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Nariman House now a charred shell

Residents of Colaba Market, which is dotted with illegal and kaccha houses, used to take pride in the five-storey Nariman House...

Written by Shwetadesai | Mumbai |
November 30, 2008 2:01:25 am

Residents of Colaba Market, which is dotted with illegal and kaccha houses, used to take pride in the five-storey Nariman House, the only cement-concrete structure in the area.

But not any more.

Having taken the brunt of two-and-a-half days of firing from terrorists and commandos and with more than 30 grenades lobbed there, the building may still seems steady, when seen from outside. But it is evident that the building is now little more than a cracked shell from within.

When The Indian Express entered the house less than 24 hours after the NSG completed the operation, the sight sent a chill down the spine. The handgrenades and bullets had done their job. The building resembled a structure from global conflict zones. There were small craters on the floor and walls, bullet marks across the building and slabs of concrete strewn everywhere.

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On entering the first floor, the stench of decomposed bodies on the third floor became unbearable.

Policemen run up and down the floor collecting evidence, including every shell fired. Every floor was bombed, causing the walls along the stairways to collapse. Shards of glass from the windowpanes are scattered on the floor.

The entrance to the building is itself tilted and has a deep crack. The ground floor bears a portrait of a spiritual leader. The elevator is mangled, its space on the ground floor an odd hole. The steps go up minus any walls, an eerie climb upstairs. Even the granite steps have huge cracks.

In happier times, the Chabad House would be frequented by Israeli Jews from Mumbai and also expats and tourists, who would often gather there for a free meal or a stay. They would even attend prayers of the Chabad-Lubavitch sect. Local residents said only Jews and Israelis were allowed entry and the Rabbi would come down from the top floors to accept deliveries of essentials.

Everything changed on Wednesday night as two armed terrorists entered the building and kept seven people hostage.

The first floor once housed a space for groups to dine. The red chairs with dining tables lie scattered. There is a plate on one table, with food left untouched. Several torn prayer books are lying on the floor. Across the room, another painting of Jewish leaders hangs on the wall.

The second floor housed the prayer hall. Police officials inspecting the building said the third floor was almost entirely blood-smeared. It was here that the bodies of hostages including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka of the Mumbai chapter of Jewish sect Chabad-Lubavitch were found.

Policemen said the bodies of the two slain terrorists lay on the fourth floor, where a huge explosion at 5.45 pm on Friday probably killed them. The fourth floor was also where the terrorists had stocked up for two days.

Clothes, half-open briefcases, toothpaste and toothbrushes, possibly the terrorists’, were scattered around, said an official who did not wish to be named. Cops also recovered two AK- 47s from the spot. “There was some biryani lying on the floor,” he said.

Forensic inspectors and structural engineers arrived on Saturday to gauge the damage.

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