreign tourists fell down. There was loss of human capital, investor behavior, short-term financial loss, and retrenchment effect on specific industries, under the short term impacts, but under the long term ones, there was political unstability, global implications, and long term financial loss.
THE IRONY OF SAFEGUARD AND JEOPARDIZATION
26th November is not remembered just for the Mumbai terror attacks. This day is also celebrated as Constitution Day as on this day in 1949, Indian Constitution was adopted. Going with these two lanes, isn’t it a great irony to see how on one hand we celebrate the safeguard through ‘Right to Life’ but mourn the demise of the people from whom these were snatched away in 60 hour long fight.
On one hand, people celebrate the day on which they got protection in the supreme document, i.e., the constitution, but at the same time, break into pieces by remembering the horrific event. We do believe that Constitution is there to protect our existence through the fundamental right ‘ Right to Life’ enshrined in Article 21, but our foundation stone of belief gets shaken when we see the tragic deaths and the political menace to restore what has been violated. Ironies like these, of safeguarding and jeopardizing, has made people aware on this day that the political interests are majorly vested with the aim to gain power. The purpose is not protecting those who gave them this power, but to exploit them.
In any part of the world, terrorism is unwanted as it not only kills human life but also the infrastructure, industry, ultimately shackling its overall growth. Whether it is 60 hours or 6, the repercussions of such horrific terror events leave a scar not just in the minds of the people but on the whole country as its impacts are long term and unforgettable. The curse of terrorism is a curse on humanity. The phenomenon of terrorism has not come to fore overnight; it has taken decades to flourish and involves many factors. Since it is multifaceted, the solution has to be multi-pronged.
Thus, on this day, remembering the tragic deaths, and saluting the martyrs, let us stay strong against terrorism. Being dependent on few will not safeguard our rights. To make a broad ‘war against terrorism’, we need to take a step against those first who support this activity, whether politically, financially, or in pursuit of selfishness, and safeguard our rights. Only after this, we can uplift the curse that lurks upon us all the time.