British journalist Adrian Levy pieced together stories of the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai — “the fourth largest city in the world under siege for three days on live TV” — in his latest book The Siege, co-written with Cathy Scott-Clark.
Adrian Levy in conversation with Vikram Chandra on his book “The Siege” during the Jaipur Literature Festival. (Vipin Kumar/HT)
Levy, who believes Mumbai saved itself because “ordinary people acted in extraordinary ways”, says the question to ask is why Indian intelligence agencies failed to act upon the inputs they had received before the attacks.
Talking about 26/11 mastermind David Headley, Levy said the Pakistan-born American terrorist had exploited everyone around him to get into the Lashkar-e-Taiba, but “interestingly, the Lashkar did not want him”.
Levy also believes the 35-year prison sentence handed to Headley, who has been cooperating with the US agencies, is likely to be reduced as he will “probably make a deal”.
Besides reconstructing the events that led to the attacks, The Siege also tells the stories of those held hostage in the Taj hotel in Mumbai.
Levy and Scott-Clark interviewed 26/11 survivors. “They were from different parts of the world wrapped together by fate. The survivors had tragic, extraordinary stories to tell.”
The army and the intelligence agencies too were forthcoming, he says. However, “the NSG did not want to participate.”
While the book is intensively researched, he says it is always hard to “create order out of chaos.”
“You have to match all the technical data — footage from CCTVs and satellite TV and photographs. You have to force a timeline, a chronology.”
Levy, who has been visiting India over the past 20 years, also believes the country’s “political culture cripples the intelligence agencies”.