In my earlier article, I had hinted that I would tell you about how exactly the events unfolded in Mumbai as the terrorists went about destroying the secular fabric of an already fragile metropolitan city with bomb blasts, religious rhetoric and possibly the worst Hindu-Muslim riots to ever occur in free India as a part of its shameful but chequered history.
However, I am quite sure almost all readers already know how the events occurred. It all started with an assault at the C.S.T. railway station on the night of 26th November. Within an hour, it had moved to Cama and Albless Hospital, situated just behind the HQ of the Brihanmumbai Mahanagarpalika (the Municipal Corporation building); and then, after the three prominent policemen lost their lives – in a small lane just behind the Cama Hospital, the chief of the anti-terrorist squad Hemant Karkare, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and ACP Ashok Kamte, the terrorists escaped in a stolen police jeep past Metro cinema and towards Chowpatty.
At this point, I have learnt that initially, the Mumbai police force, including the three policemen who laid down their lives (see above), did not realize that they were up against people who had not only the technical knowhow to carry out a sophisticated operation of terror or the arms and the ammunition to fulfill their ambitions of bringing a city – and indeed, a nation, to its knees, but also that they were completely emotionless and cruel to the point of being devoid of any feelings: they went about the act of killing these decorated officers with complete insouciance and no regard for their status or rank. This very fact should have, and probably did, alert the intelligentsia among the police, the strategic forces and others, that they had a big cherry on their hands and it would be some time before they could swallow and digest it.
The terrorists then probably proceeded to their three target buildings, and planted bombs in the taxis that left them at their destinations. These bombs exploded at various locations all over Mumbai, depending on where the cabs went after leaving them; thus, one cab exploded near Dockyard road station, one at distant Vile Parle, and one near Napean Sea Road: all bombs probably activated by remote mobile-phone triggered detonators. These taxi blasts served to terrorise the entire city, and at the same time, threw red herrings about what the terrorists were up to.
The action then shifted to the three buildings – not buildings all, because two of them are five star hotels and more than that – they are landmarks of Mumbai. The Taj Palace Hotel, with over 400 rooms – located at the Gateway of India and the Trident and Oberoi hotels, located at the prestigious Nariman Point. In addition, they also targeted a non-descript building going by the name of Nariman Building – located just inside the main Shahid Bhagatsingh Road and ahead of the Colaba Market. This building is a community center for a certain sect of Jews, and also houses many Jewish families in it.
I want to ask here why they chose only these three structures and none other. I think that they realized that the two hotels would be mostly populated by foreign tourists and the third building already had Jews, traditional enemies of Moslems worldwide. Once they were inside these buildings, the next stage in their act of terror happened.
It is believed by the police that at the Taj, they had two staff from the house-keeping department, who let some of their associates in with the weapons and other things a week or two ahead of their D-day. Thus, the terrorists already had the master keys to the various sections of the hotel, the map of the hotel, and much necessary inside information about the “lie of the land” as it were. They were able to stay inside the hotel as guests, planning every single step of their coming assault. They ate, slept and played out full rehearsals of the entire plan a full week ahead!
I am pretty certain that they staked out the Oberoi in much the same way, and also visited Nariman Building and strategized everything there as well. Thus, when the actual action began, they went in with full knowledge of what they would be doing over the next few days – or more, depending on how everything panned out.
After listening to the news all over on TV and reading articles and news items, my reckoning is that Mumbai actually escaped a lot of damage only because of three reasons:
a) The terrorists lost a raft at mid-sea with hundreds of explosives and ammunition. They reached Mumbai by rafts in a boat from Karachi via Porbunder (although the last point has not yet been substantiated and the first point has been denied strongly by the Pakistani Government).
b) The NSG commandos were there quite early in action, although they still took 4 hours to reach from Delhi to Mumbai
c) The attacks began at night – or else there would have been tremendous damage at CST and in the hospitals.
It seems that the terrorists had planned on eliminating 5000 people; in the event, a loss that is much lesser in numbers is more than “compensated” by the brutal manner in which the killings took place: over 50 dead as they waited in the concourse of the railway station; entire families who were waiting to travel to their home-town were eliminated; men, women and children killed in cold blood as they sat eating in the restaurant in the Trident; employees of the hotel killed in their working places – the kitchens, the restaurants and the service areas of the Taj; and, finally, people killed on the roads of Mumbai, as the terrorists took to them en route to their own destinations.
Above all, the entire operation was carried out by the terrorists with an expertise and proficiency hitherto unseen in terrorist actions in our country and outside. Flying two planes (or four) recklessly through buildings needs average accuracy; planting bombs in busy marketplaces needs planning, but little accuracy; however, commandeering three entire buildings and mocking the hundreds of security forces with explosives while being just 3-4 in number speaks of astonishing planning and deadly accuracy. Thus, it would be fair to say that modern, hi-tech terrorism has finally arrived in India. And to expect our untrained policemen or home-guards to counter these people is sheer stupidity.
In the event, the successful termination of the attack was only thanks to the intervention of the black cat commandos and the factors already discussed above.
Where do we go from here? What does the government need to do to prevent such dastardly acts in future? I will discuss this in the last part of my article.