From: PARIKH Rohan
Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2008 6:36 PM
To: MOTWANI Dheeraj
Subject: FW: The Mumbai Attacks
First, I wanted to thank you all for the incredible concern and
support that you’ll have given me over the past few days which have
been among the most emotionally and psychologically draining of my
By the grace of God my father was rescued from the Oberoi on Friday
with two (minor) bullet wounds and is now speedily recovering. He did
however lose the two best friends he was dining with that fateful
night (who are like godfathers to me). We also lost a lot of other
friends and colleagues and have watched our beloved city reduced to a
war zone and brought to its knees.
On Wednesday night, my father and his two friends arrived at the
Indian restaurant on the first floor of the Oberoi Hotel for dinner
at about 10pm. They had barely sat down when they heard gun shots in
the lobby of the hotel. The terrorists, armed with AK-47s, grenades
and plastic explosives, had entered the hotel and were executing
everybody sitting in the ground floor restaurant. Realizing the
situation, the staff of the restaurant my father was in asked them to
quickly exit through the kitchen. As the guests tried to rush into
the kitchen, one terrorist burst into the restaurant and began to
shoot anyone that remained in the restaurant. At this point my father
was in the kitchen and along with his two friends rushed to the fire
exit. They had barely descended a few steps when they were trapped
from both ends by terrorists.
The terrorists then rounded up anyone alive (about 20 people) and
made them climb the service staircase to the 18th floor. On reaching
the 18th floor landing they made the people line up against a wall.
One terrorist then positioned himself on the staircase going up from
the landing and the other on the staircase going down from the
landing. Then, in a scene right out of the Holocaust, they
simultaneously opened fire on the people. My father was towards the
center of the line with his two friends on either side. Out of
reflex, or presence of mind, he ducked as soon as the firing began.
One bullet grazed his neck, and he fell to the floor as his two
friends and several other bodies piled on top of him. The terrorists
then pumped another series of bullets into the heap of bodies to
finish the job. This time a bullet hit my father in the back hip.
Bent almost in double, crushed by the weight of the bodies above him,
and suffocating in the torrent of blood rushing down on him from the
various bodies my father held on for ten minutes while the terrorists
left the area. When he finally had the courage to wiggle his arms he
found that there were four other survivors in the room. They
communicated to each other by touch as they were too afraid to make a
sound. My father moved just enough to allow himself room to breathe
and then lay still. The survivors passed over twelve hours lying
still in the heap of bodies too afraid to move. They constantly heard
gunfire and hand grenades going off in the other parts of the hotel.
They feared that any noise would bring the terrorists back. After
approximately twelve hours, the terrorists returned with a camera and
flashlight and joked and laughed as they filmed what they thought was
a pile of dead bodies. They then moved to the landing below where
they set up explosives. On their departing, my father decided that it
was too risky to remain where they were due to the explosives. Along
with the other three survivors he climbed the rest of the stairwell,
where they discovered a large HVAC plant room in which they decided
to take shelter. They passed the rest of the siege hiding in this
room trying to get the attention of the outside world by waving a
makeshift flag out of the window. They drank sips of dirty water from
the Air Conditioning unit to survive. Finally on Friday morning they
were spotted by a commando rescue team that was storming the building
and were evacuated to safety and taken to the hospital.
This is just one of the countless horror stories that unfolded in
those two days. There are many stories of entire families being wiped
out while eating their dinner, or young kids losing both parents, or
pregnant women being shot while pleading for their lives, or hostages
being beaten to death with the butt of a rifle so that their faces
were unrecognizable. The terrorists attacked on every level. They
killed middle class workers when they shot up the railway station,
they killed the elite in the hotels, they killed tourists and kids as
they ate in a café, and they killed the sick and dying when they
stormed three hospitals. They shot people in the roads, in stations,
in hotels, and even entered an apartment building. They killed
Indians, Americans, Britons, Israelis, and several other
nationalities. They killed men, women, children, policemen, firemen,
doctors, patients. This was systematic, cold-blooded, slaughter.
We have lost a lot of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Every
person who lives in South Mumbai has a story about how either they or
someone they love either died or had a narrow escape. The true extent
of the horror will only make itself clear over the next few days.
Mumbai is a proud city and we pride ourselves on bouncing back from
any adversity. We survive and prosper despite all the difficulties
placed on us. We are no strangers to terror and have had to pick up
the pieces and move on after several attacks. This time however, the
sheer scale and audacity brought the city to its knees. The openness
of our society, the bustling hoards in our train stations, the
vibrancy of our news media, and the thousands of tourists, diplomats,
and business leaders packing our hotels was used against us to
In the end one tries to make sense of all this. Barack Obama said
about the killers of 9/11: “My powers of empathy, my ability to reach
into another’s heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who
would murder innocents with such serene satisfaction.”
Unfortunately, this is becoming an all familiar scene in today’s
world. While I cannot understand, I recognize again and again the
hatred, anger, and desperation of the terrorists and the cold
blooded, targeted, ruthlessness of those that dispatch them. They
respect nothing but their own twisted beliefs and to achieve them
have declared war on an entire way of life. India now finds itself as
a major front of this global war.
How do we fight such hate? How do we inject humanity into such
monstrosity? How do we convince those who think they kill in god’s
name that no God would condone such barbarity? How do we maintain our
own values and humanity when faced with such hate and provocation?
Over the next week as we say goodbye to those we lost and help those
that survive, Mumbai and India will ask themselves these questions. I
hope the rest of the world does too.
I will remain in Mumbai for at least a week to help out with various
things, after which I will probably return to complete P2 at INSEAD.
Right now, though I miss all everyone at INSEAD, I cannot fathom
sitting in a classroom.
Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers.
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A 60-hour terror rampage across India’s financial capital ended Saturday when commandos killed the last three gunmen holed up in a luxury hotel engulfed in flames. At least 195 people died.
After the final siege ended, adoring crowds surrounded six buses near the hotel carrying weary, unshaven commandos, shaking their hands and giving them flowers. The commandos, dressed in black fatigues, said they had been ordered not to talk about the operation, but said they had not slept since the ordeal began. One sat sipping a bottle of water and holding a pink rose.
“What happened is disgusting,” said Suresh Thakkar, 59, who reopened his clothing store behind the hotel Saturday for the first time since the attacks. “It will be harder to recover, but we will recover. Bombay people have a lot of spirit and courage.” Mumbai was formerly known as Bombay.
Officials said they believe just 10 well-prepared gunmen were behind the attacks that brought the city of 18 million to its knees for three days.
“Nine were killed and one was captured,” Maharshta state Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told reporters. “We are interrogating him.” Another official said the captured attacker is Pakistani and the gunmen were constantly in touch with a foreign country.
With the end of one of the most brazen terror attacks in India’s history, authorities were searching for any remaining victims hiding in their hotel rooms and began to shift their focus to who was behind the attacks, which killed 18 foreigners including six Americans. At least 20 Indian soldiers and police were also among the dead.
A previously unknown Muslim group with a name suggesting origins inside India claimed responsibility for the attack, but Indian officials said the sole surviving gunman was from Pakistan and pointed a finger of blame at their neighbor and rival.
Islamabad angrily denied involvement and initially promised to send its spy chief to India to assist in the investigation. But it withdrew that offer on Saturday, saying it would send a lower-ranked official instead.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari blamed the about-face on a “miscommunication” with India. However, the reversal followed sharp criticism from some opposition politicians and a cool response from the army, which controls the spy agency.
A team of FBI agents was on its way to India to help investigate, and President George W. Bush pledged full U.S. support.
“As the people of the world’s largest democracy recover from these attacks, they can count on the people of world’s oldest democracy to stand by their side,” Bush said at the White House.
About 300 people were wounded in the violence that started when heavily armed assailants attacked 10 sites across the city Wednesday night.
Read the rest of the story at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97602358&ft=1&f=1004
Reva Bhalla is the director of Geopolitical Analysis, at Stratfor, a private geopolitical intelligence company in Austin, Texas. She has offered her analysis on the current situation in Mumbai through major media entities like NPR and CNN.
The DFW Desi interviewed Bhalla today on her views about the unfolding situation in Mumbai.
DD: How are the current attacks different than the previous bomb blasts?
RB: The biggest difference in these attacks are they are planned at a strategic level – strategic as far as the location of targets, as well as the people impacted.
The choice of the Taj and the Oberoi hotels, where most of the foriegn dignitaries congregate, as well as the Chabad House to cover the Israeli angle are noteworthy. This has immidiately given international exposure to the incident – with pressure on both India and Pakistan to show leadership at this time of crisis.
The second difference is the level of planning behind these attacks – this shows that these attacks have been planned quite a bit in advance, leading to speculation about who is really behind these attacks.
DD: So who is behind these attacks?
RB: Given the pre-operational surveillance, planning and coordination of this unprecedented attack, it appears that the domestic elements involved in the operation received outside support, most likely from al Qaeda in Pakistan, which already has close ties to many of the groups operating in India, particularly Lashkar-e-Taiba. That one of the militant name game attacks targeted the Jewish Chabad House (an atypical target for the more indigenous Islamist militants operating in India) indicates more of a transnational jihadist linkage. Groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat ul Jihad al Islami and the Student Islamic Movement of India are all Islamist militant groups that have collaborated with each other under the Kashmir banner and appear to have now coalesced under the name Indian Mujahideen. The group Deccan Mujahideen, which claimed the Mumbai attacks, is likely an affiliate of the group. In the bigger picture, however, the militant name game is unimportant, since it is meant primarily to confuse India’s security forces. What is important is the link that can be drawn back to the Pakistani ISI.
The Mumbai attacks covered a large number of Western-focused targets over an extended period of time. While the attacks did not require the skills of a bomb maker, they did require scores of young men who were dedicated enough to essentially launch a suicide operation. Such an attack requires a high level of planning, training and coordination that has not been seen by the more homegrown Islamist militant groups operating in India over the past several years.
It is quite possible that these Islamist militant groups received substantial support from intelligence elements in Pakistan in carrying out the attack. Since 9/11, the Pakistani government and military’s command and control over the ISI has become more nebulous, as many of the handlers who worked directly with the militant groups have struggled to maintain a balance between obeying orders from above to crack down on their militant proxies and assisting in operations against India and the United States. In any case, it is up to the Indian government to decide how far it will take the Pakistani link in its response to the attacks.
There is also a high probability that the Mumbai underworld was involved in this attack. Mumbai has a very active organized crime scene that has a great deal of influence over the city’s ports as well as the country’s movie-making industry. The triangular marine area between the coastal regions of India, Pakistan and Dubai is concentrated with organized crime elements that are heavily involved in smuggling operations. Many of these criminals are Muslim and harbor pro-Islamist and anti-India sentiment. To transport the number of militants and ammunition used in this attack, particularly by boat, could very well have required some level of cooperation from Mumbai’s organized crime scene. In fact, there is historical precedent for this: Mumbai organized crime had links to both the 1993 and 2001 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
DD: So what happens now?
RB: As Stratfor has emphasized, the Indian government will not be able to downplay its response to an attack of this magnitude, raising the potential for India to spin up the Pakistani linkages in the attack to create a crisis along the Indo-Pakistani border. Stratfor has learned that discussions are already taking place among senior Congress officials in New Delhi to amass troops along the border in Kashmir, a situation reminiscent of the Indian response to the 2001 parliamentary bombing in Mumbai that led to a near-nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan.
From the Pakistani side, arrangements are being made for the ISI chief to come to India to offer assistance. It is yet to be seen how this olive branch is accepted by the Indians.
I voted at the polling station in Las Colinas (Dallas), TX today – why wait till the last minute? because I went three times to the early voting location, but everytime the lines were 30-40 min long. However at 8 am today, I had to wait 10 minutes for my turn, and voted uneventfully.
However, the interesting thing was on the door of the location, there were signs in Chinese and Hindi (along with English and Spanish) giving directions like “Enter” etc.
How many Indians do you think came to vote and could not read English? and of those that couldn’t, how many could read Hindi?
Ahh…no travel this week! Its great to sleep in your own bed…
What’s going on in Dallas this week? New Bollywood movie Karz releases in both the major desi theaters here, Karva Chauth is being celebrated by lots of women across town, and NetIP has a mixer tonight…
Diwali is coming up, and there is a huge Diwali Mela at the Texas Stadium…but nothing like the bustle of Delhi markets, the card parties and festivities around Diwali in India…