Mumbai Floods The Gateway

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Nearly four years ago, protesting against the government became the in-thing after Rang De Basanti showed how apathetic youngsters took things into their own hands and started off a revolution.
Last Wednesday, 10 young men stormed into various hubs in our city posing as martyrs. A week later, I’m proud to report that the city has  risen up with all its fury, instead of curling up into a ball and saying ‘Chalta Hai’, or insensitively moving along citing ‘Spirit of Mumbai’. And I don’t mean the Sreesanth-brand of rebelling without a case. I mean, actual, coherent agendas and clear thought.

Today in the land of ‘Hota rehta hai’, something ‘happened’. And I can assure you, I have never witnessed a gathering of this sort in the city before. Well, okay, if you include the T20 World Champion Indian Team’s calvacade was huge as well and displayed similar ‘unity’, this certainly cannot be compared with it. if anything, this was louder and angrier!

I have to admit, I had serious doubts about what a forwarded SMS could achieve. Even more so, when I heard that about 10000 people would be attending this rally. In all probability, this was going to be a circus, where people would shout, push, shove, trample on each others toes and go back home with even lesser faith than they came to the Gateway with. But something told me to give this a chance before I wrote it off. And so, we headed to Colaba, like thousands of other Mumbaikars did today.

When we reached the Gateway at around 4.30 pm, the place was  starting to fill up with a couple of hundred people already there armed with home-made banners and cameras. A few tourists here and there took pictures of the crowd before zooming onto the charred window panes of the Taj and snapping away. Some students from Khalsa College too had turned up, but all in all, the gathering didnt even seem like a shadow of what it had been built up to in the papers. As time went by however, the people started to trickle in. Volunteers in black tshirts reading ‘Enough is Enough’ formed a circle right next to the Gateway and set up a pedestal in the middle, awaiting their speaker. Elsewhere, the junta started their standard fare of ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ and the likes through their broken megaphones.

Witty banners then started to emerge from all corners. While some lampooned RGV saying, ‘Aapne do Sarkar banayi aur aaj ek aur sarkar girayi.Thank you!’ others took a shot at all politicians in general suggesting a possible ban on dry-fruits. Mumbai certainly had brought their funny-bone along today, but the ire of angry citizens was yet to be witnessed.

It didn’t take long for the angry Mumbaikar to show up though. In fact things almost took a turn for the ugly when more people seemd to be shouting Anti-Pakistan slogans than anything else. But as the sun set, the real Mumbai began to rise. As soon as the clock struck six, the trickle of people became a raging flood. Hand-made signs gave way to full size flex hoardings, broken megaphones were replaced full-throated screams, and within no time, one could witness the tricolor as far as the eye could see.

Mumbai had woken up, and it was angry! The crowd got denser and the protests got louder and louder. Things however, didn’t show any signs of getting out of control at any point of time, as could be seen on the relaxed (and proud) faces of those who were posted there to protect us. I in fact had the privelege of speaking to one such unnamed unsung hero from our Police force.

This was no rifle-wielding NSG commando, he was an ordinary constable with a lathi, the kind we see everyday and pass by without a regard. At first, he just made small talk with us about what college we came from and where we lived. But soon, he told us about how he was posted outside the Taj for four straight days, about how the stench inside the Taj was so unbearable now that even he didnt have the courage to go inside anymore, about how he and his fellow men took on the AK-47 wielding terrorists with their lathis and lived to tell it, and how he wished he was suitably armed to at least take one of them down. The man had neither age, nor the odds in his favour, but he was there, and he was not complaining! And for that I salute him with as much respect as I would salute an NSG commando.

By the time we began to wade through the crowd to make our way out, the protests had a reached a crescendo. There were in fact more people going in than coming out. Those who couldn’t go inside were perched atop trees and lightpoles and some even hanging out of their balconies and terraces! And this was the scene more than half the way to Churchgate station.

I don’t know whether we created history today, or whether this will be the beginning of a change that will shape this nation. I don’t know if this random, mish-mash account of my experience makes a difference to anyone. But for once, I feel like I’m a part of something that might just work. In fact with the elections around the corner, anything is possible. For now though, all I can say is ‘Kudos Mumbai!’And lets hope for the best.

Mumbai’s Worst Ever Terrorist Attack – Updates

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Mumbai, (28th Nov. 2008 2030 hrs)

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The Current Updates

“Operation Nariman House Over, All Hostages Dead”

After ‘Yes-No’ reports for over 3 hours, the NSG finally confirmed that the third floor of Nariman House (Now known as Chabad House) had been cleared and that unfortunately all five of the hostages had been killed. Two terrorrists were also slain in the encounter.

Since 1640 hrs, the NSG intensified their operations at Nariman House, systematically attacking floor after floor. Spectacular explosions were observed as the NSG used rocket-propelled grenades to clear out the said building.

At around 1750 hrs, the NSG blew out a window on the fourth floor. A major explosion earlier, left a gaping hole in the wall on the first floor. The commandos therefore could clearly be seen surveying the cleared floors. And so, at around 1840 hrs, amidst confusion and speculation, the media prematurely declared that ‘Operation Nariman House was completed and the hostages were safely rescued’ (India TV & Star News).

Unfortunately, at 1905 hrs, the NSG confirmed that terrorists had killed all five hostages.

Reports yesterday suggested that a Jewish Rabbi and his family were amongst the hostages. The terrorists had even released the Rabbi’s son along with his nanny. The focus then shifted to the rescue of the Rabbi and his wife. News reports revealed that there was increasing diplomatic pressure on India as far as their safety was concerned.  The fact that the commandos haven’t been able to rescue the said hostages is certainly a big blow.

” Operation TAJ Still Unfinished. “

Despite all hostages being successfully rescued last night, the NSG commandos are yet to uproot the terrorists holed up inside the Taj. Reports as to how many terrorists were still inside the Taj lacked unanimity throughout the day. Some channels speculated that there was one terrorist who was possibly injured (CNN-IBN).  Others claimed that there were two (India TV).

The NSG earlier requested the media not to relay live coverage of the operation as it was becoming a disruption. Subsequently  there was a black out of news channels in several parts of the city, as well as in Thane and Navi Mumbai.

The operation has now greatly intensified with as many as 17 explosions being carried out by the NSG within a span of 20 mins between 1750 hrs to 1810 hrs. The supply of electricity which was earlier cut off, was resumed after sundown to facilitate the operations of the NSG.

In a freak accident, 3 members of the media were hurt by shrapnel after an explosion was carried out on the first storey of the TAJ.

“Operation Oberoi-Trident Accomplished, 24 found Dead.”

The NSG confirmed at around 1430 hrs that the operation at the Oberoi-Trident Hotel had been successfully completed and that the hotel was now under control of the NSG. Mumbai Police Commissioner Hassan Gafoor confirmed that 24 dead bodies were found in the premises today, in addition to the 6 bodies found yesterday.

The NSG claimed to have gunned down 2 terrorists at the Trident.

The operation showed encouraging signs as early as 1255 hrs when Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh confirmed that the Oberoi section of the hotel had been totally cleared and that the Trident section was almost clear.

The NSG is currently second-checking the premises and looking for possible clues that can aid the investigation.