My son Rahul who lives in Colaba rang up at 9.30 pm on November 26 to tell us of the bomb blasts and assure us that he was safe. I switched on my TV. I saw flames billowing out of windows of the Taj hotel and its dome enveloped in smoke. I had lived close by for many years and was a daily visitor to its health club. I saw the Oberoi, where I had stayed a few times, surrounded by Indian commandos and guests looking out of windows. I saw the devastation caused to the Jewish enclave, Victoria Terminus, Cama Hospital and the airport. I was numb with disbelief. I had spent many happy years in the city. My first reaction was of impotent rage: ‘Hang the bloody bastards on Marine Drive and let the world see how we deal with murderers of innocent people.’
I cooled down and watched scenes repeated over and over again. They had no leads about the perpetrators. All I could gather was that they knew their ways about Mumbai very well, had been fully trained and equipped with the most lethal weapons. They must have also known there was little chance of their ever getting back to their homes. By the time I switched off the TV, the death toll was over 90, including two police officers investigating the Malegaon blast case. They also reported that one of the culprits had been shot dead. I hoped and prayed that the examination of his body did not reveal he was a Muslim.
Alas. He was a Muslim. So also were the rest of the gang. All Pakistanis. From the meticulous way the operation was carried out, it was evident that they had been rehearsing it in minute detail for many weeks, if not months, on Pakistani soil. Pakistan’s rulers have a great deal to explain to the world as the victims include many foreign nationals.
We should be unanimous in our response to the Mumbai attack. It has dealt a heavy body blow to those who have been trying to build bridges between the people of India and Pakistan. This process must continue. At the same time we must do our very best to put down those who are likely to exploit the murderous assault in Mumbai to spread Islamophobia. Many Indian Muslims were killed; all of them condemn it, as do other Indians – Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis. If we do not stand united in our reactions to what had happened in Mumbai, the murderers will have achieved what they wanted to achieve. We must not allow this to happen. We are one nation. We must give them one answer: to hell with you! You will never succeed in dividing us.