Nariman House: The mute spectator of 26/11 attacks

First anniversary: 14 people were rescued by NSG from the building

Nariman House: The mute spectator of 26/11 attacks

 
Even on 26/11 night, when two heavily armed Pakistani terrorists actually stormed the five-storey building, and the next day, people could not understand why the target was chosen at all.

Nariman House is located on a narrow lane in Colaba market area of south Mumbai. It has now become a tourist attaction. On the road is a petrol pump, which was blasted by terrorists before entering the lane on that fearful night. The building was home to Chabad House, a Jewish outreach centre run by an ultra-orthodox Jewish sect Chabad-Lubavitch, and they have owned the building since around 2006. It had an educational centre, a synagogue and offered drug prevention services as well as a hostel.

During the attack, six of its occupants, including Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, who was five months pregnant, were killed. Their two- year-old son Moshe, who recently turned three as per Jewish calendar, survived the attack after being miraculously rescued by his Indian nanny Sandra Samuel.

For five years, it had become an Israeli hotspot for travelling Israeli tourists and businessmen coming to India. The speciality of Chabad House was the kosher food it offered to faithfuls. No wonder it became the prime target for the Islamist terrorists from Pakistan. If there was any one operation that the terror handlers in Pakistan did not want to fail in any circumstances, it was the attack on Chabad.

The area is so congested that it took the two terrorists more than an hour to locate and enter it. While they had reached the shore around 8:30 pm on 26/11, the terror duo entered Nariman House at around 9:45 pm.

The siege had lasted for two days. NSG commandos descended on the building from a helicopter and fought their way down, killing both the terrorists. In the process, commando Havildar Gajendra Singh was killed.

The attack left the building in extremely bad shape. It was riddled with bullet holes, broken window panes, and massive holes in the ceiling of each floor due to grenade explosions.

As the first year anniversary is just two days away, construction and repair activities there are in full swing so that a memorial service could be held at the site. One can see the rooms and passageways pockmarked by hundreds of bullets and splinters from grenades.

“The temporary construction would be completed before November 26 after which complete restoration work would be taken up,” a construction supervisor said as workers went about the job at a furious pace removing shards and slabs of plaster to ready the place.

While six occupants died in the attack, the Rabbi family’s handyman-cum-cook Qazi Zakir Hussain alias Jackie, a Muslim, survived. Moshe now lives in Israel with his grandparents and Sandra moved with him to take care of the orphaned child.

Though 14 people in the building were rescued by NSG, three other Jews - Yocheved Orpaz, Rabbi Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum and Rabbi Bentzion Kruman - fell to terrororsts' bullets. Since 26/11, several people, particularly of Jewish origins, are visiting the site to pay their homage. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, an associate dean of the Vienna-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre which hunted thousands of Nazi criminals, was there on November 17. The Canadian prime minister Stephan Harper too visited the Centre during his visit to Mumbai. “We condemn the 26/11 terror attack,” proclaims a mesaged scribbled on a wall opposite Nariman House.

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