The siege in Mumbai has finally ended, with all the terrorists holding the city to ransom gunned down.
However, before the Taj Hotel siege came to en end on Saturday morning, the attacks that began at around 9.35 pm in the country’s financial capital on Wednesday night turned out to be India’s biggest horror story, leaving at least 160 people dead and over 327 injured. Terrorists holding innocent people, including MPs and foreigners, hostage at three places and killing many of them; top Mumbai police officers sacrificing their lives in the battle, including state Anti-Terror Squad chief Hemant Karkare; and blasts and firings throughout the three-day-long battle were all part of the drama that unfolded in Mumbai.
These were not just any other terror attacks that India sees every other day and has become immune to; these were attacks on an unprecedented scale. Till Wednesday, 1993 Mumbai serial blasts were considered to be the biggest attack ever on Indian state. However, what’s happened in Mumbai over the past three days has surpassed any such attack by leaps and bounds. Never before has the country seen a terror attack on this scale – fidayeen terrorists, guns, bombs and grenades, hostage situations have all been part of these highly co-ordinated attacks carried out to inflict maximum damage on Mumbai, the country’s economic hub. If I may say so, the attacks appeared to be a WAR on Mumbai and seem to be planned on the scale of September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.
Terrorists specially targeted foreigners in their attacks – foreign nationals were both killed and held hostage in the incidents. Some reports suggested that two US intelligence officials were also caught in the attacks on the posh Taj and Oberoi (Trident) hotels. Another Greek millionaire also succumbed to his injuries. A top French nuclear physicist is reported to have escaped from one of the two hotels. Israeli nationals were also held at gunpoint at a Jewish headquarter in the city.
Why I’m calling this as a war because never before in the Indian history, a terror attack on a city has carried on for these many hours. In fact, Army, Navy and NSG teams were involved in the operations to flush out terrorists holed up inside hotels and try and save the hostages. What made matters worse is that the terrorists did not demand any ransom. According to government sources, they seemed determined to hold the state to ransom and their main motive appears to be deaths of innocent men and women, and not money or safe passage.
The consequence of the attacks was immediately seen – Mumbai was virtually shut on Thursday; the Bombay Stock Exchange, schools and colleges remained closed; curfew was imposed in various parts of the city. On a bigger scale too, the damage seemed to have been done. Visiting England cricket team has already called off its remaining tour, the upcoming T20 Champions League has been deferred after participating foreign teams expressed reluctance to play in the city. Mumbai is one of the three venues for the Champions League matches and four of the eight participating teams were supposed to stay at the historic Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the flashpoints of the deadly attacks.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travelled to Mumbai on Thursday to take stock of the highly volatile situation. He also addressed the nation that day.
What the country needs at this delicate moment is political unity and pro-active approach by the administration to sit down and find out how a few determined enemies managed to hold the country to ransom and wage a war on Mumbai – a symbol of a modern, progressive India.