This November 26, 2018, it will be a decade when Mumbai was brutalised by the ten dealers of death, who landed up at Sassoon docks in Mumbai. Armed to the teeth, tee shirt, jeans-clad youth were out for Jihad, in their understanding. It was a dreaded attack, death visiting upon a metropolis, known for its diversity and progressive values at one time. This particular attack was a clever and meticulous operation which had planners and handlers at the top.
It was executed by this group indoctrinated by the ideology of hate, terrorism. Some details are in order. As the story emerged, they had hijacked a Gujarat-registered fishing vessel on the high seas, sailed closer to the coast and then reached Gateway of India in dinghies. Loaded with heavy backpacks and armed to the teeth they split into five groups to unleash mayhem in different parts of Mumbai.
Their antics within the Taj Hotel, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj station drew maximum attention. Mumbai was gasping for breath, as death coming out of their guns was killing the innocent, irrespective of their religion. The attack ended the life of 126 people—98 civilians, 14 policemen and 14 foreigners, in addition 327 were severely injured.
What was equally shocking was the death of three top police officers, one of whom was Hemant Karkare, the Chief of Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad. He was investigating the acts of terror which had rocked Maharashtra’s Malegaon district, which in turn was part of a series of terror attacks which had traumatized people in the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, Ajmer Dargah and passengers of the Samjhauta express.
As such Mumbai has been a victim of terrorist attacks for the last couple of decades. The first major one had occurred on March 12 1993, in which 13 blasts took place across the city killing 257 people. These blasts took place in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid Demolition carnage.
Later, Mumbai also witnessed the acts of terror on December 2, 2002, when an explosion took place in a bus in Ghatkopar suburb of Mumbai killing two people. The backdrop to this was the massive anti-Muslim programme in the wake of the Godhra train burning. Similar tragedy also shook the city on March 13, 2003, then on July 29 2003, August 25, 2003 and the last one on July 11, 2006 in the first-class compartment of the Western Railway local trains.
These have not been isolated events. The earlier bomb blasts took place in the aftermath of some or the other act of carnage, after the Mumbai carnage of 1992-93, and the later one’s followed the carnage in Gujarat. What was very disturbing was the death of Karkare, who was investigating the Malegaon blast case and unearthed the link of the motorcycle used in Malegaon to ex-BVP activist Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, who is currently an accused in Malegaon blast along with Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit. Their association with Swami Dayanand Pandey and Major Upadhyaya also came to surface.
In the wake of the attack on the Parliament, Operation Parakram was launched marshaling the army on the Pakistan border. That time it was Vajpayee led NDA government, where it was an act of revenge for the attack on the parliament. The whole operation was a futile exercise leading to huge losses, manpower wise and financially
While Karkare was unearthing the deeper connections, he was criticised as being anti National, anti-Hindu etc. Shiv Sena mouth piece Saamana in particular viciously attacked him. It is interesting to note that when Karkare got killed, the then CM of Gujarat, now PM of India, Narendra Modi landed up in Mumbai and offered ₹1 crore to Karkare’s widow. It is in the context of Karakre’s death that the then Minorities Affairs Minister in Central Government, AR Antulay said that the episode of 26/11 is ‘terrorism plus something’. He did not specify as to what he means by this something.
The other dimension which flows from this tragedy is the nature of training imparted to the terror recruits. Ajmal Kasab, who was caught alive, in his testimony, pointed to one important thing. As per him the terror recruits were shown the video of Babri Masjid demolition repeatedly and were told that in India, mosques are being razed to the ground and this has to be avenged.
That’s what motivated him to take the path which he took. One can just recollect that the terrorists of the tribe of AL Qaeda were also brain washed into the Salafi version of Islam and were told that non-believers are Kafirs and killing them will be jihad, and dying while committing jihad will earn them a permanent residence in Jannat with 72 virgins in tow.
Yet another dimension of the tragedy is related to India-Pakistan relations. In the wake of the attack on the Parliament, Operation Parakram was launched marshaling the army on the Pakistan border. That time it was Vajpayee led NDA government, where it was an act of revenge for the attack on the parliament. The whole operation was a futile exercise leading to huge losses, manpower wise and financially.
In the wake of the 26/11 attack, politicians were instantly blamed for the fiasco. The central Home minister, Maharashtra CM had to resign. There was an immense pressure on the Government to attack Pakistan. Withstanding this pressure was very difficult. Unlike the NDA, UPA I did not buckle under such a pressure and showed its restraint and dealt with it in a matter which in hindsight seems to have been the better option.
The attack on India was sponsored by a section of the Pakistan Army and the ISI. Any military action on Pakistan would have led to the weakening of the democratically elected Zardari Government in Pakistan. There were strong anti-Pakistan sentiments, but the firm handling of the situation allowed the government to keep Pakistan in check.
Mercifully the terror trials have come to a halt though the global terror cancer still persists. The tragic aspect of the episode has also been that such types of insanity is an offshoot of the Al Qaeda type outfits, which were brought up in the region for control of the oil resources. Today, while recalling the 26/11 one should see it in the right perspective above the sectarian interpretations and hope that steady restraint rather than ‘blow-hot, blow-cold’ is what is needed while dealing with Pakistan.