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HindustanTimes Thu,02 Oct 2014

Mumbai lends a helping hand - Part I
Dhamini Ratnam, Sai Raje & Neha Dara, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, December 26, 2008
First Published: 00:59 IST(26/12/2008)
Last Updated: 01:02 IST(26/12/2008)
When Kiran Manral decided to do something after the November 26 terror attacks, she turned to the medium she was most familiar with. Manral created a blog at indiahelps.blogspot.com where she, and other fellow bloggers, put up the contact details of several victims, creating an interface between those who want to help and those in need of assistance.

The blog has helped raise Rs. 4 lakh for Sunita Yadav (25), who lost her husband and whose three-month old daughter, Sheetal, has a bullet lodged in her skull.

The aid will not stop at money but include “hand-holding families through this painful transitional phase… We have no resources but our desire to help,” Manral writes on the blog.

The message is clear. You don’t need to be part of any organisation to help. All you need is the desire to lend a hand.
Several groups of like-minded people have sprung up across the city after the attacks, each using their strengths to help victims and agitate for change.

Clearly, the day more than 50,000 Mumbaiites stepped out of their homes and gathered at Gateway started something many intend to see through.

When screenwriter Suparn Verma wrote on his blog that “I’m mad as hell and I won’t take it anymore!” little did he know that his message would strike a chord and spread across Mumbai via SMS and e-mail, leading to the solidarity march on December 3 — a defining moment in the city’s history.

Since then, so many people have got in touch with Verma, volunteering their support, that he is considering long-term involvement. “So many people want to do something. We’ve met again and we want to create a forum where we can all be in touch and contribute. The attack has woken us up and this might shouldn’t be wasted.”

Kritika Srinivasan, a corporate communication consultant, set up a trust to raise money for the widow and three daughters of sub-inspector Tukaram Umbale, who was shot dead in the exchange of fire with terrorists at Girgaum Chowpatty.

Srinivasan, with the help of her husband Prakash Chellam and two friends, has already raised Rs. 10 lakh; the aim is Rs. 20 lakh.

“We hope to achieve our target by the end of the month. If we manage to raise more money, we would like to give that amount to the family of another policeman who was killed in the attacks,” Srinivasan said.

The attacks have also united existing groups under an umbrella. About 70 to 80 NGOs came together on December 12 to organise a ‘human chain for peace’. That was a symbolic gesture, now they want to achieve something concrete.

“We are still working on a plan of action. But we know that the continuance of a secular fabric in the city is an important thing on our agenda. The attacks should not lead to religious animosity,” said Jatin Desai, a member of Citizens Initiative for Peace.

It is easy to wonder if the groups that have come together will eventually go their own ways.

Reassuringly, some sound like they are willing to dig their heels. “There are no false hopes. We are in it for the long haul,” said Somasekhar Sundaresan (36), founder of the Black Badge Movement, a Facebook group started a week after the attacks.


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