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Mumbai: the people, the government and the hotels

UPDATES: As of 4pm India time (+5:30 hrs GMT)

- Large quantity of RDX found at two locations.
- 148 hostages released after Commando raid on Trident Oberoi Hotels.
- Fighting continuing between remaining terrorists and Military.
- Jewish Hostages at Nariman Point still incarcerated.

By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Thirty four hours after terrorists struck the heart of south Mumbai, national security guards have almost flushed out the terrorists from the Taj hotel. Armed men and helicopters continue in their quest to drive out the terrorists holed up in a Jewish center the Nariman House and the Oberoi-Trident. While fierce gun battle still persists, 125 have been declared dead, including 14 policemen and six foreigners, 327 are injured.

While the terrorists are most probably out to make an international statement by targeting tourist hot spots, the mass number of Indian casualties too cannot be discounted. Of the 125 already declared dead 119 were Indian nationals, a majority of the injured are also Indians, casual by-standers who were killed in random firing at public places that are usually very crowded.

Sources say a majority of the Indian’s who were killed were innocent people going home after a day’s work from the center of the city from Mumbai’s biggest railway station to their homes in the suburbs, or patients in hospitals and their relatives and staff at the targeted hotels. What is disheartening is that the Indians that are believed to have been killed hail not from the affluent part of south mumbai where they worked but probably from smaller towns and cities outside the city. Being a service centered city, Mumbai is known as the melting pot of Mumbai where millions come to make it big. Many of them end up working as waiters in hotels, nurses in hospitals and everyday clergymen.

Further what is revolutionary of the Indian government this time round is that they are refusing to negotiate with the terrorists. Yesterday afternoon India time the terrorists had called new agencies asking for the release of Mujaheddin in Indian jails in exchange for the foreigners they had taken as hostages. However joining the ranks of the Unites States, Israel and Russia, the Indian government refused to negotiate, but didn’t rule out talking to the terrorists to negotiate the release of some of the hostages. This is an interesting development clearly demonstrating that the Indian government will not perpetuate terrorism on any grounds.

Ratan Tata the Chairman of the Taj group of Hotels gave a statement of confidence to the media. As quoted by Business Standard he said ” “The terrible wanton attacks last night on innocent people and the destruction of prominent landmarks in India deserve to be universally condemned. My sympathies and condolences go out to all those who have suffered, been injured, and those who have lost their loved ones in this terrible act of hatred and destruction.”

“We cannot replace the lives that have been lost and we will never forget the terrifying events of last night, but we must stand together, shoulder to shoulder as citizens of India, and rebuild what has been destroyed. We must show that we cannot be disabled or destroyed, but that such heinous act will only make us stronger. It is important that we do not allow divisive forces to weaken us. We need to overcome these forces as one strong unified nation,” he added.

The Taj Hotel on Colaba’s waterfront, is owned by the Indian Hotels which is held by a trust. Ratan Tata, the grandson of J.N. Tata, the founder of the Tata Group is the main man in charge of this trust. The Oberoi-Trident, or the old wing of the Oberoi Hotel at Nariman Point is owned and managed by the East India Hotel, a privately held company in which the Oberoi family has a majority stake. Family head, Prithvi Raj Singh Oberoi, his son, Vikram Oberoi and his nephew Arjun Oberoi are all major stakeholders in the EIH. The rest is owned by shareholders.

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