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'There was a lot of screaming and shouting'

December 17, 2008
Three weeks have passed since that horrific night when evil cowards attacked Mumbai, but the city and its nearly 20 million residents have yet to recover from that murderous assault.

In the horror of November 26 and the two days and nights that followed, one encounter offered courage and sustenance -- the Mumbai police's capture of one of the terrorists, perhaps unprecedented in the global war on terror. reporter Vaihayasi Pande Daniel and photographer Uttam Ghosh, along with staff photographer Sanjay Sawant, were the first journalists at the site of the encounter shortly after midnight, November 26-27. Last Friday, Daniel and Ghosh returned to the area and spoke to eyewitnesses to the confrontation between Mumbai policemen and the murderers.

The busy intersection of Marine Drive, Mumbai's seaside boulevard, and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Road, south Mumbai, is, on any night, a noisy corner.

Kulfi stalls, snack stands and panwallahs stay open till well past midnight and cater to the city's nightbirds. Mumbai traffic policemen regularly conduct surprise checks at this location to catch tipsy drivers heading home after a night on the tiles. And this is an accident spot -- late night, deafening bangs are often heard when vehicles collide.

Rippon Sadh knows all these sounds. He has lived at this corner for decades and his bedroom window overlooks the crossroads. He is often up late. Sometimes online. And he has grown to recognise the night noises around here.

But an eerie, abnormal calm descended on this lively location, bordering Chowpatty beach, November 26-27. The quietness was a contrast. And disturbing.

Says Rippon, 35, who works with the value education programme at the Hare Krishna centre near the Babulnath temple nearby, "The beach was empty. They had emptied the beach. They (the police) definitely had some information." The streets that night, he remembers, were frighteningly silent.

A little after 12.30, suddenly there was an uproar. The noise levels, in fact, had started rising gradually after the earlier hush, he explains. The police were getting ready for something as they positioned barricades on the empty road.

Out of the ghostly stillness a silver Skoda care tore up Marine Drive and stopped short of the barricades with a sharp screech, its lights beaming blindingly, recalls Rippon.

"There was a lot of noise, screaming and shouting. The police yelled for it to stop and for the headlights to be put off and for the dicky (trunk) to be opened. But they (the people in the car) did not (obey). It seemed like the car was also being chased by a policeman on a motorcycle, I think, but I am not sure."

The driver of the car then tried to maneuver his way from behind the barricade by taking a sharp right over the median strip, but the policemen swiftly pushed another barrier in front of the car's path.

Image: Naresh Sadh, Rippon Sadh's father, points out the intersection at which the Chowpatty shootout took place.

Also see: Terror encounter on Marine Drive

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