One Year Later, Mumbai Remembers Terrorist Attacks

November 26, 2009 Updated: November 26, 2009

A crowd gathers on Nov. 22 to commemorate the victims of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.  (Suren Rao/The Epoch Times)
A crowd gathers on Nov. 22 to commemorate the victims of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. (Suren Rao/The Epoch Times)
MUMBAI, India—Men, women and children gathered early morning Sunday at the Oberoi Trident Hotel to grieve for those slain in last year’s terrorist violence, the worst the country has seen.

On Nov. 26, 2008, 10 heavily armed militants began shooting sprees in locations across Mumbai, killing 164 people; some were hold-up in the Oberoi Trident for several days until being overwhelmed by Indian security forces. Terrorist groups in neighboring Pakistan are suspected of coordinating the highly sophisticated attacks.

The mood of the crowd at the Trident had changed from after last year’s carnage, when frustration was directed at inefficient politicians and local bureaucrats. This time around the crowd chanted “Inquilab Zindabad” (“Long live the revolution”), a slogan often used during India’s struggle for independence, and expressed a determination to stand united against terrorism.

The Epoch Times revisited the sites of some the attacks to see how business owners and locals were coping one year on.

Leopold Cafe

Twenty three bodies, eight of them dead, had been carried out of this café after the attacks last year. Now it is back to business with bustling crowds, many of them foreigners. Holes in the walls made by the spray of bullets can still be seen, preserved for posterity by manager Farhang Jehani.

Jehani says that some people visit the restaurant to express their solidarity, while some come out of curiosity, looking at the bullet holes, and imagining what it was like to be there on the fateful night.

“We want everything to be normal. We want to show that life goes on,” Jehani says.

Chabad House

A year after the attacks on the synagogue in Mumbai, the Chabad House, the exterior has been repaired but the security guard at the gate said that it is out of bounds for visitors until the evening of Nov. 26.

A memorial for Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife Rivka, and other victims of the terrorist attack will mark the reopening.

Babu Gaekwad, who owns a small electronic repairs shop nearby, was witness to the attack on Chabad House. He heard screams followed by gunshots from the upper floors of the building, and called out to ask if anyone needed help. The next thing he knew bullets were hitting the wall behind him, so he dashed inside and closed the doors. He has recounted the nightmare countless times to journalists.

Now he says he wants to forget about it and get on with life. He said he will never leave the place, and is grateful for having survived the attack at such close quarters. “The terrorists won’t strike again,” he says with a smile. “They are cowards and fools.”

The Oberoi Mumbai and Trident

The two gunmen began firing indiscriminately as soon as they walked in the doors of the Trident hotel last year. Then they crossed over to the Oberoi hotel, still shooting, before moving up the floors, killing guests and staff. Thirty two people lost their lives.

The Trident reopened on Dec. 21 last year, and there has been a definite resurgence of confidence in the hotel, from both Indian and foreign guests. The restoration of the Oberoi is underway.

The hotel is expected to reopen in the first quarter of 2010, according to Devendra Bharma, executive vice president of Oberoi Hotels and Resorts Mumbai.

The Oberoi Mumbai and Trident has arranged for Mumbaiites to light a candle and pay homage to guests and staff who were killed.

The Taj Mahal Palace

The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, one of the sites of the 2008 terrorist in Mumbai, India, one year later. (Suren Rao/The Epoch Times)
The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, one of the sites of the 2008 terrorist in Mumbai, India, one year later. (Suren Rao/The Epoch Times)
The main tower wing, with 268 rooms, reopened a month after the attacks. A year later, even though the scars remain, the hotel group has moved on.

Following meticulous restoration and renovation work, a few floors are expected to open in the heritage wing in January 2010.

To commemorate the attacks, the Taj Mahal Palace will privately hold multi-faith prayers with families of victims and staff. A permanent memorial was unveiled on Nov. 25.

In a gesture not lost on locals, the Taj Mahal Palace has offered free trauma care and psychiatric counseling. The offer applies not only to its staff members and families of guests, but to anyone who was at any of the locations of terrorist attacks and needs help.

Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus

The iconic Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a heritage railway station, stands unscathed with thousands of commuters rushing through its portals daily. Many have forgotten about the attacks, if only temporarily, while others still fret.

Mrs. Pushpa Shetty, a regular traveler, says she was fortunate enough not to have borne witness to the killings at CST, but has for the past year been more wary when commuting. She says she felt safer after railway authorities beefed up security and surveillance.

Memorial services will be held at railways for those killed in the line of duty. As in the rest of the city, floral tributes, memorial services, prayers for peace, and candlelight vigils will be how Mumbai remembers the tragedy.