India: Eleven years after Mumbai attacks, scars still visible
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More than a decade after ten terrorists from Pakistan brought India’s financial capital Mumbai to a halt for nearly sixty hours, our team revisited the metropolis. They found that the scars of those deadly attacks are still visible across the city, even eleven years on. FRANCE 24’s Mandakini Gahlot, Alban Alvarez, Clément Laborde and Adil Bhat report.
At 9.30pm on November 26, 2008, when gunshots first rang out in Mumbai, India's biggest city, most residents thought the city’s infamous mafia networks were at war with each other yet again. Within minutes, the indiscriminate nature of the firing made it clear that something even more sinister was unfolding. As the ten terrorists fanned out across South Mumbai, causing carnage at some of the city’s most iconic institutions, like the CST station and Taj Hotel, Mumbai’s residents struggled to come to terms with what they saw as an attack on their way of life.
From the bullet marks left intact at the legendary Café Leopold, to a discreet plaque at the CST station, from heightened security at the iconic Taj Hotel, to a spectacular memorial paying tribute to the 163 dead on the rooftop of the Jewish centre, the scars of the attacks are impossible to miss.
The maximum city, as it’s sometimes called, is no stranger to terror attacks, and while 26/11 bought the megapolis to a standstill, its residents picked up the pieces and moved on almost immediately. “Mumbai does not stop for anyone,” as Farhang Jehani, the owner of Leopold Café, where ten people were killed, told us in the report.
But for those who lost loved ones in the attacks, moving on wasn’t quite as easy. We met Aditya Sharma, who was only 12 when his father became one of the 58 people killed by the terrorists at the CST station. He marvels at how easily people have moved on, and tell us about how difficult and long his own journey towards moving on has been.
Perhaps the most moving moment for us was when Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky took us to the room where two-year-old Baby Moishe miraculously survived the attack in which his parents were gunned down. Eleven years later, the room is preserved exactly the way it was found after the attacks, with marks from hundreds of bullets and even a large gaping hole, possibly from a grenade. In the midst of that violence, Baby Moishe’s survival lifted Mumbai’s hopes for a moment, and even today people speak in hushed tones about the “miracle”.
On the rooftop of the Jewish centre, an aesthetically designed memorial invites visitors to remember those who lost their lives over those sixty hours. As they stand there in quiet reflection, escaping the constant buzzing of the unstoppable city, their eyes are drawn to the dome of the Taj Hotel. That dome, ablaze in flames, is a sight that no one in this city will ever forget. But the fact that it's still there today, an integral part of the Mumbai skyline, is a matter of pride for the city’s residents.
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