‘I believe we must not forget. They were Mumbaikars’

“India was winning, and everybody was preparing to celebrate, but this was not the sound of firecrackers”

October 30, 2019 5:21:21 pm

In August 2003, when a bomb exploded near the Gateway of India in Colaba, Santosh Veer and his friends, all Shiv Sena activists, rushed from their homes about half a kilometre away. They helped cart the injured to hospitals, arranged first aid, helped the police pick up corpses.

Now shakha pramukh or branch head of Ward No 227 of the Shiv Sena, Veer is grave when he says 26/11 will not be the last attack.

When there is tension along the border, the Mumbai Police sets up check-posts in the city, he scoffs. “Nothing is going to be achieved by that. The coast remains inadequately secured. Even today, those alighting from boats off the Gateway are not checked — only those leaving on a boat ride are,” he says. “Even about Chabad House, we had told the Colaba police previously that we think there was somebody doing a rec. there. They didn’t respond then.”

Veer was watching the India-England cricket match with friends on the night of 26/11 when the firing began. “Indians winning, and everybody was preparing to celebrate, but this was not the sound of firecrackers,” he says. They rushed outside to the terrace and saw an employee of the Chabad House asking onlookers to run to safety.

Veer and other local young men rushed to Nariman House anyway, just down the street from where they were. They were almost about to climb the stairs when they saw what appeared to be a man holding a machine gun. They ran out even as hand grenades and bullets rained from a window. More locals gathered and began to throw stones at the gunmen, not comprehending that this was a terrorist attack. One of the youngsters in his group took a bullet in his back, and died instantly. A grenade fell two feet from Veer, and he sustained injuries and lost consciousness.

On the first anniversary of the attacks, as a tribute to the victims of the Chabad House attack and the Colaba locals who had lost their lives, Veer organised a blood donation drive, an event that he has now made an annual tradition. “I believe we must not forget. We must remember those who lost their lives that day. One brave NSG commando died here. Others died or were injured too. They were Colaba locals, Mumbaiites,” he says.

Express Photo/Nirmal Harindran Veer now holds a blood donation drive every anniversary of the attacks. Express Photo/Nirmal Harindran

Having seen the aftermath of the Gateway bombing and the July 2006 serial bombings of local trains from close proximity, Veer says little has changed in the past eight years. “But we have to find a way to put an end to cross-border terrorism.”

Now shakha pramukh or branch head of Ward No 227 of the Shiv Sena, Veer is grave when he says 26/11 will not be the last attack.
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