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The ghost of 26/11 haunts Colaba

With the constituency still trying to put the terror strikes behind it, security emerges as its major issue in this election, reports Neha Bhayana.

mumbai Updated: Oct 07, 2009 02:10 IST

Colaba resident and 26/11 victim Sanjay Katar (23) and his brother Mangesh (21) don’t plan to cast their votes in the Assembly election on October 13. The terror attacks and subsequent “false promises” have made them too disillusioned to vote.

“Many ministers and politicians came to see me after the attacks and before the Lok Sabha election in May. But none were there for me when I needed help,” said Sanjay.

Sanjay was hurt when a grenade hurled by the terrorists exploded near Nariman House at Colaba on November 26, 2008. After three months in hospital and a surgery to remove the shrapnel from his stomach, he was not fit enough to work night shifts at the call centre in Vashi where he was employed.

The Katars approached many politicians, including Colaba MLA Annie Shekhar, MP Milind Deora, and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Shaina NC, for help in getting a job closer to home.

“None of them bothered to even give us two minutes,” said Mangesh. “Why should we vote?” The Katars are among the 2,75,518 registered voters in Colaba constituency. Unlike them, most others don’t plan to abstain from voting, but the terror attack is on their minds too.

Sanjay thinks the security beef-up is a joke. “Churchgate and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus have more visible security. But most other stations just have one male and one female constable. What can they do if terrorists strike?” he said.
Cuffe Parade residents Anil and Asha Dusija agreed. “Policemen were camping at Badhwar Park for two months after the attacks. But they are gone now,” said Asha.

The Dusijas’ residence in Iris building is barely a five-minute walk from Badhwar Park, where the 10 terrorists landed in a boat. Asha can’t help but feel nervous every time she passes the spot.

“The number of boats and fishermen living on the shore is increasing by the day. You wouldn’t even know if terrorists landed again,” she said. “The government ought to have a count of the people living there.”

Farhan Jehani, co-owner of Colaba’s Leopold Café, one of the sites of the terror strikes, felt patrolling Badhwar Park was not enough. “What if the terrorists arrive at Sassoon Dock this time?” he said. Jehani is also concerned about the law and order situation in Colaba. “Drug peddlers operate openly and phony priests fleece foreign tourists right under the Colaba police’s nose. Police visibility has increased, but it’s far from enough,” he said.

The BJP’s Colaba candidate Raj Purohit said he would push for a “high-powered security system” for Colaba along the lines of those in New York and Delhi. “I will demand bullet-proof jackets for policemen, better sirens and a more hi-tech system so there is better communication between police jeeps,” he said.

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s Arvind Gawde agreed that better coastal security is needed but laid more emphasis on doing away with unauthorised slums. “Who knows who lives there? We have to get rid of them if we want security,” he said.