Former Mumbai police commando Asif Mulani was washing up, getting ready to wear his combat gear, when he first heard the bullets on November 26, 2008. “I heard the sound of gunshots coming from behind the washroom, which shares boundary with the backyard of the Cama and Albless Hospital. I knew those were being fired from AK-47 rifles,” said Mulani, 43, who is currently posted with the Maharashtra State Police Housing Corporation (MSPHC).He was right. Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan had made their way to the hospital. However, the police didn’t know much about the terrorists at the time. All they knew was that Mumbai was under attack.On instructions from senior inspector Arun Chavan to secure the hospital’s rear gate, Mulani and a fellow commando scaled the boundary wall. “A volley of bullets flew past us and hit a stationary vehicle parked along the road. We immediately took cover,” said Mulani. They managed to make their way to the rear gate with help from a passing police van, but the gate was closed and Mulani could hear gunshots coming from the inside.As Mulani tried to assess the situation, additional commissioner Ashok Kamte rushed into the lane that led to the hospital. “Both Kamte saheb and I came under fire. I lost balance and fell after a bullet grazed past my right hand,” Mulani recalled. They took cover behind a tempo and Kamte pulled Mulani close to him. “Within seconds, a barrage of shots hit the place where I’d been earlier. I owe my life to Kamte saheb,” said Mulani.Minutes later, the then chief of the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) Hemant Karkare arrived at the scene in the ill-fated Toyata Qualis that would be later be taken by the terrorists. Before the top cops left, Mulani told Kamte all he knew. “I had briefed Kamte saheb that the terrorists were armed with AK-47 and hand grenades,” he said.Mulani didn’t know this was the last time he’d speak to his mentor Kamte. Karkare and Kamte left in the jeep to locate the terrorists, leaving Mulani and other policemen with orders to hold position at the rear gate. As the firing resumed, Mulani and his colleagues began evacuating the dead and injured. “Around 6am, I came to know that Kamte sahib, Karkare sahib, [Inspector Vijay] Salaskar sahib were no more. I felt devastated. I will live with the biggest regret in my life that I could not save Kamtesaheb,” said Mulani.Later, Mulani joined the team formed to investigate Kasab. “We were put on Kasab’s security duty 24x7 basis. None of us went home for a month,” said Mulani, who remembers Kasab opening up only when he realised Mulani and a few other officers were Muslim. “Kasab was surprised when all of us in the team (Hindus and Muslims) would sit together to eat. He could not comprehend that we live peacefully and happily in our country,” said Mulani.One day Kasab told Mulani that he had been told that Muslims are “a harassed and persecuted lot in India”. Kasab also said he’d had been handpicked by Lashkar-e-Taiba’s second-in-command Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who had persuaded Kasab to wage jihad against India. Kasab told Mulani he had been told that he would “go to heaven if I killed the infidels”. Mulani remembers lashing out at Kasab and telling him, “The heavens will not forgive for what you’ve done. You deserve punishment for spilling innocent blood.” The time spent as Kasab’s security team was hard on Mulani. “I felt like killing him [Kasab] for what he has done to my friends, colleagues and my mentor Kamte saheb. It was really tough to control my emotions,” he said.