15 Years After 26/11, Multi-Layered Protection Secures Mumbai
MUMBAI, (IANS) – 15 years after 10 Pakistani terrorists wreaked havoc for 60 hours at multiple locations on November 26, 2008, Mumbai now feels “safe and secure” owing to a variety of reasons.
The average Mumbaikar has only faint memories of the carnage that ensued after the 10 heavily armed terrorists sneaked in through the Arabian Sea and then virtually laid siege to a small area of south Mumbai.
The final toll was 166, plus the 9 gunmen, while one attacker, Ajmal Amir Kasab, was nabbed alive, underwent a full, open trial in Indian courts, was convicted after four years and then hanged on November 21, 2012, at Pune’s Yerwada Central Jail.
The other nine attackers, who were gunned down in encounters with the security forces at various locations, were buried at secret locations in Mumbai, as announced by the then home minister, the late R.R. Patil.
The attacks, which virtually caught the Indian security set-up sleeping, led to a series of corrective measures, upgrades, reinforcements, better weapons, improved intelligence, surveillance mechanisms, to avert a similar situation in the future.
The developments since on beefing up the preventive efforts have resulted in a ‘security kawach’ around Mumbai that can thwart any such attacks in the future swiftly and surgically, officials assure.
Among the improvements and rectifications are the elite Force One, the Quick Response Team, a Mumbai Police Marine Unit, enhancement of the sea and coastal security jointly by the Indian Navy (IN) and the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) in tandem with the police.
They are helped by better weapons for the police force, intelligence sharing from the respective departments, keen surveillance with advanced equipment and a network of CCTVs in the city plus a technically trained manpower that has been raised since 2008.
The QRT, with five major units, is intended to be the ‘first responder’ to any terror strikes or other major security concerns that have made the country’s commercial capital breathe easy and feel safe and secure.
As the name signifies, the QRT moves fast, reaches the terror site in the least possible time, attempts to nullify the threats, is effective in handling/neutralizing a hostage situation and works in coordination with other state or central forces.
Force One, designed on the lines of the National Security Guards (NSG) is another exclusive regiment of well-trained, highly motivated personnel, armed with the latest weaponry, communication systems, and transport to respond to any terror or security threats.
It has already gained wide fame and is now training similar security forces being raised in other Indian states and some African countries.
As a former police officer and one of the witnesses in the 26/11 terror case said, all these measures resulted in a significant improvement in the city’s security environment.
“Consider this. In the past 15 years only one serious terror strike took place in Mumbai — the 13/7, 2011 attacks, when 3 controlled explosions were triggered at Dadar West, Zaveri Bazar, and Opera House on Charni Road East, claiming 26 lives and injuring 130 others,” said the ex-officer.
There was another noteworthy terror incident outside the city – the Pune German Bakery blast of February 13, 2010 – but barring these two, the once vulnerable state has become almost rid of such attacks.
On the surveillance front, the state government had then decided to install 6,000 ‘electronic eyes’ to monitor Mumbai round-the-clock and the slightest suspicious activity didn’t escape its attention.
In recent years, there have been blank threats, crank calls, and other alerts from different parts of Mumbai and outside, but in some cases, the CCTV network also came in handy to track the culprits attempting to create a security scare, besides other local criminal activities, traffic violations or accidents, etc.
The government has provided the Mumbai Police with armored bullet-proof vehicles, explosives scanners, Sealegs Amphibious Boats, speed boats in the Arabian Sea to monitor suspicious movements along the city coast along with ICG and IN ships and coastal patrols.
A former state intelligence official who was active behind the scenes in the post-26/11 scenario and related safety aspects, observed that those terror attacks were an “important lesson” not only for the government and the security forces, but also the people of the country on the need to remain ‘ever-vigilant’ to the slightest dubious goings on anywhere and the necessity to react, as “security is not just the concern of the experts but also the commoners”.