November 26, 2008, was like any other day in Mumbai. Schools, colleges, hospitals, railway stations and hotels followed their regular routine. Little did the city know that the day was about to turn into one of the darkest in history.
No one imagined that the city’s glittering expanses would be stained in blood forever. That evening, the city was in the throes of one of the most horrifying terror attacks ever witnessed by the world.
Ten heavily armed terrorists, all of them Pakistani nationals, arrived in Mumbai by sea route.They split into groups of two to three people and carried out a series of attacks across the financial capital.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Mumbai Chabad House, The Oberoi Trident, The Taj Palace & Tower, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital, The Nariman House, and the Metro Cinema witnessed a heavy exchange of gunfire between the terrorists and security forces.
During the 60-hour siege, over 160 people were killed, and hundreds wounded.
While hundreds died, several people were saved because of the bravery of a few men who fought valiantly and sacrificed their lives to save others.
Years later, today, they may not be with us but they have certainly not been forgotten.
To the 166 lives lost…to over 239 injured…to the innumerable memories etched on the firmament forever & to Mumbai, the city which picked up its pieces & started stronger than ever – A Salute & A Bow of Gratitude from Mumbai Police! pic.twitter.com/TQrGHjewbp
— Mumbai Police (@MumbaiPolice) November 26, 2017
On 26/11, 2020, here’s a tribute to the bravehearts:
- Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan
As the terrorists remained hidden in the Taj, Operation Black Tornado was launched to fight them. The terrorists had taken the guests and staff as hostage.
Leading his team of National Security Guard (NSG) commandos, 31-year-old Unnikrishnan rescues 14 hostages. He fought with valour and later succumbed to bullet wounds.
His parting message to his team was “Do not come up. I will handle them”.
- Sub-Inspector Tukaram Omble
Tukaram Omble, a retired army man, was working as an assistant sub-inspector with the Mumbai Police. During the 26/11 terror attack, two terrorists opened fire on innocent people at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus when Omble’s team, despite not being well equipped, managed to shoot down one terrorist and capture the lone surviving Ajmal Kasab.
Omble, short on artillery, held on to Kasab until the other policemen apprehended him. In the process, Omble lost his life.
- Hemant Karkare
Back then, Karkare was the chief of the Mumbai Anti-Terrorist Squad. Karkare was the man who shot at Kasab, whose injuries enabled the police to capture him at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Karkare died in the gunfire exchange on the fateful day.
- Havaldar Gajendra Singh
Gajendra Singh Bisht was an NSG commando who was working as part of the Operation Black Tornado. He was a part of the Parachute Regiment, a team that was responsible for fast-roping into the Nariman House in an attempt to neutralize the terrorists hiding with six hostages inside.
When terrorists began throwing grenades at the comandos, Singh had the option of retreating, but he chose to create a situation of dominance for the comandos. He laid down his life while attacking the terrorists, making way for the other commandos in the process.
- Police Inspector Vijay Salaskar
Police Inspector Vijay Salaskar kept the streets of Mumbai safe as an encounter specialist. As the terrorists fled, Salaskar and some more officers and constables drove the Toyota Qualis towards the direction of the terrorist and attacked them.
Salaskar succumbed to his injuries as a terrorist opened fire on him.
- Additional Commissioner Ashok Kamte
Ashok Kamte was the Additional Commissioner with Mumbai Police for the eastern region, which was not under attack. However, in times of the attack, he chose to offer assistance and went on to accompany Salaskar and Karkare in the pursuit of the terrorists.
Kamte was first to spot the terrorists and open fire on them. He suggested an attack from the other side, however, he lost his life during the heavy firing.
- Additional Commissioner Sadanand Date
Sadanand Date’s call to Police Headquarters enabled Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar and Hemant Karkare to approach the terrorists en route to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
He attacked the terrorists and was severely wounded during the gunfire exchange, but he managed to place the call for requisite forces. He was later successfully evacuated and given the required medical attention.
Years later, on this day, these men who fought courageously to save the lives of others remain in our hearts. Their heavy sacrifice led to hundreds of lives being saved, and we are eternally grateful to them.