“You have to have challenges to bring out the best in you.”
The 26/11 attack is etched deeply into the memories of every Mumbaikar. This was one of the worst attacks that Mumbai has ever seen. It happened in 2008, wherein 10 terrorists from Pakistan entered Mumbai at the waterfront near The Gateway of India. From there, they split and attacked places like the Taj hotel, Nariman House, CST station, Cama and Albless hospital, Cafe Leopold, and Oberoi-Trident hotel. They even went into random buildings and shot people.
We even lost a few brave police officers in this attack who fought courageously till their very last breath and shot around 9 of the terrorists and the 10th one, Ajmal Kasab, was taken into custody and was later sentenced to death.
After this attack, as Mumbai citizens, we felt a difference. We feel much safer now and the police force has worked hard to make this city safe.
I hosted a podcast with the Chief Strategist on the 26/11 mission. Mr. Sivanandhan was the one who strategized the rescue and the safety of Mumbai on 26/11.
This is the inside story of 26/11, the worst terrorist attack in Mumbai.
Such heroic stories of police officers should come to the forefront, and this is a paltry attempt by me to do so.
Hope this blog creates awareness and respect for our police force
Various Attacks by Terrorists In India
My first question to Sivanandhan sir was – “In 2021, how do you look back at 26/11 and what was going on in your mind when it was happening in 2008?”
“This incident was unforgettable. It was such a massive thing. It was like a war raged by a neighboring country. Many people died.
The first-ever blast in India happened on 12 March 1993, in which 257 people died and 800 were injured and many were missing.
The second blast was in 2006, the bomb blast in Mumbai locals, around 207 people were killed and 714 people were injured and 11 first-class compartments were blown into pieces.
The third and the biggest was 26/11. In between, many small bomb blasts took place all over the country in 2008.
The training of all these terrorists happened in Karachi. A few 100 people were trained to do seafaring activities; around 10 were selected”.
I remember I was 14 years old when this attack had happened and at the start; we thought it was just a gang war. Then eventually, people realized it is much more than that.
His Experience regarding 26/11
The next question I had was- “What was happening in your mind and where were you on that night?”
“I was not doing policing work at that time. I was working as a commissioner of intelligence for the state. The city police commissioner is a different setup, so I was not a part. My office was next to the Taj. On that very day, a few members of my team and I were out having dinner at a doctor’s place in Phoenix Palladium. After we heard about the news, we left for the office immediately and stayed there for 4 days with the Director-General of Police DGP Anami Narayan Roy and we helped them. The army, navy, and various central agencies all were there. Something or the other was happening continuously”.
“The intelligence had information about such an attack was going to happen and all the big hotels were sent 30-40 points of rules to follow. This was sent to them 3-4 months before the attack and with Pakistanis, we can never be sure of when the attack would take place”.
Improvements Done After The Attack Of 26/11
“Now the city is much safer and all the Mumbaikers can feel comfortable that they are protected and we are prepared. The government took special measures for anti-terrorism. All the Police forces are improved, every state has an anti-terrorism squad, and there are QRTs (Quick Reaction Team). We have bulletproof motorboats and bulletproof cars ready in 40 places, with 12 men well trained for it.
I went to Israel, met the commander-in-chief of police, and brought trainers from them to train our QRTs and other men in 2009.
Back in 2008, the special force was unaware of the topography or had a map of these hotels to help people and they weren’t living here. They had to travel for 26 hours. Now they are well trained. The gap that was there back then doesn’t exist now. Now we can prevent such an attack and tackle it in about 30-40 minutes effectively”.
“I would like the readers to read the 9/11 investigation report by the Americans. They had the intelligence. They have concluded that it was because of a lack of anticipation that such an attack on the World Trade Center happened”.
On Meeting Kasab
The obvious question I had for him was – “Did you meet Kasab?”
“Yes, I was the commissioner at that time, so, yes, I have met. He was uneducated. All the boys were brainwashed, and they were trained in the army camp and sent without a bulletproof jacket and they all knew it was a one-way trip”.
Mindset Of Terrorist
Sivanandhan sir’s view on how do these guys look at death?
\”The jihadists are brainwashed with the message that they will go to heaven and those beautiful girls will dance for them. No one has seen this happening, but these people brainwash youngsters easily and these youngsters get to this through the internet. Someone is watching who visits such sites, and who has their inclination more towards these and then they identify and radicalize them”.
“Last year, during Christmas, a few guys in Sri Lanka went to a church with bombs in their bags. Massive destruction was caused. These guys were from rich families, so this is not just about poverty or the promise to look after their parents. Still, they radicalized”.
My next question was, “Did you get a chance to speak to the families of the officers who were killed?”
“Our police force showed exemplary valor. Ashok Kamte, his grandfather, and his father were in the army, so he had it in his DNA. His area of operation was Chembur. As the news broke, he came running from there. ATS chief was having dinner in Dadar, he came running to VT Station, Vijay Salaskar came from Colaba and they all congregated at CST. Sadanand Date came from Malabar Hill and he didn\’t work in the Southern region and still went to Kama hospital to fight.
They left everything and came out of bravery. None of them had a bulletproof jacket or any such armor”.
The two terrorists, Iqbal and Ajmal Kasab, left Kama hospital and were waiting for a car to pick them up, they shoot all the police officers in the car that was waiting at the gate of Kama hospital. They took that vehicle, went near Vidhan Bhavan, then left that vehicle as it was giving trouble, got in another vehicle, and went via Marine Drive and that is where Tukaram Omble and D. B Marga had put up a blockade.
The firing started, Iqbal died and Tukaram Omble caught Kasab. He was shot with all the bullets from the AK-47 fired by Kasab.
This was the first time a live, active international terrorist was caught by the bravery of police officers.
In one more incident, constable Ashok Pawar was going home from his job. As his duty was over, he was not in his uniform. He saw an RPF(Railway Protection Force) man in CST. He was lying down, and a bullet had gotten stuck. Ashok Pawar went to help. Kasab and Iqbal then killed him.
We lost 16 policemen, 1 N.S.G. commando, and 1 from the Indian army”.
A Lesson Learned
Most young people think that their major life lesson will happen in their early years, but Sivanandan sir faced this in his late 60s
So, I asked Sivanandhan sir- What was your learning from this experience?
“When I got an opportunity as Commissioner of Mumbai police, I prepared for it from all possibilities. I bought 7 stimulators and put them in 7 different places in the city for men to learn to shoot. We started the training sessions in Azad Maidan. I started 3 gymnasiums and got police officers to get their body check-ups to know how fit they are and necessary care was taken to improve this”.
Future Of Terrorism
“In future terrorism will be all cyber terrorism, blowing up of oil lines and blowing up of people. The Indian government has paid crores to develop the navy, army, coast guard, and police officers.
Maharashtra has a dedicated equivalent of NSG called Force one, well-trained officers are ready”.
This was a knowledgeable podcast, wherein we gained a lot of insights from IPS Sivanandhan Sir. I hope you enjoyed reading this. We are planning to get more such crime stories. To hear this in more detail, watch the episode.
It was an honor to host IPS Sivanandhan sir once again on ‘The Ranveer Show’. In the late 90s, he was the Chief of the Mumbai Crime Branch. He is the reason for destroying the underworld. He shared his experience during the attack of 26/11, how bravely the policemen fought and how the police force improved after the attack of 26/11.
For listening to the previous episode with IPS Sivanandhan on Crime World and Police
Air Force Veteran Intense Career Stories, Views on Death and many more by Air Marshal Anil Chopra