Terror Strikes Mumbai: ISKCON Temples and Devotees Safe
By Parijata devi dasi (ISKCON Communications-Mumbai)
Mumbai was struck by multiple terror attacks since late night of 26 November 2008. The attacks, described as the worst-ever terror attacks on Mumbai have claimed 125 lives, left 327 injured and send more than 900 to hospital. Shootouts and explosions rattled 12 key locations in Mumbai including two luxury hotels, domestic airport, railways station, two hospitals, cinema multiplexes and a café popular with Western tourist.
Besides visitors, the terrorist had held 40 British nationals and other foreigners as hostages in Taj Mahal Hotel, Oberoi’s Trident Hotel and Café Leopold. The blast and attacks at these places point to the fact that the terrorists had planned to spread terror among foreign tourist and aim at international attention.
The attacks have also claimed lives of 14 high-ranking police officers, including chief of Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and Encounter Specialist Vijay Salaskar, who were killed while discharging their duty.
No incidents of attack or casualty are reported from any of the three temples of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) located in Mumbai at Chowpatty, Juhu and Mira Road respectively.
In face of the terror attack all the three temples have steeped up security checks and are on high alert. ISKCON Chowpatty and ISKCON Mira Road have reportedly increased the security personnel at the main gate. ISKCON Chowpatty, which is located in South Mumbai and closest to the site of ongoing terror attacks has closed it doors to public at the request of Mumbai Police. Two terrorist were gunned down by police barely 50 meters away from ISKCON Chowpatty.
ISKCON Juhu, the largest of the three temples in Mumbai and which attracts considerable foreign tourist is especially on high-alert. The top management is in constant touch with Police Department and an additional team of 20 policemen have been deployed outside the temple to an already existing force of 10 police personnel. Almost 85 close-circuit TVs have been installed throughout the temple premises and are constantly monitored by at least 5 security personnel. P. Govinda Das, General Manager, informed “We are taking every possible precaution to ensure the safety of our visitors and guest at the temple. We have stopped all inflow of vehicle inside the temple premises and anyone who visits the temple is thoroughly checked. We have also requested the devotee to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity immediately”.
Bhaktivedanta Hospital, a general hospital founded by doctors who have embraced the Hare Krishna philosophy, did not report any incidence of terror or admission of any victim. Madhavananda Das, Director – Bhaktivedanta Hospital, informed that the Community Health Forum unit of the Hospital has initiated a Blood Donation Drive whereby citizens of Mumbai shall be requested to donate blood which will be used for terror victim or forwarded to St. George Hospital which is treating injured from the attacks in large numbers. He also mentioned that the hospital’s Disaster Management Cell is prepared to handle casualty, if any.
Deccan Mujahedeen, a terror outfit have claimed responsibility of the blast. The terrorists reportedly arrived by boat from the iconic landmark Gateway of India and thereafter dispersed to various locations in Mumbai to carry out terror attacks. Terrorists used heavy machine guns, including AK-47s and MP6, and grenades to strike at innocent citizens and hostages.
Almost 800 National Security Guards (NSG), sharp shooters of army, navy commandos and other security forces arrived in Mumbai from New Delhi to deal with the unspecified number of terrorists.
Some congregation members of ISKCON Chowpatty who had gathered at a devotees home in South Mumbai for spiritual discourse were interrupted with loud sounds of grenade firing at around 9:30pm on 26 November night. While the devotees residing near the venue rushed back home an hour after the firing stopped, most congregation members with children residing in western and central parts of Mumbai stayed back and returned to the safety of their homes in early morning.
Rahul Shetty, a young congregation member who arrived at CST railway station after returning from work mentioned “There was complete chaos at CST station when I arrived. Terrorist were firing bullets indiscriminately at hundreds of citizen at the station. People dropped their belongings and were running for shelter but didn’t know where to go to escape from the attacks. The police arrived after a few minutes and an encounter ensued between them and the terrorist. The terrorist also threw 5-6 hand grenades in the air and thereafter the gun battle with the police was followed by another round of hand grenades. As I stood 100 meters away from the shoot out site I saw the police clear the road of all people and vehicular traffic. Almost 25-30 ambulances arrived on the scene to move the injured to nearby hospitals”.
While gun battle still rages between terrorists and national security forces, an indefinite number of foreigners including Canadian, Americans and Israelis are believed to be trapped in Hotel Trident and Nariman House, a residential complex with Jewish prayer hall in South Mumbai. Ramesh Tayde, a senior police officer from Mumbai informed that at least nine foreigners are reportedly killed in the attack so far.
There is no hostage situation at Taj Mahal Hotel but the police suspect one terrorist holed up in the hotel. Seven people are recently evacuated from Nariman House and but the stand off situation in Hotel Trident and Nariman House continues. The commandos are reportedly engaging 2-3 terrorist in Hotel Trident and 3-4 terrorists in Nariman House at the time this article was sent out. The Mumbai Police hope to mop up the operations shortly.
Parijata devi dasi (ISKCON Communications-Mumbai)
Date: 27 November 2008
Location: Mumbai, India