The occasion was solemn, but some politicians cared little for that.
The only-by-invitation tribute ceremony that the state government held on Thursday evening at Gateway of India was expected to be a disciplined affair. But as the programme progressed, many attendees felt that the common citizens outside the half-empty state enclosure were far more heartfelt.
The event started late by almost an hour reportedly because the politicians, including Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and state Home Minister R.R. Patil, delayed their arrival.
And when they did arrive, they disturbed the all-faith prayer service that was on at the spot. Police officers, who left no stone unturned to plan the event, were left with no option but to follow protocol and rush to welcome their political bosses, resulting in disturbances.
Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for foreign affairs, arrived almost at the fag end of the programme. Instead of taking a seat discreetly while the police band played, he passed through several rows followed by friends and stood talking to the parents of Major Sandip Unnikrishnan, who was killed during the anti-terror operations. He greeted other invitees on the way to his seat.
M.S. Bitta, of the All India Anti-Terrorist Front, said: “Tharoor showed disrespect not only to the martyrs, but also to the country. He shouldn’t have disturbed the invitees.”
Several MLAs arrived late and then ignored the seating arrangements. The hosts had to direct them to their seats.
On the other hand, invitees from different consulates arrived on time and waited uncomfortably for the politicians.
The hosts showed a documentary that displayed the city police’s newly-acquired might. Several officers, who had fought the terrorists, assured through the film that their force would keep Mumbai safe.
Meanwhile, unmindful of the event, thousands gathered outside. “We don’t care for politicians because they don’t care for us,” said Sandeep Yadav, who was part of the crowd.