Ten years after the Mumbai terror attacks, memories are still fresh in the minds and hearts of those who witnessed the horror first hand. India TV's senior journalist Saurav Sharma, who was at the front lines for over 60 hours to provide the continuous coverage of the terror attacks, shared his experience with Pratyush Ranjan (Editor-News, India TV Digital).
Here are some excerpts from the exclusive interview:
Pratyush: What was your first reaction to the Mumbai terror attacks
Saurav: Pratyush, we did not get time to react because I was anchoring a live bulletin when the news broke that perhaps there was a gang war in Mumbai. The initial input was only about a few rounds of gun shots being fired in Mumbai. Gradually, news started pouring in about casualties in Leopold Cafe, firing at Taj Hotel, Nariman House, Oberoi Hotel. I think, it took us almost an hour to realise that this was much bigger than a gang war.
I was at the studio (Delhi) till 3 am, while our male and female reporters and camera persons were running around on the streets of Mumbai, in the dark and curfew-like situation. Today, when I look back, I feel very proud of our field staff as any one of them could have been among the injured or casualties that night, but this did not deter them from their duty.
When I flew to Mumbai later in the night, I realised how different it was to report from a studio and from the field.
Pratyush: When you reached the site of the terrorist attack, what was your first thought?
Saurav: We heard first gunshots almost 15 minutes after taking our position behind the police barricading. One gunshot would be retaliated by several shots and vice versa, we also heard grenade blasts in between. At the time, we thought the operation will continue for few hours; nobody could have imagined that the horror will continue for two nights and three days.
Pratyush: How dangerous it was to reports out in the open when there was no specific information on the movement of the terrorists?
Saurav: We had several teams on the ground. Besides by the morning, it had been ascertained that terrorists were holed up inside four main locations - Taj Hotel, Oberoi Hotel, Chhatarpati terminus and Nariman House and the forces were deployed to deal with them. But the bigger threat was from the fact that terrorists were firing everywhere.
I remember on day 2, we were outside the Taj when a grenade blast took place outside the hotel. One of the splinters, either from the grenade or the damaged road, flew past me and hit a media colleague right behind me. There was blood all over his shirt. This was when I realised for the first time that all of us were in the line of fire. We were pushed further back from the site of attack after the blast.
Pratyush: Any one incident that you witnessed during the attack, which has been etched in your memory forever?
Saurav: Four terrorists had gone inside the Taj Hotel. Two of them were killed in the intervening night of first and second day of the attack. Third terrorist was gunned down on the second night. So, the security forces focused on the last surviving terrorist. On the third day, there were incessant sounds of bullets, blasts, grenade attacks as the forces were trying to isolate the terrorist in a corner room with windows looking out to the road and sea.
When the security forces gave the final push and set the room ablaze, the last surviving terrorist fell out of the window in a partially burnt condition.
I can never forget that sight. It gave us an idea of what might have transpired inside the luxurious hotel for the last 60 hours.
Watch the full interview here: