As we look back to the dreadful day of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, years ago, conflicted emotions of hurt, anger and anguish are hard to distinguish.
It's especially heartening to think of those brave men who fought with valour and gave up their lives to save those of others.
And we owe it to their memory to remember their heroic gestures.
1. Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan
Operation Black Tornado was launched to fight the terrorists that remained hidden in the Taj hostel, with its guests and staff as hostage. Major Unnikrishnan led his team of National Security Guard (NSG) commandos and managed to rescue 14 hostages. This 31-year-old was an only son, who succumbed to bullet wounds while engaging with the terrorists.
He left his team with the parting message "Do not come up. I will handle them".
2. Sub-Inspector Tukaram Omble
A retired army man, Tukaram Omble was working as an assistant sub-inspector with the Mumbai Police when 2 terrorists fled to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and opened attack on the innocent public. Even though Omble's team wasn't well equipped, they still managed to shoot down one terrorist and capture another terrorist, Ajmal Kasab.
Short on artillery, Omble held onto Kasab's rifle, enabling other policemen to shoot him down and ultimately apprehend him, losing his life in the process.
3. Hemant Karkare
He was the chief of the Mumbai Anti-Terrorist Squad and was killed in action during the 26/11 attacks.
He rushed to attack the terrorists the moment he received the call and was responsible for shooting at terrorist Kasab, whose injuries later enabled the police to capture him at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
4. Havaldar Gajendra Singh
Gajendra Singh Bisht was an NSG commando who laid down his life as part of the Operation Black Tornado. He was a part of the Parachute Regiment, the team responsible for fast-roping into the Nariman House in an effort to neutralize the terrorists who were hiding inside with 6 hostages.
The team came under intense fire, with the terrorists even throwing grenades at the commandos. At this point, even though Singh had the option retreating, he took the brave decision to create a situation of dominance for the commandos, and continued to attack the terrorists, thereby making way for the other commandos.
5. Police Inspector Vijay Salaskar
Police Inspector Vijay Salaskar had been keeping the streets of Mumbai safe as an encounter specialist, long before he made the ultimate sacrifice during the Mumbai Terror Attacks. On hearing about the fleeing terrorists, Salaskar along with three officers and 4 constables, drove the Toyota Qualis towards the direction of the terrorist and attacked them. However, he succumbed to his injuries when a terrorist opened fire on him and the country lost a selfless policeman.
6. Additional Commissioner Ashok Kamte
Even though Ashok Kamte could have led a safe life as part of the IRS, he chose to be a part of the IPS and work towards keeping this country safe. Even though he was the Additional Commissioner with Mumbai Police for the eastern region, which was not under attack, he offered assistance and even accompanied Salaskar and Karkare in the pursuit of the terrorists.
He was the first one to spot the terrorists and open fire at them. When the terrorists responded with grenades, Kamte suggested an attack from the other side, thereby gaining slight advantage. However, the terrorists were extremely well-equipped and the brave and intelligent officer could not stand against the heavy fire.
7. Additional Commissioner Sadanand Date
It was Date's call to Police Headquarters that enabled Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar and Hemant Karkare to approach the terrorists en route Chattarapati Shivaji Terminus and attack them. Even though Date was severely injured, he still managed to place the call for requisite forces. Later on, Date was successfully evacuated and provided medical attention.
These brave officers and many others like them laid down their life to not just rid India of terrorists during the November 2008 attacks, but to also make India a much safer place.
To the 166 lives lost...to over 239 injured...to the innumerable memories etched on the firmament forever & to Mumbai, the city which picked up its pieces & started stronger than ever - A Salute & A Bow of Gratitude from Mumbai Police! pic.twitter.com/TQrGHjewbp— Mumbai Police (@MumbaiPolice) November 26, 2017
The respect and admiration we have for them can never be diminished.