There is something which is eerie about my hunches, especially when they pertain to events such as the one underway in Mumbai right now. It all began at around 10:30 PM IST, on the fateful night of 26th November 2008.
I was watching the cricket show on NDTV 24X7 which begins at 10:30 PM, and that day it was covering the Indian win over England in the 5th ODI. As is my wont, I was also channel surfing, although only news channels. Some Hindi news channels were reporting on a gang war in Mumbai and how gunshots were heard from some very prominent places, including the Taj and Oberoi hotel. Other channels, albeit English news channels, were having the same story in tickers. I thought that there was no other big news happening around, and so I returned to the cricket show on NDTV.
Sonali Chander and Ajay Jadeja were in full flow on the live show. However, it did sound a bit strange to me that NDTV did not have the gang war news even in the tickers.
Then something happened at approximately 10:46 PM. Sonali Chander had just asked an interesting question to Jadeja in her inimitable style, which is always half smiling-half laughing, and Jadeja had answered it with some wit. Both were smiling and grinning when suddenly Sonali announced that she was interrupting live programming to return to News!!! Her mannerism implied that this was only temporary intergnum and things will be usual soon!!
I, however, thought that news at 10:46? In the middle of a programme. This was unusual. In India, scheduled programming is rarely, if ever, interrupted for breaking news. Live programming being interrupted – at least I had no recollection.
However, the news on NDTV was also the same. Gang war in Mumbai. My initial reaction was that this is not something so news worthy as to interrupt scheduled programming. However, the very next moment something inside told me that this was much bigger, possibly the scale of which we have never seen. And so began the series of my hunches.
Of course the rest is too well documented. The moments rolled on into minutes and minutes into hours and hours into days and still rolling on as I write this. That night I sat glued to the News till about 4: 45 AM IST. I had to go to sleep for at least sometime, although I did not want to, since I had to get up again at 6:15 AM to receive someone from New Delhi Railway Station.
It was also the night that I saw the true reporting character and grit of some of the faces of Indian journalism. Vasu of NDTV 24X7 was anchoring the news from studios almost since the beginning until I slept at 4: 45 AM. When I woke up again at 6:15 A.M. he was outside Taj, reporting live!!
Arnab Goswami was anchoring the news on Times Now. All night. He was the first person at Editor level to get into the fray and of course was followed by others. Brakha Dutt was one such Editor level anchor to jump into Live reporting, though some of her reporting was highly intriguing.
My second hunch was about the death of Hemant Karkare, the much in news Maharashtra ATS chief. I first heard it on CNN-IBN. They were reporting that he had been injured. But the moment I heard the news, a thought buzzed through my head, that he will not survive. He was too much in news in the last few days, to survive?
Maybe this was what was willed for his deliverance, I thought, form the various allegations that had been hurled at him in the last few days. Tragically this turned out to be true. Times Now was first to report of his death when other channels were still reporting that he had been injured.
And so the night became day, 27th Nov dawned on us. Of course I had to go to office. But in these days of live streaming TV news on web, I was glued almost to the minute.
It was during the day on 27th, that probably it dawned on the country that this was much bigger than anything ever imagined. And for this reason alone, each time the news channels reported that the final assault was underway, I almost always thought that this will continue. And it is still continuing.
The final hunch…..
It was during that evening of 27th that something struck me. Here were terrorists who were engaging the ATS, the NSG, The MARCOS (Marine Commandos) and the Indian Army Special Forces for now almost 20 hours and still fighting.
The GOC for Maharashtra Area of Indian Army had revealed that they had 10 companies in total on duty in batches of 5 each. Why in batches? So that they can be deployed in rotation and tired soldiers can be relieved. Relieved? Indian Army soldiers were being relieved. But who was relieving the terrorists? No one. And yet they were engaging the best of the elite forces that India had for then close to almost 24 hours.
NSG – It is universally recognized as amongst the best special force and commando service in the world.
MARCOS– they are so elite that they have never been deployed, at least in memory! That’s because ,never has been the need being felt, that the threat was so big that they needed to be deployed. Last I remember they being used, is in 1987 to repulse the coup in Maldives. Yes, when a foreign government had pleaded help from India. And Rajiv Gandhi had complied. And the MARCOS was spectacularly successful.
Indian Army – of course it’s the Indian Army.
And yet these terrorists were engaging all of them for now over 24 hours. They could not have afforded to lower guard for even a second. No sleep for at least 30 hours till then (considering the travel time from Karachi port to Mumbai in boat). Immense skill in modes of combat. Amazing levels of motivation.
And then I realized something. The terrorist groups unleashing mayhem in Mumbai must have been trained to operate as special forces, most likely by the special forces of Pakistan Army. No other level of terrorist group could have achieved such levels of sophistication and engagement skills.
And now, as I write this, on 28th November, the operation is in its 39th hour. This means approximately 50 hours since the terrorists first set sail. And now I read news, that military intelligence is saying that these terrorists were trained by Pakistan Army!!
The latest hunch…….
Contrary to expectations, I now have a hunch that even this incident will not change the ways our country functions. The government will continue to waffle with the bumbling show of Shivraj Patil on air. Politics will continue to play and the ineptitude of the politicians will continue to show. The debate will still continue that whether we need stronger laws or a federal agency. No one will say lets have both and move on. And vote bank vultures will continue to have a field day. Professional secularists will get another week on national television to expound their theories.
Any bets that at least this hunch will prove wrong?