But where was the railway police? Security at stations was supposed to have been beefed up after the serial train blasts in Mumbai on July 11, 2006 had killed almost a similar number — 187.
Rajendra Sadashiv, a constable who had just come in on the night shift, now gives an eyewitness account in answer to that crucial question. “They looked like army wallas. They wore dark clothers and carried guns just like the army does, and so no one suspected them. But when they started firing, my senior, Inspector Shashank Shinde, tried to counter them and started firing at them, but they fired back at him. He was killed on the spot. They also fired at me and though I was not hit, I fell down in a pool of blood. Because of the chaos, they assumed I was dead and went past me firing at others. They did all this in complete silence. Nobody uttered a word, they just coordinated with each other through hand movements and sign language.”
THE POLICE out of their way, the merchants of death went about their cold business. They had claimed 40 lives in a matter of minutes and it was time to move on. They had other destinations to go to. Eleven-yearold Vilas, who polished shoes at the station for a living, jumped to safety behind a board when he saw one of the terrorists with a big gun, and realised it was not some gangwar or underworld encounter. This was not sniper fire. It was coming in bursts.
Mumbai’s three top cops died before they had a chance to pick up their guns to retaliate
Walking out of the station, Kasav and Ismail walked past the Times of India building to enter Cama Hospital. Vilas surveyed the scene from behind the board. He could only see bodies, pools of blood and heaps of clothes that had fallen out of the passengers suitcases. Forty deaths later, the police had not yet arrived. The Crisis Management Group (CMG), supposed to kick in within minutes of an attack (during the hijacking crisis when IC 814 finally landed in Kandahar, the CMG had re-rehearsed the drill after it failed to stop the plane at Amritsar) was nowhere in evidence. The patients — mostly women and children — were at the mercy of the men in deep blue and black. So were the hospital’s security guards, who were easily felled with bullets.