'Had to defend our house': Taj ex-GM remembers brave staff during 26/11 attack
Talking about the bloodshed that occurred during the 2008 attacks, KS Kang, who was the general manager of Taj Hotel at the time, said that “Atithi Devo Bhavo (guests are God)” is not just a slogan for them, and the “world saw it that day”.
Less than a month before the 14th anniversary of the 26/11 terrorist attacks, the general manager of Mumbai's iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel at the time recounted the mayhem that had unfolded. Speaking at the anti-terrorism meet of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which is being hosted by India this year and commenced on Friday, KS Kang remembered his staff who had risked their lives to keep the hotel's guests safe during the attack.
“That evening, there were 2,000 guests and staff unarmed versus four heavily terrorists in this very place. My staff…risked their lives to save our guests, assisted by a few, brave local policemen over the next 10-12 hours until we got help from the NSG (National Security Guard),” Kang said on the opening event of the two-day UNSC meet.
Elaborating further on the bloodshed that occurred on the fateful day in November 2008, Kang said that his staff at the time lost their lives inside the kitchens, restaurants and in the corridors of the Taj Hotel.
“They took bullets and formed a human chain so that they could protect our guests, who trusted us to do so,” he added.
Kang said that the popular saying in Indian culture “Atithi Devo Bhabho (guests are God)” is not just a slogan for them, and instead is something they live by and the “world saw it that day”.
He pointed out that not a single staff that day had left their place to save themselves. Kang called this behaviour a “unique culture…of genuine care and giving back” that the Taj Hotel and Tata Group embody.
“We felt our house was attacked, therefore, we had to defend it. This Taj Mahal is our monument of love,” he further stated.
The former general manager of Taj Hotel said that terrorism is very real and can happen to anyone, anywhere.
The 2008 Mumbai attacks, one of the worst in India's history, is also referred to as 26/11 since it began on November 26 and lasted for four days till November 29. More than 150 people were killed during these attacks, which included civilians as well as police personnel, and over 300 were left wounded. As many as 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist terrorist outfit from Pakistan, entered Mumbai and unleashed mayhem by carrying out coordinated attacks in multiple locations across the financial capital of India - one was the Taj Hotel. Some other places of attack were the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Leopold Cafe, the Nariman House and the Oberoi Trident.
Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole surviving attacker, was executed on November 21, 2012, after the Supreme Court upheld his death penalty in August that year. A photo of his holding an AK-47 at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus was widely shared at the time, and still remains one of the haunting moments from the attacks.
Meanwhile, external affairs minister S Jaishankar, who earlier in the day laid wreath at the 26/11 Memorial at the Taj Hotel, said that key conspirators and orchestrators of the terror attacks remain at large and unpunished. Speaking at the UNSC meet, he added that the international body has “regrettably” been unable to act in some cases when it comes to proscribing some terrorists due to “political considerations”.
“14 years ago, Mumbai witnessed one of the most shocking terror attacks of our times. 140 Indian nationals and 26 citizens from 23 other countries lost their lives in a period of four days. In fact, the entire city was held hostage to terrorists who entered from across the border,” Jaishankar said at the event.
The two-day UNSC anti-terrorism meet is being held at the Taj Hotel, and will conclude on October 29. Several world leaders, including UK foreign secretary James Cleverly and UN deputy secretary-general Vladimir Voronkov, will participate in the event.