In a tête-à-tête with Lt. Col. Sandeep Sen and Editor/Writer Sandeep Unnikathan on the 26/11 State of Siege
26th November 2008, is a date had gripped every Mumbaikar in the tenacious clutches of fear. Ten Pakistani militants forcefully made their way into the financial capital using the waterways. They ruthlessly bombed the shores when the local fisherman sited something fishy and brushed them away. But they were relentless. These terrorists were under the heavy influence of cocaine (and other drugs) and had morbidly gunned down a score of innocent citizens, putting the city to a grinding haul.
Team Letsott.com is very fortunate to get in touch with Deputy Editor, India Today Group and author Sandeep Unnithan, of the ‘Black Tornado’ fame and with Lt. Col. Sandeep Sen, the brave colonel who’s played an integral role in the siege. The duo has played a vital role in the making of the series, ‘State of Siege’ that will go live on ZEE5 on the 20th of March 2020.
What was the initial reaction to the attack?
According to Sandeep Unnithan, “This clearly was a Fidayeen attack! Even a layman sitting at home could tell of the same! But the action taken to arrest the situation was relatively slow and had to go through the mundane bureaucratic procedures to get a ‘go-ahead’!
Initially, when the attacks happened, the event was treated as a trifling one. The moment the Mumbai Police learnt that this wasn’t exactly a gang war, they realised that they weren’t suitably equipped and required help from national forces to help get out of this situation.
Who is involved in giving the go-ahead on matters of national importance such as these?
According to Lt. Col. Sandeep Sen, we learn, “The bureaucracy isn’t exactly involved in these matters. Everything is done on call, and the moment we get a call we are out of our comfort zone, take our positions and simply fire. Yes indeed! It did take time for the Mumbai Police, to comprehend the magnitude of the situation. Which is precisely why the NSG forces arrived later.
There must have been several back-stories to the 26/11? Yet, why does the book lack the required emotional connect?
Sandeep Unnithan adds, “There is a lack of emotional content in the book as I wanted the people to understand the reality of the situation from a very factual viewpoint. For this, it was necessary to park the emotions and give the reader a detailed and unbiased narrative on the proceedings. The reality includes, that the terrorists were so confused that, Taj and Trident weren’t even on their radar, but they just seemed to have landed themselves there ambiguously, ruthlessly charging at the innocent citizens and gunning them down.
“The attacks have touched me the most! While I was sitting in front of the telly in my Delhi home, my parents were trapped at home, that is very close to Nariman House, also known as Chabad House. They have witnessed the horrific sounds of gunfire and grenades. It couldn’t get more gut-wrenching than that!
Do you have to look into political and socio-economic aspects while manning combats such as these?
According to Lt. Col. Sandeep Sen, we learn, that once we’re on the line of fire, we’ve got to forget everything and fight for the nation. Our duties are free of any biases, and it is our sole responsibility to put the bad men down. While on duty we cannot be influenced by any political or socio-economic treaties or proceedings!
How has the security improved post the attacks?
According to Sandeep Unnithan, “Our security has certainly beefed up! We’re more alert and are more capable to handle a situation such as this. We’ve also upped our coastal security, and are now rather strict about the numerous unidentified trawlers entering the Indian waters. Our intel is a lot smarter and proactive. But what I haven’t quite understood, is during the time of crisis, who actually mans and controls all these forces to work in unison?
According to Lt. Col. Sandeep Sen, we learn, “Yes we’ve beefed up our security. Today we’re more aware of how to manage a situation such as this. Our forces to are better equipped. The citizens are also making an effort to help us, by being a little more alert. Our boys literally play on their lives on a daily basis saving the country from going up in flames. They are once bitten twice shy and have steered from the lackadaisical ways. Our weapons and training have been advanced and updated. Today the NSG is armed with state of the art weapons, arms and ammunition to combat such a situation in the future.
What is your take on the making of the series the ‘The State of Siege’?
According to Sandeep Unnithan, “This was necessary! The reach of the written word is always very limited, but the series will show people what had actually happened back then. The series will walk people through the aftermath of this national calamity, and also show people the kind of work that the NGS invests in saving peoples lives.
According to Lt. Col. Sandeep Sen, “I have managed to live every moment by the second while consulting for this show. I have walked the cast through every aspect that my comrades and I had been through at that time. There is a pain for the lives that have been lost; nostalgia, and the feeling of victory for mutilating the mindset of a terrorist and showing them that this is what could happen to them if they meddle with India.
Warfare and a ‘State of Siege’ is just one sort of calamity that people are aware of. At the wake of the hour as Covid-19 strikes, crumbling the global economy to a new low, we are faced by just another question, and that is, ‘Is India ready to brace and combat biological warfare?’