As the country observed the 13th anniversary of the November 26, 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai on Friday, when 10 heavily armed men laid siege to the city through a series of coordinated attacks after entering via sea route, only a few know the fact that the then National Security Guard (NSG) chief Jyoti Krishan Dutt, who headed the elite commando force during the operation, continued his duty even after knowing that one of his relatives was killed by the terrorists in the attack.
Jyoti Krishan Dutt’s son Anuj told ANI about several such facts about the operation managed by his father which he said “many are unaware”. The 1971-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) West Bengal cadre officer Dutt, who was the NSG Director-General between August 11, 2006 – February 28, 2009, died in May this year due to COVID-19.
Talking on the phone, Mr Anuj reminded how his father remained reachable on mobile to all people, including government officials, politicians, his force personnel, media and several people who called him to inform that his or her relative is stuck in one of the rooms of hotels captured by the 10 gunmen who were believed to be connected to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based terrorist organization.
Explaining in detail, Mr Anuj said he was working in Mumbai in 2008 and at the time of the 26/11 attack, “I had gone to Colombo to attend a meeting”.
“I reached Colombo Airport around 10 a.m. on November 27 to get a flight to return to India. Till then, I was not aware of what happened in Mumbai because international calls and roaming calls were not so common at that time. The first time, I saw my father on TV after reaching Chennai Airport when he was briefing media about the deployment of NSG outside Oberoi Trident hotel (a place where hostages were taken). Later I reached Mumbai Airport. There was such a kind of terror in Mumbai then as the people had gone off the roads. I called father after reaching home,” Mr Anuj told ANI.
“One thing people don’t know is that my father remained reachable on mobile to all people”, stressed Anuj, clarifying “somehow people got his number and started calling him continuously mentioning “my friend, my relative is in so and so room in this hotel. Please rescue him”.”
“My father received countless calls. When I meet people even today they say I called your father and informed him about my relative who was stuck in a hotel room. All of them have one story that either my father returned the call and said what had happened or he made someone from NSG call them up and tell them that his or her friend and relative has been rescued or not,” said Mr Anuj.
“There is a perception that only powerful people or politically connected or very senior people can get through was not the case. My father was taking calls from everybody that was calling him up. That is one thing which many people is not aware of.”
“Many people do not know that my father lost a relative in one of the hotels captured by the terrorists. The relative was killed and my father came to know about it on day two. But he continued his work. People think that we did not lose anybody,” he added.
The third point, Mr Anuj mentioned was that the “media pursuit was relentless”.
“It was the day-two when I met my father for some time and there were rapid phones coming. Some of the most famous journalists called and my father was like “if you ask me a straight question, I will give answer. But if you want to do an interview, please spare me”.”
“My father replied because there were also calls from the government for updates. Other agencies were also calling him,” said Mr Anuj.
He added “one more thing what my father did was he kept periodically moving from one location to another between all the sites. He did not stay at one place and therefore he covered just about all of it. And I think one thing which is missed so far was when he reached Nariman House (another location where hostages were kept) it was very complicated. He told me about it two years ago that the way leading to Nariman House was very complicated. How they (terrorists) managed to reach there so precisely?”
“When David Headley (a Pakistani-American terrorist and a spy who conspired in plotting 2008 Mumbai attacks) role came out it has been more than four to five years of the retirement of my father. My father used to say that there must have been additional help (to the terrorist in finding out exact locations). Then I said see they managed to link this up,” he added.
The death of Havildar Gajender Singh and Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan was not acceptable to my father till the time he passed away, said Anuj, adding my father said “I wanted zero loss”.
On Friday, the country observed the 13th anniversary of the Mumbai terror attack that left at least 174 people, including 20 security force personnel and 26 foreign nationals, killed and more than 300 people injured.
Armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades, the terrorists targeted civilians at numerous sites in the southern part of Mumbai, including the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, the popular Leopold Cafe, two hospitals, and a theatre.
In an operation that lasted four days, security officials managed to eliminate nine terrorists an arrest one, identified as Ajmal Kasab. Many security personnel, including two NSG commandos laid down their lives in the Mumbai attack.
Three Railway officials were also killed in the attack at Mumbai CST where Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan had opened indiscriminate firing. While Kasab was captured alive, the remaining nine terrorists were killed by security officials. During interrogation, Kasab confessed that he was a Pakistani citizen and was a member of LeT.