Mumbai Attacks Anniversary: Victims and Cops Speak Out

One year after the Mumbai attacks, the city's police are on special alert.

ByABC News
November 25, 2009, 10:00 AM

Nov. 26, 2009 — -- On the anniversary of last year's terrorist attack on Mumbai, the city's police are on special alert, and the survivors still struggle with their grief and anger.

More than 170 people were killed in last November's assault that riveted the world as 10 Islamic militants invaded a busy train station, a Jewish cultural center and the historic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which burned for days as Indian commandos hunted down the last of the terrorists.

Only one of the terrorists, 21-year-old Pakistani national Ajmal Ali Kasab, was captured alive and is on trial in Mumbai.

But for many of the people caught in the crossfire on that day, the grim anniversary is a time for very personal and often private reflection.

Santanu Saikia lost his wife, Sabina Sehgal Saikia, a well-known food critic and journalist, and a mother of two children, in the attacks. She was a guest at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel the night of Nov. 26, 2008, when gunmen stormed the hotel, killing guests and staffers indiscriminately.

Tonight, Saikia is holding a recital by the Indian classical vocalist Ustad Rashid Khan, followed by a dinner in his wife's memory to be attended by family and friends.

"Food and music were her two great passions," Saikia said. "She would have wanted us to remember her like this, with joy."

"There is no other way to take this other than with equanimity and fortitude," he said. "I have told our children that we can forgive Kasab. Sabina was a victim, not a target. It will be the greatest gift if they emerge unscathed from this."

Sabina left behind a daughter, Arundhati, now 14, and a son, Aniruddha, now 12.

But every day is difficult, Saikia acknowledges. "They are seeing a counsellor. I know my daughter grew up overnight when she lost her mother. My son still won't speak about it. They feel her absence, but I think they have her spirit."

Still, he said, "There was never any anger [about the attacks]. Death does something to you. ... Anger won't get Sabina back, the bitterness will only consume us.

"What I do feel is a huge sadness at losing her, and [at the fact] that she isn't around to see the children grow up, to take pleasure in them."