On Monday evening, stories of strength, courage and survival came together at the Gateway of India, Mumbai. Ten years after the brutal attacks on the city, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis; Union Minister Piyush Goyal; Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir; actor Amitabh Bachchan; and other dignitaries and artistes attended the third edition of 26/11: Stories of Strength, a memorial event organised by The Indian Express Group, in partnership with Facebook.
The event was a tribute to those who lost their lives to the terror attacks and a salute to the courage of the survivors and families of the victims. It was attended by families of about a dozen victims, police and defence personnel and survivors. Also present were Director General of Police, Maharashtra, D Padsalgikar and his wife Aditee, Commissioner of Police, Mumbai, Subodh Jaiswal and his wife Nancy and Joint Commissioner of Police Deven Bharti.
The evening, which was broadcast live nationally and internationally, featured video stories of those affected by the attacks, an address by K Unnikrishnan, father of the late Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan of the NSG and a poem by Anjali Gupta, daughter of victim Vinod Gupta. Unnikrishnan said, “My worry is that we are content with our ability to come back to normalcy under any circumstance, tolerating atrocities committed on our sovreignty.”
The 26/11: Stories of Strength initiative has been conceptualised, conceived and produced by The Indian Express Group in association with Facebook. The show was conceived and directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, with Wizcraft as the executive producers.
Performances by the Police Band and the Navy Band opened the evening, followed by a minute of silence called by Vishnu Zende, the railway announcer at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus who saved hundreds of lives on 26/11. There were also performances by Neeti Mohan, Rakesh Chaurasia, Merlin D’Souza, and Kaushiki Chakraborty, among others. Students of Shankar Mahadevan Academy, led by Shivam Mahadevan, also performed and Javed Akhtar read out a poem.
“My wife, who moved to Mumbai only a year ago, learned about the gravity of the attack at this event. I never thought I would be able to face a crowd. It took years to live normally again,” said Govind Singh, who had been caught in a restaurant outside the Taj Mahal Hotel for two nights during the siege. Many such survivor stories have been compiled in the book 26/11 Stories of Strength. Edited by The Indian Express’ Kavitha Iyer and published by Penguin, it is available online and at book stores.
Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express Group, said, “Events such as 26/11 sets off a dialogue between the humanist and the extremist inside each one of us. It’s not difficult for the extremist to win, because when innocents die, extreme thoughts are very easily rationalised. Yet what we discovered is that there are many who, in spite of irreversible loss, choose not to hate, who when confronted with the choice between revenge and letting go, choose to look ahead.”
One of the highlights of the evening was a screening of a conversation between Arun Jadhav, Head Constable, Mumbai Police and Atul Kulkarni. The former recounted how he had to play dead in a police vehicle while being driven by two armed terrorists before he could relay a crucial message via wireless that the two gunmen had hijacked a second vehicle, leading to the capture of Ajmal Kasab.
Bachchan, who came on stage with a rendition of Vande Mataram, said, “Oneness is not a concept. It’s the essence of our existence.”Terror as commodityTerror in the age of freedom