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Rediff.com  » News » 'Oh! Is it the 5th anniversary of 26/11? I don't remember'

'Oh! Is it the 5th anniversary of 26/11? I don't remember'

November 26, 2013 18:26 IST

Have Mumbaikars forgotten 26/11?

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Five years after Mumbai was bought to its knees in a hail of gunfire and grenade blasts by 10 Pakistani terrorists, the nightmare continues to haunt the survivors and families of victims of the 26/11 attack, but the incident appears to have begun fading from public memory.

Though some solemn ceremonies were organised to pay tributes to the fallen heroes and victims of the most brazen terror assault in the country, there was no public outpouring of grief and outrage, no gigantic posters of bravehearts who laid down their lives in the line of duty in street corners for passersby to pay homage.

"Oh! Is it the fifth anniversary of 26/11? I don't remember. Anyway, who wants to remember sad moments," said Prashant Arolla, an employee at a private firm, nonchalantly.

However, immediately realising the poignancy associated with the day, he hastened to add, "I salute the martyrs who lost their lives fighting the terrorists."

"But is it unfortunate that handlers of the terrorists in Pakistan have not yet been punished," he added.

Chandrasekhar Chiliveri, a manager at a chemical company, feels bad about the general public being oblivious to the importance of the day and says it is because of "short of public memory" that the government takes security issues lightly.

"The government knows that public memory is short. This attitude of ours allows it to relax and not take up security matters seriously," he said.

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Image: People walk on platforms of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, which was targetted on 26/11
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters

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Politicians paid homage to martyrs and the Opposition used the anniversary as yet another opportunity to slam the government. 

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, his deputy Ajit Pawar,

Home Minister R R Patil and Union Minister Shashi Tharoor were prominent among those who paid floral tributes to martyrs at the Police Memorial at Marine Lines in Mumbai.

Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde deplored that Pakistan had not yet punished the plotters of the attack facing trial in their country despite India giving enough evidence. "We have handed over all the relevant proof to Pakistan. We are urging them to take quick and urgent action against the perpetrators of the 26/11 attack," he told reporters in Delhi.

Shinde said for expediting the trial in Pakistan, India had permitted a judicial commission from there to visit the country twice to examine and take statements of investigating officers and others in connection with the case.

He also said despite repeated appeals, Pakistan has not taken any action to dismantle terror infrastructure.

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Image: Maharashtra's Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan places a wreath as he pays tribute at the Gymkhana police memorial marking the November 2008 Mumbai attacks
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi expressed disappointment at the Centre's failure to bring the real perpetrators of 26/11 attacks to justice. "Centre's failure to bring the real perpetrators of 26/11 to justice is disappointing. It is high time Centre acts decisively," Modi said in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

"26/11 is a grim reminder of the security threat India faces. Let us assure families of the victims that sacrifice of their near ones will not go in vain. Time to work towards a stronger and safer India," he said.

The BJP too charged the Centre with having failed in putting diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to hand over the perpetrators based in that country and asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to explain the steps taken in that regard.

In a statement on his Facebook page, BJP President Rajnath Singh said the mastermind and real perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage are still roaming free in Pakistan.

"The incumbent government at the Centre has failed miserably in putting any diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to act decisively against the forces of evil operating from its territory. The prime minister should explain to the people of this country what concrete steps his government had taken in this direction since 26/11," he said.

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Image: Police officials remember 26/11 martyrs on the fifth anniversary of the Mumbai attacks
Photographs: Arun Patil

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"Five years after the Mumbai attack, we believe not much has changed. India continues to be a soft target for terrorists as it bleeds through a thousand cuts," the BJP chief said.

Though Mumbai largely appeared unconcerned about the fifth anniversary of the attack that saw India's relations with Pakistan plunge to unprecedented depths and sent alarm bells ringing in the security establishment, for those who bore the brunt of the audacious assault, the scars refuse to heal.

Constable Arun Jadhav, who suffered bullet injuries while taking on the militants, says images of the ghastly attack simply refuse to go away.

"I am lucky to have survived but get overcome by the grief when I think of the officers who lost their lives while fighting terrorists," said Jadhav, currently working with the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad.

Jadhav was in the ill-fated Qualis with ATS chief Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and encounter specialist Senior Police Inspector Vijay Salaskar when they came under a barrage of gunfire from Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorists Ajmal Kasab and Abu Ismail outside Cama Hospital.

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Image: A man sits on a scaffolding erected for a stage as tourists walk near the Taj Mahal Hotel which was one of the targets of the November 2008 attacks
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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"Salaskar was like my brother as I had worked with him for several years. His death has caused a void in my life that can never be filled," the President Medal Awardee recalled.

Salaskar's family too is yet to come to terms with the loss. His brother Dilip feels Vijay's martyrdom will always be remembered.

"In the memory of Vijay, I and my mother go to an orphanage this day to distribute gifts to children. Like every year, this year too we will also visit the spot where he made the supreme sacrifice," he added.

Narrating his experience of those seemingly endless hours when the city cowered in fear and the nation was gripped in tremulous anxiety, Babu Rao Whankade, 50, operation in charge of Topsline 1252 services, recalled how he and his team rescued foreign nationals and removed bodies from Taj Hotel.

"I can still vividly recall that fateful night when terrorists attacked the Taj. I received a call from the command and control room. As soon as I was informed about the incident, I gathered my Topsline 1252 team and rushed to the location.”

"After securing permission, our team was let inside the hotel. I instantly started hauling the bodies strewn inside on my shoulders...one after the other I handed over 11 bodies to the Topsline emergency ambulances.”

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Image: Women pay tribute to vicitims of the attack in Mumbai
Photographs: Arun Patil

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"I then moved to the 7th floor where fear-stricken people were hiding behind tables, flower pots, wherever they thought they could be safe. I escorted 24 petrified foreign nationals out of Hotel and handed them over to Azad Maidan Police Station," said Whankade.

He had stood just a few feet away from National Security Guard commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan when the latter was felled by the bullets of terrorists.

While those who found themselves caught in the middle of the horrific strikes and who lost their near and dear ones are still to come to terms with the tragedy, the metropolis seems to have moved on.

Five years ago, on November 26, 2008, 10 Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorists had arrived in Mumbai from Karachi by sea and unleashed violence that left 166 dead, including policemen and foreigners.

Besides, nine terrorists were killed in retaliatory action by security forces and Kasab was captured. He was hanged in Yerawada Central Jail in Pune last year.


Image: DATE IMPORTED:November 26, 2013A policeman adjusts his headgear before a wreath-laying ceremony at the Gymkhana police memorial marking the November 2008 attacks, in Mumbai
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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