The hefty SUV made the turn around the small circle which marked the end of the Hiranandani territory in Powai, where Vikhroli begins, and with very few vehicles on the road it was an easy ride. It was not so late in the day, probably a few minutes past ten pm IST. There was some news running on the FM channel, but my thoughts were still on the just finished conference call, as I tried to make sense of some of the words people had used in the call.
A few minutes back I had called home to inform my better half, who believed in serving hot chapatti for dinner, about me leaving from office. The distance between my office in Hirnandani Gardens and my home @ LBS Ghatkopar was just a little more than a stone throw, which would generally be covered in less than ten minutes.
As the car gently descended the hill on the Powai-Vikroli link road, I noticed a police check post ahead, and the cars had slowed down. With the advantage of height, that a Safari provides, I could see ahead of the two sedans, a posse of policemen doing the checking, and in the background I could see another vehicle full of armed personnel. My car slowly approached the check post. And the scene was a nightmare, straight out of the 1998 Hollywood movie, The Siege.
That was the night of 27th November, one day after the rape of Mumbai had begun to be continued for a few more days until the NSG men would come to her rescue. So every time, like yesterday night when Arnab finally proved his intelligence, some talk happens of that disaster, the scene from that night flashes.
There were two men on either side of the road, behind sand bunkers that they had put up on the road with their rifles pointed at me, fingers on the trigger and fear in their eyes. There were a few more guys looking around on the street 360 degrees, fully alert, with assault rifles. A cop came forward to the driver side, i.e. my side, indicating me to roll down the window. He was tense, very tense. Another cop stood behind him with a gun. Another was in front of the bonnet. Another on the passenger side peeped through the window. Any sudden movement from my side and bullets were ready.
I reduced the radio volume. Politely he asked me to switch on the internal lights, and hold my hands in a position so that they can be seen by the men who had their guns pointed at me. The cop then opened the rear door, checked inside, then came back to me, and enquired where was I coming from and where was I headed. It took a few seconds for me to realize what was happening. My driving license was checked.
This was my city, a city where I have been out on the streets the whole nights and no one had ever questioned me. I had always felt safe, until today, when I was suspected to be a terrorist surrounded by cops with loaded rifles pointed at me. But that night everyone on the streets of Mumbai was a suspect until proven otherwise. And I agreed with the cops. A city was on the edge.
With a bit of humor on wives and using my mother tongue, I answered him in Marathi. It relaxed him a bit. Some steam was let off. A faint smile seemed to appear on his fatigued face, as he waved off to his colleagues to let me pass.
That night, when for the first time in my life I had guns pointed at me, I realized that my city had changed. It would never be the same again.
Apparently, it so happened that on the same date, 26th Nov, some of our senior MHA officials were in Pakistan for a high level meeting with their counterparts, as part of confidence building. Given the history that the two neighbours share I think we need many more of such meetings, for the relationship has been killed by years of mistrust.
NaMo understands this and has made many attempts to bridge the trust gap. He landed in Lahore, almost unannounced, to wish Nawaz Sharief on his birthday, just like any friend would do. He went to the extent of letting a Pakistani investigation team into a forward airbase for investigations. It is a different story that the high risk gamble did not pay off, yet it was still a gamble worth taking. But anyway that is a different discussion.
On the 26th after the official stressful discussions were over, apparently the Pakistani team offered the Indian team to make a visit to Muree, the beautiful hill station an hours drive from Islamabad. The Indian team agreed. Probably, they surmised the serene beautiful surroundings would help break the ice which they can use alongwith the soda.
So while the killers went about their inhuman work in Mumbai, these MHA officials were in a holiday resort, doing what they were doing, and apparently off the grid since the place is supposedly not reachable.
Until now no one had questioned the whereabouts of these senior MHA officials on the night of 26th Nov. But looks like Arnab, after so many years, got a dream, in which he saw some Pakistani officials enjoying in Muree, celebrating the “locking up” of the Indian command.
Arnabda always acts on his dreams. He is a man of action! So next day morning he packed off his team in search of evidence to back his dream. Not just he is a man of action, but also follows the basics of journalism. Never do anything without solid irrefutable evidence. And evidence he did find, as some MHA officials corroborated that on 26th Nov the team had indeed gone to Muree and that they were incommunicado.
So what does Arnab do with this evidence? Remember he is a man of action. He could not have gone back to sleep without having acted on his previous night’s dream. Else he gets nightmares. And he does not let his wife sleep for he keeps screaming on top of his voice, “admit it, your lie is nailed, you have nowhere to hide.” I think someday his wife will surely go into hiding.
So in his prime time Durbar, he gathered his usual intelligent friends and some more “friends” from across the border. Then slowly deploying his impeccable linguistic skills he presented the facts, and then he presented the case and finally he pronounced the judgment. Well sometimes he does not exactly follow the same pattern, like he first pronounces the judgement and then worries about the facts.
The Pakistanis had planned the Attack on Mumbai to the minutest detail. The establishment was aware of Kasab’s ETA in Mumbai, and it removed the senior India command from action so as to prevent India from effective counteracting. This nails the Pakistani state involvement in the attack, something that the Pakistanis have steadfastly refused.
“Admit it, now you have nowhere to hide.” The judgement was delivered in trademark style.
Now we have more than enough proof that Kasab was Pakistani, that LeT and various other organizations based in Pakistan were behind the attack, that ISI was involved. We have been going around all the world capitals telling whoever can sympathetically listen. And shamefully we have miserable failed to bring home the culprits.
The Pakistanis on the show maintained their well known position, as if Arnab had expected them to do anything else. And then they went about asking all the counter questions, i.e. whenever the Judge allowed them to speak.
Half way through the show, I wondered what we are doing here. Are we trying to prove that our MHA team was so naïve that they could be trapped so easily. On the contrary I would believe that it was a mature on the spot decision on the part of the MHA team to continue the talks in Muree.
Then secondly, are we trying to prove that sans these few MHA officials our command structure was weakened, that if these few MHA officials had been in Delhi, they would have made such an impact that the attack would have been repulsed or contained.
Or is it that we are trying to prove to the world, in a very intelligent manner, that after so many years, after so many dossiers, we still are collecting evidences to prove Pakistani government’s involvement in the attack.
Arnab in his intelligence appeared so ignorant that he actually raised questions on our command and communication lines. Yes they are valid questions. Yes they help fix gaps in our homeland security plans, but then these are such strategic questions that need to be discussed with the right people instead of using it for cheap TRP. It was a good journalistic investigation to find out the whereabouts of our senior security management team, and should be taken forward in the right way.
We had enough of these chatter. We have more than enough evidence. Now either the Government actions these evidence by forcing the Pak Government to own up through diplomatic isolation, or we don’t go back frequently reopening those wounds with this display of intelligent ignorance.
For every time these discussions happen some traumatic memories are revisited, some old wounds are reopened, some friends who are no more with us are remembered, and worse of all it reminds us that inspite of so much evidence, yet the Government has continued to fail in getting justice for Mumbai.