The 2008 Mumbai attacks may still remain fresh in public memory, but Hiralal Masani – owner of the hijacked Indian fishing trawler Kuber – wants to turn the page on the sordid chapter.
The Porbandar-based businessman, whose boat was forcibly commandeered by Ajmal Kasab and his comrades to launch the brutal attacks on India’s financial capital, has decided to not only give it a different look but also a new name – the Shri Ganesha Kuber. “I have added the name of Shri Ganesha – the lord of good luck – to make sure that evil forces stay away from the vessel,” Masani told Hindustan Times.
However, it may not be that easy for Masani to draw the blinds on a bloody episode that killed 164 people and wounded at least 308. Last week, a Pakistani anti-terrorism court had summoned all the 24 Indian witnesses in the case and ordered that the boats used by the militants to enter Mumbai be made case property.
Will the Gujarati businessman surrender the boat to the Pakistani authorities, then? “I don’t know,” Masani said. “I read about the Pakistani court’s order in the papers, but I will decide only after I receive an official communication from the Indian authorities.”
Masani had initially wanted to completely do away with the name Kuber, something that evoked horrifying memories. However, as the trawler was registered under that name with the Gujarat fisheries department, he did not succeed in the attempt.
An undeterred Masani then spent as much as Rs 3 lakh last year to refurbish the boat. The new interiors of the Shi Ganesha Kuber’s engine cabin no longer sports the photographs of its murdered crew members. “I removed their images in an attempt to bury the past,” the businessman said.
The photographs of the crew members – Amar Sinh, Ramesh Nagji, Balwant Prabhu, Mukesh Rathod and Nathu Nanu (all hailing from the coastal belt of the Saurashtra peninsula) – were put up by Masani in homage soon after investigation agencies allowed the trawler to sail back to Porbandar in 2009.
While the decapitated body of Sinh, the captain, was found in a dinghy near the Gateway of India, the remains of the other four – presumably killed in the high seas – were never found.
However, as the authorities are yet to allow the trawler to resume fishing operations, it remains docked at the Pobandar harbour. Masani uses two other boats – Maa and Sana – to run the business, even as he keeps the Shri Ganesha Kuber ready for action.
The Kuber was hijacked by Kasab and his accomplices off the Gujarat coast a few days before they launched the attacks on November 26, 2008.