Recalling the night of the horrific attacks in Mumbai ten years later, political leaders and artists agreed that oneness and unity was the only answer to counter the forces of extremism that seek to hate and divide. With the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in front, the Gateway of India behind them, at a glittering function Monday brought by The Indian Express and Facebook — 26/11 Stories of Strength, directed by Feroz Abbas Khan — actor Amitabh Bachchan to lyricist Javed Akhtar, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to Union Minister Piyush Goyal, all underlined that if there was one lesson learnt over the last decade, it was that vigilance was as important as unity in the fight against the forces of terror.
Stating that “there is inherent unity to mankind and we succeed by sharing with others”, Bachchan said: “If a nation is not united, it is not a nation.” “Every cry of incapacitating hunger and unending poverty is our shame, every shriek in hatred, and discrimination is our defeat because we all are fundamentally unified at some level. We are human together or nothing at all,” Bachchan said.
Only “oneness” can beat terror, he said. “Terrorism is not just about holding the power to kill us, it is designed to destroy the integrity of our oneness. It is a desire to make children become slaves of their worldview of victimhood.We have drawn lines, continents and nations on this planet, but our planet is one,” Bachchan said.
Monday’s event honoured the courage with which families coped with their loss and grief. In last three years, over 70 accounts have been narrated by The Indian Express of survivors and kin of deceased. Although scarred, families now claim their strength lies in being united.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis spoke of the realisation that 26/11 was not just an attack on Mumbai or India but on humanity. “In last ten years, we have learnt a lot. Our police, navy and coastguard strongly protects our coastline now. The CCTV has become our third eye for surveillance,” Fadnavis said.
Union Minister for Railways and Coal, Piyush Goyal, reiterated that unless people walk together, they cannot act against terror. “We can’t reply politically to these attacks, we can answer them through development, when we end hunger, when lives of each person improves, when they get basic facilities,” Goyal said.
From a poem by Sohanlal Dwivedi that 17-year-old Anjali Gupta, whose father Vinod Gupta died at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, narrated, to martyred Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s father K Unnikrishnan’s call that the nation should frame stern policies for dealing with “our enemy”, the event saw an underlying theme that oneness is the key to fight terror.
Welcoming the guests, Anant Goenka, Executive Director of the Indian Express Group, pointed out that all 600 staffers at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel went beyond the call of duty, helping save the lives of many guests. “Each one of us, at some point, has to make that deeply intimate choice. A personal and yet universal one as to which path should we take between the faith of the extremist, the religion of the moderate, and, yes, even the belief of the non-believer,” he said.
Monday’s event also witnessed performances by Javed Akhtar, Kaushiki Chakravarty, Neeti Mohan, Rakesh Chaurasia, Mayuri Upadhya, Merlin D’souza, Harshdeep Kaur, Rahul Deshpande, Mahesh Kale, Javed Ali, Ani Choying Drolma, Shivam Mahadevan, and the Police and Navy bands.
“This was perhaps the first attack where technology was used to plot the attack. The tools that are used to connect people were used to create menace. We have taken 14 million pieces of such content down from our platform. We do not allow radicalisation, this is often used as recruitment material,” said Ankhi Das, Director of Public Policy for Facebook in India.
Presenting a poem ‘Mumbai ko Salaam’, lyricist Javed Akhtar said: “I remember we had collected near Gateway after the attack, we were furious and angry but connected. Mumbai is called the commercial capital but Mumbaikars have shown that they have their heart at the right place.”
Recalling the night when the attacks began, Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO and Managing Director-Designate, Viacom18, said, “ A lot of my colleagues were here at hotel throughout the night. They discussed how the fire brigade, police, hotel staff showed courage and saved 25 people through the fire exit,” he said.
In its third edition of the event, The Indian Express paid tribute to survivors and families of victims by launching the book ‘26/11’ chronicling the decade that passed since the attack. The event was attended by Maharashtra DGP D Padsalgikar, Mumbai Police Commissioner Subodh Jaiswal, MP Poonam Mahajan, BJP spokesperson Shaina NC, Mumbai Port Trust chairman Sanjay Bhatia, BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta, Vice Admiral (Western Naval Command) Girish Luthra and Additional Chief Secretary (CM Office) Praveen Pardeshi.
The guests included MMRDA commissioner R A Rajeev, Major General Raj Sinha, Coast Guard ADG K Natarajan, DG NSG Sudeep Lakhtakia, Colonel Sandeep Pratap, Joint Commissioner (law and order) Deven Bharti, Joint Commissioner (Mumbai Police Administration) Santosh Rastogi, Additional DGP Parambir Singh, Additional Commissioner S Jayakumar, Additional Commissioner Pravin Padwal.
Also present were Maharashtra GST Commissioner Rajiv Jalota, Transport Commissioner Ashish Kumar Singh, Principal Secretary (Excise) Valsa Nair Singh, industrialists Harsh Goenka and Anant Goenka, Jindal Steel and Power chairman Naveen Jindal, producer Ronnie Screwvala, CEO Of Indian Hotels Puneet Chhatwal, Centrum Group chairman Jaspal Bindra, Shweta Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Siddharth Roy Kapoor, the Israel Ambassador and official representatives of Singapore, Belgium, Sri Lanka and France.