It has been seven years since the biggest terror attack on Mumbai that engulfed 166 precious human lives, 18 of whom were security personnel who laid down their lives protecting us. But even today, it seems we are not fully prepared to tackle any grave situation of such a magnitude if in case it happens again.
It is not easy for Indians like us to forget those dreadful days when terrorists entered our city through sea and wrenched the popular resorts with blood of our brethren. More significant of all these places were Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus(VT Station), the Oberoi Trident, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital and the Nariman House Jewish community centre. Many people lost their lives due to the dreaded attack by the terrorists. The city was clueless for quite some time and it took some time to figure out what was happening.
I remember I was stuck at marriage party with my family and friends in Suburban Juhu Hotel. We could not move out the venue as the approach roads were cordoned off because of security threats. I was accompanied by my wife Sumitra, my son Setu (he must have been 2-3 years then) and friends Mark Barnes, Tulsidas Sawant & a few others. Entire city had come to a standstill and people were just confused and calling each other, trying to check the news channels and there was utter chaos. We were in a Five star hotel and to be very frank one of us said that the Five star hotel was probably one of the safest places on earth to be during such incidents on road or railway station. We stayed there till around midnight and then we proceeded home praying that we all reach home safely. There were so many doubts in the mind till we reached home as to what was exactly happening and whatever conversations we were having with my family members on phone was getting more worrisome indicating now that surely its some kind of serial terrorist attacks in Mumbai….since we had witnessed a few serial bomb blasts since 1993 in Mumbai we knew in some corner of our heart that this attack too was a terrorist attack and whole of Mumbai was unsafe. I was praying that we all reach safely to our home and everything gets under control soon and we don’t hear more bad news. I was sure that by the time I reach home, the Mumbai police will have all things under control.
But, things were otherwise. This was indeed much larger than I thought. This seemed different than a bomb blast or one off incident. The terrorist were prepared for a long fight.
I recollect that one of my friend was in South Mumbai when he heard the gunshots . Sensing that something is wrong, he hid in a closed shop behind the shutters but he was clueless what was happening outside. He was continuously calling me as he was unable to reach his family due to network jamming and he kept talking to me trying to understand what is happening outside. I kept informing him on the phone whatever I could then gather from the news channel as that was the only source of information .By Gods grace, he finally managed to reach home in the wee hours of morning after Kasab was arrested due to the bravery of Constable Shri Tukaram Omble from Mumbai Police and the other team members.
The whole family was glued to the Television and whatever the news channels were relaying was completely unbelievable. Situation was getting bad to worse and we heard the news of casualties at various places. Mumbai and the world had never witnessed this kind of terror attack. Our Police officers were ill equipped at that point of time to handle the situation and we had to wait for the commandos to arrive. After 3 days the things came under control.
Mumbai limped back to normalcy soon after this and all the terrorists were killed but this event left an impression in our minds.
I firmly believe that media could have played a much better role as they had shown lot of immaturity on their part by telecasting the combat operation live for sake of petty TRPs. The Live beam had presented our fighters as toasts for terrorists who shilling from their hideouts taking a clue from news reports.
The incident also aptly demonstrated our negligent approach to weed out militancy. It took us four years to bring Ajmal Kasab to justice. He was the only terrorist who was captured alive while others were killed then and there. Till date we have not been able to reach out the Mastermind of entire episode Hafiz Saeed who is sitting in our neighbouring country to avenge our loss.
I wish the UPA government could have done better by presenting India’s case better on diplomatic forums garnering more support for nations cause from global super powers. We need to learn a lot about tactical and surgical precision from Russia, Israel and the US. All these countries had chased down attackers to their foxholes finishing them off completely.
Recent Myanmar operation conducted by Indian military to finish off infiltrators has evidently shown the resilience of our security agencies but they need to show some more by bringing the perpetrators of 26/11 like Hafiz Saeed and his Lashkar-e-Taiba colleagues to India for trial.
Post 26/11 terror attacks, Mumbai police has carried out number of corrective steps. We have seen a few incidents including the recent Paris terror attacks which also was done on similar lines of Mumbai attacks. However, there are still gaps that need to be filled to make the city safe and secure. The security apparatus and intelligence network has been created and strengthened to avoid terror attacks. Also the response time for such kind of attacks and the weaponry needs an overhauling.
With changing time terror organisations around the world are becoming more and more tech savvy and are improvising on their plans to create mayhem across the globe. Our agencies need to work much more on this front. Information Technology has to be used in more effective way and intelligence sharing has to be real-time. Recent Paris attacks and the hotel hostage situation in Mali shows we are still vulnerable to such attacks.
The real tribute to our soldiers and martyrs is when we bring the masterminds of terror attack to justice in India and give a strong message to the perpetrators of terror that India will strike back and not tolerate any kind of terror.