Alive

And no, the lyrics of the Pearl Jam song will not be part of this post.

If there’s one thing that I didn’t think I’d ever do when I took to blogging, it’s live-blogging during a bombing/hostage situation.

Today was the premiere of the movie “The President is Coming“. While we were drinking free white wine, courtesy Sula, gunmen armed with grenades and automatic weapons stormed into the Taj (presumably the one in Apollo Bunder) and the Trident in Nariman Point. They were boys of about 20-25 year-olds and apparently they demanded that people with American and British passports to identify themselves. It’s now 12.56 am. The news channels are saying now that the terrorists are dead. Two have been shot at Girgaum Chowpatty. Seven places in South Mumbai have seen explosions and people being taken hostage. In Nepean Sea Road and Colaba, gunfire staccatoed through a reasonably quiet Thursday night. There have been explosions in CST, outside Leopold Cafe, near the Cama Hospital, in Walkeshwar, near the domestic airport and at Vile Parle. Cama Hospital and GT hospital have been taken hostage. There was gunfire around Metro cinema (Fort) and Ramada hotel (Juhu).There are rumours that 80 people are dead. A friend has a picture of one of the grenade-throwers. He’s only about 20 years old.

I can’t believe this is my city. I can’t believe I just passed the JW Marriott hotel ten minutes ago and didn’t realise that the little crowd near the gates would end up being a gunfire battle. I can’t believe the Taj hotel is burning. They’ve got hostages in there. More than half are American and British hostages. It’s 1.21am. There’s been a new explosion at the Taj. A friend of mine is in there. His wine glass had a bullet go through it. He said he was being evacuated to the 18th floor except that’s where they apparently took hostages. We can’t get through to his phone. A friend’s sister escaped just as the shooting began. Some of the terrorists have escaped in a police van. Charming.

All this is, however, entirely fitting as fireworks for the premiere of a film centred around the legend that is George Bush.

UPDATE: Gun battles are “ongoing” and there are about 250 injured.

The Oberoi hotel is still under fire. There are 40 hostages in that hotel alone. At Girgaum Chowpatty, helpless looking policemen stand pressed against their jeeps.

Casualties include Vijay Saluskar, one of Mumbai police’s star encounter specialists. I say RIP, though I doubt he will under the circumstances. Hemant Karkare, head of Mumbai’s Anti-Terror Squad (ATS), has also succumbed to his injuries. He was one of two officers who injured during the shooting at Metro cinema. Two other fine police officers have been killed. No one has taken responsibility for these events so far.

The fire continues to rage at Taj Mahal Palace and Tower. There are no fire engines there. No one is nearby. All the lights have been taken out. It’s the fifth floor that is burning. Bloody bodies are coming out of the Taj hotel in the large cage-like trollies that generally carry suitcases.

In the Oberoi, there is a hostage situation developing. No one knows how many people have been taken. Staff are being evacuated steadily and slowly.

Two sets of terrorists have reportedly been killed.

At last count, 12 locations in Mumbai have seen terrorist attack tonight. Two boats, loaded with explosives, were confiscated from the Gateway of India. The encounters continue. It is now 2.11am.

About 40 people have been taken hostage in the Oberoi. The Army have apparently entered the hotel, along with bomb disposal squads. The Army are all around the hotel and naval commandoes are inside.

2.28am – Firing reported in Borivali.

2.33am – NDTV just showed us where policemen are standing, armed with rifles, around the Taj hotel. Because really, what good is a news channel if it can’t inform everyone, including terrorists, watching cable tv where the police are positioning themselves?

So far, no further news of Cama or GT hospital.

2.39am – The Deccan Mujahideen has taken responsibility for the attacks. They sent an email to news organisations.

2.42am – Most of the Taj hostages have been released but the encounter is still “going on”. Those in the new wing have come out but things remain violent in the old wing.

3.30am – A number of terrorists are believed to be holed up in the Taj, whose old wing is engulfed in flames.

3.41am – Arnab Goswami of Times Now decides this is a safe moment to compare this to 9/11. He also asks whether India will take this lying down. So much for responsible journalism; I’m almost relieved they’ve forgotten about Cama Hospital. Reports are coming in of about 100 people having been evacuated from the Taj and of the stairwell of the hotel being encrusted with dead bodies.

3.51am – Two terrorists have been killed in Taj. “Two more to go,” said Srinivasan Jain, quoting the police. There’s apparently an encounter taking place outside Bootleggers, a pub in Colaba.

4.14am – The terrorists are still in Trident, along with at least one dead person and many injured. Very little evacuation has happened. Still no news of Cama or GT Hospitals. Reports say 40 hostages.

14 thoughts on “Alive”

  1. god damn cowards with machine guns shooting unarmed people… terrible situation… great insight and recording of this tragic event

  2. Hi Anon, I can’t find an email address to contact you – could you send me an email? We wondered if you’d be interested in writing an article. Thx

  3. All this is, however, entirely fitting as fireworks for the premiere of a film centred around the legend that is George Bush.

    The death of 80 people and injury to 250 others while a 100 police officers put their lives on the line to fight a bunch of insane morons wreaking havoc is all just fireworks for a film(whatever be the content of the film)?

    Very nice.

  4. thank you so much for informing us. I hope you are safe. My thoughts are with all of you and I am so sorry that you had to go through this.

  5. Here is my Hypothesis of how the Mumbai terrorist attack was made possible:
    The Pakistan Marine Agency has been kidnapping and capturing Indian fishing vessels for the last 5 years. Look at this news link:
    http://www.hvk.org/articles/0603/176.html
    Pakistan then puts these kidnapped fishermen into jail and periodically decides to either release them or to keep them languishing in jail depending on whether it wants to take favors from India to release its citizens languishing in Indian jails for much more heinous crimes.

    The Indian government has done nothing, zilch, nada in the last many years to take care of the above situation.

    The terrorists apparently took this situation a step further. They took the help of the Pakistan Marine Agency

    to kill/kidnap and hijack an Indian fishing trawler. Next they loaded up the vessel with explosives and
    grenades manufactured in Pakistani factories. Finally they entered Mumbai (with all their prior research and review of the cities famous landmarks and their floor plans) and launched these attacks.

    Conclusion: The above goes to show that there are several factors leading to this tragedy:
    1) the lackadaisical attitude of the government in dealing firmly with Pakistan
    2) the apathy of Indian citizens who were happy to be tolerant and look the other way
    3) the absence of policing security and law system that protects the citizenry proactively
    4) the lack of political will to impose strong laws – the Congress is a leader on this
    5) the willingness to negotiate with terrorists – the BJP created a horrible precedent during the Indian
    Airlines hijacking incident few years ago
    6) the lack of cool self-assessment of what India’s strengths and weaknesses are in the security and law/order area
    7) opening up of borders with Pakistan – a country that is predominantly lawless and where the government only pretends to govern. We have spent too much time trying to build a relationship with a government that cannot control its internal environment
    8) ignoring the dangers posed by allowing Pakistanis to enter Indian territory by air, land and water without realizing the dangers it would pose to Indian lives
    9) constant interference in the functioning of the defence forces by the Indian government
    10) not investing in intelligence, security and training that is world class to ensure that the police can deal with such incidents
    11) agnostic Indian citizen psyche that refuses to get united and is happy in living in denial untill they are not personally attacked
    12) a citizenry that does not hold its politicians responsible for their actions.

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