26/11 Survivor Recounts Being in the Room Next to the Terrorists’
Producers: Megha Mathur, Divya Talwar
Editors: Veeru Krishan Mohan, Ashish MacCune
It has now been a decade since the 26 November 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai. Ten Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists from Pakistan landed in the city on a fishing trawler under the cover of darkness, and split into groups of two to launch a series of coordinated bombings and shootings across multiple locations. The areas most severely affected were Leopold Cafe, The Taj Mahal hotel, The Oberoi hotel, CST Station and Nariman House, all situated in the south of Mumbai. Over 164 people were killed and 308 more were wounded.
The Taj Hotel, overlooking the sea, became one of the prime targets of the terrorists. They entered, heavily armed with guns and bombs, killed guests and staff indiscriminately and held several of them hostage for over three days. They even detonated an RDX on the 6th floor in an attempt to damage the iconic dome of the heritage hotel, completely destroying more than two floors in the process and murdering hundreds.
Arif Bandukwala, a businessman, was one such guest who happened to be at The Taj that fateful night of 26/11 with seven to eight other people. When the siege began, they were understandably confused, but eventually it dawned on them that the terrorists had set base in the room right next to theirs. They were in Suite 361; the terrorists occupied room 360.
“Even though it’s been almost ten years...almost a decade... I still remember that night as if it happened yesterday.”Arif Bandukwala
Speaking to The Quint, Bandukwala recounts the nine-hour ordeal they went through until they were rescued, being one of the early escapees of the attack. In it, he explains the various emotions he went through and the plans he made with his roommates: from nostalgia about his family to unreasonable bravery when they plotted to bring the terrorists down.
Of the ten terrorists, nine died and the one who survived, Ajmal Kasab, was caught and hung to death in 2012 after a lengthy trial.