Tag Archive for 'Terrorist attack on Mumbai'

Indian history happens elsewhere. In Chicago, for instance

Amitava Kumar in The Indian Site [via 3quarksdaily]:

“I am an American, Chicago born – Chicago, that somber city…” That was Saul Bellow in The Adventures of Augie March, introducing us to a city in motion, a city made of immigrants whose energy, and whose words, the stories that they forged for themselves, were changing America. But Bellow’s first-generation immigrants and even their offspring spoke with “an unerasable Yiddish twang”. His Chicago wasn’t made up of Indians or Pakistanis or Sri Lankans or Bangladeshis, the mixed nation of what one desi rapper has called “oblique brown.” But they are there, and from this distance they are shaping events, for good and for bad, in their homelands too.

For the past several days, I have been following the tweets of reporters inside the Chicago courtroom where former Pakistani Army doctor Tahawwur Rana was standing trial. Late last evening there was a tweet from Chicago Sun-Times reporter Rummana Hussain: “#Ranatrial: There is a verdict!”

The jury was split. It found Rana guilty of providing material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba as well as participating in the conspiracy to commit terrorist acts against the Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. However, the jury acquitted Rana of what might be regarded as the principal charge, of involvement in the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai. At one point in its deliberations, the jury asked the judge some questions about Rana’s perception that he was doing ISI work in the Mumbai operation – which is to say, he was spying rather than carrying out a terrorist act. More:

Reliving Mumbai’s 9/11

A chilling HBO documentary revisits the three days of trauma Mumbai endured last year — the bloodshed that left 170 dead. Tunku Varadarajan looks back on the attacks:

The Taj Hotel in Mumbai, November 27, 2008.

The Taj Hotel in Mumbai, November 27, 2008.

As two heavily armed terrorists barged through the front doors of the five-star Oberoi Trident hotel in the Indian city of Mumbai, their cell phone rang. “Are you there?” a voice asked. On learning that the men were, indeed, at the appointed place, the same voice said, in a tone so soothing it could have been that of a doctor coddling a terminal patient: “You’re very close to heaven, brother.”

A year ago, 10 young jihadist men—brainwashed to the core of what passed for their souls—set out from training camps in neighboring Pakistan in search of a murderous place in heaven, the path to which ran through Mumbai. Members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the Righteous Army, their goal—messianic and mesmerizing—was to sow as much havoc in a city of 15 million as it was possible for 10 men to do. This was Mumbai’s own 9/11; and yet, unlike the assault on New York City and Washington, in which the killers perished in the first minutes of their meticulous dastardliness, Mumbai’s trauma lasted three whole days, with the terrorists at large, seemingly unstoppable, shooting people at close quarters, breaking down doors, slitting throats, hurling grenades, taking and killing hostages…and making phone calls. More:

A year after Mumbai’s 9/11: And then they came for the Jews

Last November, more than 150 people were killed by terrorists in Mumbai. One target was a centre run by this young Jewish couple, who were murdered and perhaps tortured; miraculously, their toddler son escaped. Alastair Gee went back to Mumbai to find out what really happened that night. From the Sunday Times:

Commandos landing on Nariman House, Mumbai

Commandos landing on Nariman House, Mumbai

It is a sticky monsoon day in Mumbai, and Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz walks through the shell of Nariman House. Today, the ruined five-storey structure is testament to the ferocity of the terrorists’ incursion and their battle with Indian commandos. It seems impossible that anyone could have come out alive. All its window frames are empty. The lift is slumped at the bottom of its shaft, and giant, jagged chunks of the internal stairway and handrail are missing. At one point, a section of wall many metres high is gone, and the stairs would be open to the sky if not for a plastic draping. Some rooms appear almost untouched; in others, the walls are pulverised, the splatter-marks of gunfire everywhere.

Berkowitz is an American charged with recreating the Mumbai outpost of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, a Hasidic outreach and educational organisation that sends emissaries around the world. “We are in deep shock,” says Berkowitz, 33. “They have left a gaping hole in our community.” The questions the Lubavitch movement faces are being asked of thousands of other people in the city: what to take from tragedy, how to heal, how to go forward. But even as the organisation looks to the future, uncertainty lingers over what took place during those 48 hours last November. During the siege, six foreigners were murdered inside Nariman House and three Indians were killed on the surrounding streets. Four people from inside the house survived. The building was run by Lubavitch, and was part of a larger attack on hotels and public buildings across Mumbai that resulted in the deaths of at least 166 people. But for the terrorists themselves, Nariman House was different. It was the only Jewish target, and the terrorists would be told by their handlers in Pakistan that the lives of Jews were worth 50 times those of non-Jews. The organisers had sought it out with care. Most Mumbaikars knew of the Taj Mahal hotel. Few were aware of the small Jewish centre tucked away on a backstreet.Strangely, considering Nariman House’s central place in the attacks, the events of the siege are a mystery. The full story of what happened, of how the siege began, of the hostages who escaped, and of the baby who was rescued, has never been told. More:

‘We were told there could be 1 or 5 or 10 or 15 or 20 terrorists in Taj’

JK Dutt, the National Security Guards chief in charge of the operation to tackle the 26/11 terrorist strike on Mumbai, reveals the unknown truth of the operation to Harinder Baweja. In Tehelka:

taj_mumbai1Did you have an idea about the kind of arms and ammunitions the terrorists had?
We did get some feedback on this once we reached Mumbai. In fact, we could also tell from the scenes on TV that they had automatic weapons.

Did you know their numbers? Did the Mumbai Police tell you how many terrorists had entered each location?
No. I didn’t know the precise numbers. In fact, at that time, what was being said over the TV was that these terrorists have come via the sea route. The second pointer was that such terrorist activity is not possible without local support. The third was the fear that the terrorists might have checked into the hotels as guests and might have stocked up on ammunition and explosives. So there were a lot of theories floating around and no real way to verify them. Even the state authorities didn’t have much data. As for the number of terrorists, they told us that they had spread out to different locations, but that there could be one or five or 10 or 15 or even 20 terrorists at the Taj.

This is what you got from the Mumbai police?
Yes, the Mumbai police. The same thing was mentioned about the Oberoi. That the number could be between 4 and 6. In Nariman House, too, they said there could be up to six terrorists.

This was on November 27, one day after the attacks?
Yes, this was on the 27th, the day we landed. More:

India’s Muslims see bias in housing

Emily Wax from Mumbai in the Washington Post:

The sunny apartment had everything Palvisha Aslam, 22, a Bollywood producer, wanted: a spacious bedroom and a kitchen that overlooked a garden in a middle-class neighborhood that was a short commute to Film City, where many of India’s Hindi movies are shot.

She was about to sign the lease when the real estate broker noticed her surname. He didn’t realize that she was Muslim, he said. Then he rejected her. It was just six weeks after the November Mumbai terrorist attacks and Indian Muslims were being viewed with suspicion across the country. He then showed her a grimy one-room tenement in a Muslim-dominated ghetto. She felt sick to her stomach as she watched the residents fight over water at a leaky tap in a dark alley.

“That night I cried a lot. I was still an outcast in my own country — even as a secular Muslim with a well-paid job in Bollywood,” said Aslam, who had similar experiences with five other brokers and three months later is still sleeping on friends’ sofas. “I’m an Indian. I love my country. Is it a crime now to be a Muslim in Mumbai?”


Restoring the Taj is just part of Tata’s challenge

Richard Orange says rebuilding the terrorist-hit Mumbai hotel will be an easier task than steering Jaguar Land Rover and the steel group Corus through a deep recession. From The Spectator:

As guests made their way out of the Taj hotel in Mumbai after spending New Year’s Eve in its restaurants, many stopped to study a small memorial plaque erected to commemorate the 12 staff who died protecting guests from terrorists at the end of November. If it has the same dignified simplicity as a British village war memorial, that’s probably no coincidence. Because within the Tata Group – the Taj’s owner, through a subsidiary called Indian Hotels – the ideals of duty, loyalty, courage and grit, which seem to British sensibilities to come from another era, are still very much alive.

‘There was not a single person who did not rise to do their duty,’ Indian Hotels’ patrician deputy chairman R.K. Krishna Kumar told reporters proudly on the eve of the hotel’s reopening on 20 December. Karambir Kang, the hotel’s general manager, continued to direct the hotel’s evacuation even as his own wife and two sons burnt to death in his private suite, Krishna Kumar said. And when, during those dark hours, Kang telephoned his father, a retired Indian army general, for advice and emotional support: ‘His father said, “Do as much as you can to save your family. But don’t leave your post.”‘

This year, the Tatas will need every drop of that spirit as their group faces what will be one of the most difficult periods in its 140-year history.


Mumbai siege: ‘Kill all the hostages – except the two Muslims’

The Hindu has printed a leaked copy of the dossier on the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 26-29, 2008 put together by the Indian government and sent to the Pakistani government.

The 69-page dossier includes recorded phone conversations between the Mumbai terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan. The handlers kept in constant contact with the terrorists and provided orders and advice.

The scanned copies of the full dossier are on the Hindu website:


And below, some excerpts of the conversation from the dossier [via the Independent]:


Taj Mahal Hotel

0108 hours

Pakistan caller: How many hostages do you have?

Mumbai terrorist: We have one from Belgium. We have killed him. There was one chap from Bangalore. He could be controlled only with a lot of effort.

Pakistan caller: I hope there is no Muslim amongst them?

Mumbai terrorist: No, none.

0126 hours

Pakistan caller: Are you setting the fire or not?

Mumbai terrorist: Not yet. I am getting a mattress ready for burning.

Pakistan caller: What did you do with the dead body [on the boat]?

Mumbai terrorist: Left it behind.

Pakistan caller: Did you not open the locks for the water below? [Thought to be a pre-arranged plan to sink the vessel.]

Mumbai terrorist: No, they did not open the locks. We left it like that because of being in a hurry. We made a big mistake.

Pakistan caller: What big mistake?

Mumbai terrorist: When we were getting into the boat, the waves were quite high. Another boat came. Everyone raised an alarm that the Navy had come. Everyone jumped quickly. In this confusion, the satellite phone of Ismail got left behind.

0137 hours

Pakistan caller: The ATS (Anti-Terrorist Squad) chief has been killed. Your work is very important. Allah is helping you. The Vazir (Minister) should not escape. Try to set the place on fire.

Mumbai terrorist: We have set fire in four rooms.

Pakistan caller: People shall run helter skelter when they see the flames. Keep throwing a grenade every 15 minutes or so. It will terrorise.

More in the Independent:

Steel amid adversity: Tata after Mumbai

Joe Leahy reports from Mumbai in Financial Times:


Ratan Tata was at home in south Mumbai late on November 26 when the call came. On the line was a frantic R.K. Krishna Kumar, head of the Tata group unit that owns the city’s luxury Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel.

The unthinkable had happened, Mr Kumar told the Tata chairman. Terrorists had taken over the Taj, the 105-year-old wedding cake-like structure on Mumbai’s waterfront that was built by Mr Tata’s great-grandfather and is the pride of India’s largest private sector group. Scores had been killed. The building was on fire.

Unable to leave his apartment that evening because of the chaos on the streets, Mr Tata made it to the group’s stately south Mumbai headquarters, Bombay House, the following day. As the country’s politicians engaged in a blame game, Mr Tata was one of the few public figures who seemed to strike the right tone on the attacks. He bluntly criticised the state’s lack of preparedness while expressing grief for those killed.

“This is a very, very unfortunate situation which none of us are going to forget. My message really is that the government and state authorities should also not forget,” he told journalists on the steps of Bombay House.


The confessions of Mumbai terrorist

As Ajmal Ameer Kasab, the only terrorist caught alive for the attack, gives details of his indoctrination and training, Sagnik Chowdhury pieces together the terror plot against Mumbai. From the Sunday Express:


Ajmal Amir Kasab, the face of the Mumbai attacks. Photo: Reuters

In 2005, however, Kasab had a fight with his parents and walked out of his home, taking to robbery and dacoity to earn money. Kasab’s recruitment into the terror fold began in mid-2006 when he wanted to buy a firearm and was asked to contact an LeT operative in Rawalpindi. It was through this contact that he was introduced to top leaders in the terror outfit and radicalised through sustained indoctrination by Zaqi-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. Kasab has told interrogators that the ten terrorists were handpicked from a larger group and that they attended training camps at Mansera, Muridke, Muzaffarabad and a location near Karachi. Top LeT operatives, identified as Abu Hamza-said to be involved in the December 2005 attack on the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore-and Kahafa were in charge of their training.

“Kahafa was a sort of course co-ordinator and was constantly shepherding the group. Hamza was involved during the advanced training in firearms and explosives,” says Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rakesh Maria, the officer in charge of the investigations.

LeT commander Hafiz Saeed too visited the group during their training. According to the Crime Branch, several of the handlers at the different training camps were names that had been dropped by arrested operatives of the Indian Mujahideen when grilled about their training in Pakistan.


Amitav Ghosh on the attack on Mumbai and the metaphor of ‘9/11’

From the Hindustan Times:

logoSince the start of the terrorist invasion of Mumbai on November 26, the metaphor of the World Trade Center attacks has been repeatedly invoked. In India and elsewhere commentators have taken to saying, over and again, ‘This is India’s 9/11.’ There can be no doubt that there are certain clear analogies between the two attacks. In both cases the terrorists were clearly at great pains to single out urban landmarks, especially those that serve as points of reference in this increasingly interconnected world.

There are similarities too, in the unexpectedness of the attacks, the meticulousness of their planning, their shock value and the utter unpreparedness of the security services. But this is where the similarities end. Not only were the casualties far greater on September 11, 2001, but the shock of the attack was also greatly magnified by the fact that it had no real precedent in America’s historical experience.


The future of terrorism

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri in Hindustan Times:

They may call the next several years the “Era of Mumbai Terror.” An increasing number of counterterrorism specialists say the nature of the attack is clearly different from the South Asian norm and possibly even by any global measure. And because it is was so successful – a score of armed men holding an entire country to ransom for three days – it may become a model for the next wave of jihadi fighters.

Colonel Jonathan Fighel of Israel’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism is among those who has pointed out that the Mumbai attacks are “unusual not only for India, but also on the international scale.” The subcontinental norm has been a “series of explosions undertaken simultaneously by radical Islamic organizations aiming to kill” masses of people. This was an “all-out offensive, with clear military hallmarks.”


Taj Mahal hotel owner: We had warning

Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata in interview with CNN‘s Fareed Zakaria:

Ratan Tata

Ratan Tata

It’s ironic that we did have such a warning, and we did have some measures,” Tata said, without elaborating on the warning or when security measures were enacted. “People couldn’t park their cars in the portico, where you had to go through a metal detector.”

However, Tata said the attackers did not enter through the entrance that has a metal detector. Instead, they came in a back entrance, he said.

“They knew what they were doing, and they did not go through the front. All of our arrangements are in the front,” he said.

“They planned everything,” he said of the attackers. “I believe the first thing they did, they shot a sniffer dog and his handler. They went through the kitchen.”


Mumbai: The city I love

The novelist Amit Chaudhuri finds it impossible to think about his childhood home without a quickening of excitement and pleasure. But this week’s terror attacks have highlighted the other side of Mumbai – a society riven by poverty and despair. From the Guardian:

David Levene

Children playing in the rubbish of a shanty town at Nariman Point, just down the beach from the city

My parents moved to Bombay from Calcutta in 1965, when I was an infant – they stayed at the Taj for two weeks while the company found them a flat. This was the beginning of Calcutta’s decline, companies and professionals fleeing labour trouble, and relocating at this optimistic seaside metropolis in western India. It was a charmed life – from at least two of the flats we lived in when my father was finance director and then chief executive of Britannia Biscuits, flats in Malabar Hill and Cuffe Parade, the city’s two richest localities, you could see a skyline that, with its lissom, tall buildings (Bombay is the only Indian city to have had an obsessive romance with the vertical, the skyscraper), approximated Manhattan in some ways; in its sunniness, its palm trees, its disguised but obvious carnality, it echoed what we knew of California from films; and the gothic buildings were remnants of the old history that had first brought together these seven fishing islands.

From different windows and balconies in those two flats, at different points of my life until 1982, when my father retired, the dome of the Taj (the “old” Taj, as it came to be known after the arrival of its neighbour, the Taj Intercontinental) was visible, grey, as seemingly and deceptively stationary as a low cloud. Like Calcutta, and unlike Delhi, with its Moghul and Sultanate lineage, Bombay had no really great historical or religious monuments; its landmarks, in keeping with the fact that it was the progeny of an almost innocent-seeming colonial modernity, were secular ones – hotels; cinema halls, such as the Eros, the Regal, the Metro; grand, untidy railway stations such as the Victoria Terminus. To call the Taj the “old” Taj was to deliberately indulge in a flagrant misnomer, and a reminder of Bombay’s willingness to rewrite history in terms of the urban, the kitschy, the comic: it was as if the “real” Taj Mahal in Agra had never existed except in those most incredible of objects – school textbooks.


Without comment…

The paragraph below is from a story in Mumbai Mirror on Friday, 28 November, when terrorists were holding hostages in the Taj Mahal hotel, the Trident hotel and Nariman House. We do not have independent confirmation of the story.

Sources said though the plane carrying NSG Commandos was ready by midnight, it could not take off due to the delayed arrival of a VIP, who wanted to accompany them to Mumbai, at the Delhi airport. Worse, the Commandos had to wait for a vehicle at the Mumbai airport until morning.

In hotel attack, terrorists target India’s growing global class

Anand Giridharadas in International Herald Tribune:

On an evening not long ago at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel in Mumbai, a Bollywood star named Preity Zinta rushed up the stairs and into Wasabi, a Japanese restaurant. She joined long-waiting friends at their table and apologized for being late.

But before long, she had risen again. She had seen at a nearby table Adi and Parmeshwar Godrej, billionaires, socialites and fellow jet-setters. A good amount of air-kissing ensued. Then she was introduced to Imran Khan, the Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, who just happened to be in town.

Before long, a bottle of imported red wine arrived and was poured into a silver-tipped glass decanter, as platters of miso-encrusted sea bass and rock-shrimp tempura floated through the restaurant on upraised hands.

When violent attackers besieged the Taj, as it is universally known, and embarked on a murderous rampage Wednesday night, they targeted one of the city’s best known landmarks.

But they also went after something larger: a hulking, physical embodiment of India’s deepening involvement with the world.


Dispatch from an anxious Mumbai

Naresh Fernandes, editor of ‘Time Out Mumbai,’ in The New Republic:

Employees and guests use curtains to escape the Taj Mahal hotel. AFP

Employees and guests use curtains to escape the Taj Mahal hotel. AFP

As columns of smoke rose from the Italianate dome of the Taj Mahal hotel in downtown Mumbai on Wednesday night, I came upon a woman standing a short distance away from the building, waiting for her friends trapped inside. She’d just ordered a steak when she heard gunfire as terrorists stormed through the establishment. The woman, who had been rescued through a window by the fire brigade after hours of hiding under a table, said that her name was Dalbir Bains. I recognised it from the society pages of the newspapers. She’s the owner of a fancy lingerie store in the beachside neighbourhood of Juhu, and, amidst the chatter of gunfire, I found myself involved in a brief discussion about edible underwear.

Everything that evening had been surreal. At 10:15pm, shortly before the attack, I’d been handed a visiting card that read, “George W Bush, Former President, The United States of America (currently seeking employment).” Sipping my glass of merlot, I shook hands with the man who had given it to me. He wore a dark suit and a giant rubber Dubya mask. I was at the premiere of “The President Is Coming”, a mockumentary about six young Indians taking part in a competition that offered the winner an unforgettable prize: the opportunity to shake Bush’s hand on his imminent visit to the subcontinent.


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