Children ever since our school days, we are told that on Independence and Republic Day, we should remember all those who sacrificed their lives to free our country from the clutches of the British. But are we really free? Demons like poverty, corruption and terrorism still need to be combated. Our soldiers, policemen bravely counter terrorism so that we live without fear. It is time to pay homage to such brave hearts.
November 26, 2008 is the day that will be remembered by all of us. Though it will be forgotten as one of the events in the history of India, it will leave behind the dreadful memories. The terror wobbled entire city. Mumbaikars witnessed a dirty face of terror. Terrorists used AK47 guns hand grenades and kept firing bullets. Our courageous policemen lost their lives while combating the terrorists.
Taj and Oberoi-Trident Hotels were captured by terrorists. NSG started its operation that went for several hours.Mumbai saw massive bloodshed, yells of innocent people, and sacrifices of fearless commandos and courageous cops. As Mumbai came under attack, an awestruck nation watched its brave hearts step up and fight valiantly to save hundreds of innocent lives, sacrificing their own.
Be it the brave NSG commandos, the ATS officials, the valiant policemen or the indomitable hotel staff, they fought in the line of duty in an attempt to save innumerable lives. The valour and heroics of these men redefined the meaning of being a true Indian.
Around 10:30 PM on November 26, 2008, Hemant Karkare, Head of Anti-Extortion Cell; Vijay Salaskar, Additional Commissioner, Mumbai Police; Ashok Kamte, and others laid down their lives fighting terrorists in a narrow lane between St. Xaviers College and Rang Bhavan, just a stone throw away from the Mumbai Crime Branch office.
They had received information that officer Sadanand Date had been wounded while fighting terrorists at the Cama and Albless Hospital. From C.S.T. station, they immediately proceeded in the direction of the hospital. Minutes later terrorists Ajmal Amir Qasab and Ibrahim Khan stepped out from behind a tree and opened fire with AK-47 rifles. Six policemen, other than Constable Arun Jadhav, were all killed quickly in that gunfire.
Realising the danger that was looming on Mumbai’s head, a team of NSG commandos was sent into the Taj hotel to rescue hostages and flush out the terrorists. Leading his team of 10 commandos, 30-year-old Major Unnikrishnan sacrificed his life to save an injured fellow commando. While saving an injured commando, Major Unnikrishnan was seperated from the rest of his NSG team when the terrorists opened fire at him. “Do not come up, I will handle them”, were probably the last words which he told his men as he was hit by bullets. Chasing the terrorists all by himself, he was shot from behind and succumbed to his injuries.
A retired army personnel and an assistant sub-inspector, 48-year old Tukaram Omble is the reason for the capture of the terrorist Qasab. Giving his life away in the process, armed with just a stick, Tukaram charged towards Qasab while being in the line of his fire. Taking bullets to his abdomen, Tukaram held on to Qasab’s gun and did not let go till he lost his consciousness. This selfless sacrifice gave other policemen enough time to capture Qasab, the only terrorist who was captured alive. Positioned on Marine Drive, around 12.45 am on November 27, 2008, he was alerted on his walkie-talkie that two terrorists had hijacked a car and were heading for Chowpatty.
Just minutes later the car passed by and Omble started chasing it on his motorcycle. The terrorists had to slow down due to a barricade set up by DB Marg Police Station at the Chowpatty signal. Omble overtook their car and stopped in front of it, forcing them to turn right and hit the divider.
Then Omble sprang towards Qasab, and gripped the barrel of his AK-47 with both hands. Being straight in the line of fire, he took bullets to his abdomen but held on to the gun till he lost consciousness, which stopped Qasab from shooting others. Other policemen, who by that time had killed the other terrorist, captured Qasab.
36-year-old commando Gajender Singh was part of the team of NSG commandos who were abseiled on the roof of Nariman House in an operation to neutralise terrorists holding at least six hostages inside. Paving the way for others to follow, Gajendra kept on facing bullets fired by the terrorists at him. His sacrifice helped the NSG commando team to secure a dominant position in the encounter.
It was not just the Mumbai police and the NSG commandos who faced this terror bravely. 60 people had died at the C.S.T. but the number could have been much higher had it not been for V.D. Zende, an announcer at the terminal who probably saved thousands of lives after he sensed trouble and kept directing passengers to run out of back exits or to stay inside the train compartments as terrorists indiscriminately kept shooting at people on the platform. The terrorists shot at his cabin’s windows but he did not flinch and kept on announcing.
Mumbai’s saviours were not just men in uniform from Mumbai Police, MARCOS, ATS or NSG; there were some ordinary men who showed extraordinary courage at the time of terror.
Taj Mahal hotel’s maintenance staff Rajan Kamble did not bother about bullet injuries while saving guests from the dreaded terrorists .Another brave man who showed exemplary courage was Nitin Minocha, a chef at Taj Mahal Palace who led more than 200 diners into the chambers to safety.
Sandra Samuel, a nanny by profession, saved 2-year old Moshe Holtzman from the jaws of terror.
Karambir Kang, the General Manager of Taj Mahal Palace who was busy saving the lives of tourists, lost his wife Neeti, and children Uday Kang and Samar Kang to terror.
What to talk of security personnel two nurses, Anjali Kulthe and Madhuri Rahate at Cama & Albless Hospital protected 150-odd patients admitted in the hospital and did their duty putting their lives at risk.
Children don’t you think we are indebted to these heroes and we should also protect our country in the same way.