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The 2008 Mumbai terror Attacks: When Maximum City relived 1993 serial blasts

The 2008 Mumbai terror Attacks: When Maximum City relived 1993 serial blasts

Twelve years back on this day, Mumbai was under siege. It lost 166 people and over 300 were injured; many families scarred for life. Ten Pakistani nationals who had sailed over from the Pakistani port city of Karachi had launched bomb and gun attacks at multiple locations. The world sat and watched the carnage live as it unfolded over four days at the majestic Taj Mahal Hotel.

On the 12th anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, it is important to recollect another assault which had been inflicted on Mumbai 15 years earlier. On March 12, 1993, a series of 13 blasts took the lives of 257 people and more than 700 were injured. Among the various buildings targeted was the iconic Bombay Stock Exchange.

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Over decades, sprawling Indian cities have become targets for terror attacks. Mumbai has been hit often for being the financial powerhouse of India. After each big assault, the city rises to its feet and gets back to work. This indomitable spirit of Mumbai has been captured minutely in the book, <em>Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found</em>, by Suketu Mehta, the New York-based author of Indian origin. The much-awarded book was also a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize.

Among the other inseparable aspects of Mumbai—glamour, money, and Bollywood—that Mehta writes about in his book, he also devotes considerable pages to policing, the city's organized crime and smuggling scene. Most significant is his vivid narration of the investigation into the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. Mehta also describes in detail the rise of Dawood Ibrahim—the mastermind of the ghastly 1993 killings, who sought to bring Mumbai to its knees.

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Describing the huge cache of weapons and explosives–which included RDX, gelatine, AK-56 assault rifles, pistols, detonators, magazines for various guns and Pakistan-made grenades—Mehta writes, "These were not weapons for an underworld skirmish. These were armaments for civil war."

The novel describes how the mastermind, Dawood Ibrahim organized three ships to set sail from Dubai for Karachi where the RDX and weapons were loaded. One ship came to Mumbai and the attackers had no problems transporting and delivering their huge cargo of weapons across the city at multiple points. The other two ships sailed off to Gujarat. The attackers were provided thorough training in Pakistan and brought to Mumbai to carry out the carnage.

In the Mumbai serial bomb blasts of 1993, India had experienced its first large-scale terror attack from Pakistan. Despite detailed investigations into the modus operandi and the unveiling of the masterminds, the country could not bring to justice the masterminds and terror planners who only grew from strength to strength on foreign shores. This failure also paved the way for the 2008 attack.

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Maximum City was published in 2004 and narrates the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts in a vivid and engrossing manner. Reading the book makes you feel as if no lessons were learnt and only half-hearted plans were made to safeguard the metropolis and its intrepid residents.

Once again, what the city witnessed on 26 November 2008 was as if the 1993 attack had been replicated—meticulously planned and managed from Pakistan, attackers and weapons sailing from Karachi, successfully evading Indian forces on the high seas and launching bloody strikes on Mumbaikars. Once again India has not been able to bring to justice the masterminds of the 2008 carnage.

It is important to remember the 1993 serial blasts—India's first tryst with organized terror—on the 12th anniversary of 26/11 and ask ourselves if we could have prevented 26/11 from happening..