The infamous 26/11 Mumbai attacks which shook the entire nation and soured ties between India and Pakistan, complete 10 years on Monday. As the nation is mourning the death of victims, their kin lament alleged discrimination by the government while deciding on compensation for the martyrs. While some believe they were given unfair treatment, others know that no award can bring their loved ones back. Events are being organised in various parts of the country to mark the 10th anniversary of the deadly attacks and the first phase of a memorial dedicated to the victims of the 26/11 terror attack was also inaugurated at the Nariman House in south Mumbai’s Colaba area.
It was on November 26, 2018, when 10-heavily armed Pakistani terrorists brazenly entered Mumbai through the soft Arabian Sea route in a dinghy and minutes later, launched one of the most brutal attacks in India’s history. They targeted several prime locations in South Mumbai, leaving India shaken and the global community shocked.
The attacks took place at iconic locations like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Hotel Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Hotel Trident, Nariman House, Leopold Café, Cama Hospital and Wadi Bunder. A total of 166 persons were killed in the attacks while another 300 were left injured as massive damage was inflicted upon public and private properties. Those deceased included 26 foreign nationals as well.
The haunting memories
Former BSP MP Lalmani Prasad was one among many who witnessed the event unfold before their eyes. He was in the Taj Hotel for an official meeting on that fateful day and saw visitors running for cover to protect themselves from the bullets of terrorists. Three of Lalmani’s 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,” Prasad who was on the second floor of the hotel, told PTI. He was trapped inside the hotel for nearly 48 hours and was rescued by NSG commandos. The politician says that he got a new lease of life that day, and the horror of 26/11 terror attack continue to haunt him.
Hemant Oberoi, the former grand executive chef of The Taj Mahal Palace hotel, was in the kitchen when one of his chefs informed him about the shooting. Now 62, Oberoi thought that it was probably a film shoot but soon realised that there were men shooting people dead inside the hotel.
His sous-chef Vijay Banja was the first to be shot. “We lost so many young chefs that night – I can never forget them,” Oberoi told The Indian Express. The tough task for Oberoi, however, was to inform some of the families the next day. It was the hardest thing he has ever done.
Sunanda Shinde was 36 when her husband, a ward boy at a south Mumbai hospital, was killed by terrorists in the attacks. Shinde believes that the government discriminated while deciding on compensation for the 26/11 martyrs. “Kin of martyrs from police got petrol pumps besides the compensation amount, a house and jobs. But the government did not allot petrol pumps to martyrs who were from government hospitals,” she told PTI.
Shinde said that she has struggled during the last 10 years as she was unable to take care of her children, a boy and a girl, as there was no money left.
“We got a big house from the government, but a major chunk of my salary goes to pay the building maintenance charge and electricity bills. In an expensive city like Mumbai, how can a family survive with just Rs 10,000 per month?” she asked.
Thirty-year-old Pravin Narkar who lost his father Bhanu Narkar in the attack, knows that no amount can bring back his father. Pravin has been appointed as a security guard at Cama and Albless Hospital in place of his father.
Pravin said his mother suffered from depression after the tragedy but has recovered since. “We received a certificate from the then President Pratibha Patil, which mentions his martyrdom. Villagers have installed my father’s statue there,” said Pravin, whose family hails from Ratnagiri district in coastal Konkan.
Forty-year-old Karuna Waghela who works as a sweeper at the GT Hospital said that her son is yet to recover from the death of his father. Karuna’s husband had returned home after a long day of work, when someone knocked on the door and asked for a glass of water.
As soon as he turned after giving water, Karuna’s husband was shot point blank by the terrorists. “My son, who was just four and a half years old when his father was shot, was in shock and hasn’t been able to erase the ghastly memory,” she said.
The boy was also a witness in the 26/11 terror attack case, in which Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist caught alive, was sentenced to death.
Memorial for victims
A memorial is being built at The Nariman House for the victims. The Nariman House was one of the theatres of terror on November 26, 2008, its siege ending with NSG commandos storming the building and gunning down two terrorists who had taken its residents hostage.
The first phase of the memorial will comprise a plaque on the roof of the building inscribed with the names of those who died in the 26/11 attack. Signifying a new chapter of peace and a beacon of light, the building itself would be called the Nariman Light House.
The second phase of the memorial will be completed in next 12 months and would be located on the fourth and fifth floors of the building and would be themed “from darkness to light”.
And, those who don’t want it
Sandra Samuel, the nanny who saved the life of two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg during the attack, wonders why the terror attack ‘scars’ are still there in the five-storeyed Jewish centre in Colaba, now renamed as Nariman Light House. Moshe’s parents were among nine killed when Pakistani terrorists had laid siege on this building.
Sandra had visited the country with Moshe, his grandparents and Israel’s prime minister in January this year. When she returned to the city in May, she felt things inside the House were “terrible”.
“They have kept the fourth and fifth floor same and on the third floor they have broken everything and made (it) into one big open space. The pillar and everything has bullet marks. It is very terrible for me. It broke me, it shook me,” Sandra told PTI.