We’ll be there, say 26/11 heroes still on dutyBy Mauli Buch, IANS
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
MUMBAI - They were on duty that day when terrorists struck in Mumbai two years ago. The memories of 26/11 run deep, but policeman Sanjay Govilkar, railway constable Jillu Yadav and announcers Bablu Kumar and Vishnu Zende, who saved hundreds of lives, are still at their job - more resolutely than before.
While assistant police inspector (API) Govilkar grappled with the sole surviving terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab and Yadav returned fire at the attacker, announcers Kumar and Zende told people at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) to leave from the rear exit - all unmindful of their own safety.
Proud, yet modest, the announcers say their railway jobs is where they belong.
“It has been a learning ground. We have learned never to let our guard down. And if, god forbid, such an attack is launched on CST again, we will be able to handle it better,” Zende told IANS.
On 26/11, while Kumar was announcing the arrival and departure of outstation trains, Zende was stationed at the local announcement room.
“I was taking down the arrival and departures of two outstation trains when I heard some blasts on Platform 9. I believed them to be bomb blasts and immediately made an announcement asking the passengers to move out of the station from Platform 13,” Kumar, who still feels terribly disturbed at times, said.
“I also heard rounds of firing and realised these are not only bomb blasts, but terrorist attacks. Keeping my voice calm, I continued to remind people to exit,” he added.
Kumar also managed to inform the main control room at CST and then called Zende to inform him of the attack.
Zende had already realised the severity of the attacks and had started announcing similar instructions to local commuters. “It was a terrible sight, but I am glad I could save the lives of several others,” Zende said.
Both agree that Kasab should not be spared. “He has killed people mercilessly. He shot people like he was playing some video game. He should meet the same fate,” said Kumar.
While the announcers countered terror verbally, Railway Protection Force (RPF) constable Jillu Yadav fought Kasab in person. Even today, he can be seen patrolling the platforms at the CST station - only with much more vigilance.
Yadav had grabbed a rifle from Government Railway Police (GRP) constable and returned fire that day. “But how could a rifle match up to the beast of an AK-47?” asked Yadav.
Kasab and another terrorist, Ismail Khan, immediately shot back, which left Yadav with little choice. When he found a chair lying nearby, he hit Kasab with it. “I tried to stop them, but they managed to escape and fired at people outside CST,” Yadav said.
Yadav, who earned Rs.10 lakh award from the then railway minister Lalu Prasad, strongly feels Kasab should not have been given a chance to appeal in the Bombay High Court.
“I do understand that these are the laws and the mind agrees with the laws. But the heart says he should be hanged to death, immediately,” he said.
Yet another surviving hero is API Sanjay Govilkar, who along with colleague Tukaram Ombale literally wrestled with Kasab and caught hold of him.
“Ombale had held on to Kasab’s gun and we knew who won’t be able to survive. But we did not let his sacrifice go in vain. While the bullets killed Ombale, they had grazed my waist and hence I managed to hold Kasab down,” Govilkar said.
Govilkar now also runs an NGO he started with some of his friends. “For me, Mumbai Police comes first. Along with my fulfilling my duties as a soldier, I also have a bigger duty towards several others,” he said.
“Our NGO takes up various causes like cremating bodies, holding blood donation drives and bringing together Indians, not as communities, but as citizens of the entire nation,” he added.
(Mauli Buch can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)