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He held off terrorists for four hours

December 19, 2008
Text and photographs: A Ganesh Nadar in Mumbai

The doctors have told Inspector Deepak Dole of the Colaba police station in south Mumbai to avoid sunlight and dust for at least three months. The reason: Large swathes of his skin, burnt by the fire started by terrorists in the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, are peeling off.

New skin will grow, the doctors have assured Inspector Dole -- one of Mumbai's heroes who saved eight of his men's lives and held off the terrorists till the commandos arrived -- but he should not aggravate his condition.

"I can stay indoors for six months; I paint," he says softly, pointing at one of his paintings on the wall of his modest central Mumbai apartment in which he lives with his wife and school-going son.

"I am also on the Net most of the time. I am studying cyber crime. I just gave an online exam," he adds.

On the night of November 26, when most people were fleeing the terrorists' bullets, he went into the Taj hotel at 10.45 pm with a team led by Deputy Commissioner of Police Rajvardhan Sinha.

Another DCP, Vishwas Nangre Patil, was already inside directing his men.

"When we went in, we had two things to do," says Inspector Dole. "One was to rescue the trapped guests, and the second was to search for the terrorists."

"We went up the staircase," he continues. "The terrorists had started a fire on the sixth floor and it was spreading downwards towards us. We had the fire on one hand and the terrorists' bullets and grenades on the other.

Attack at the Taj: Hear what happened

"DCP Nangre Patil was directing the attack from the closed circuit television control room on the second floor. When the fire spread there too we had to vacate and escape. The terrorists did not set fire to the CCTV control room; they had set fire to the whole hotel."

"There was continuous firing," he adds. "When the terrorists were firing at us from a height we too were returning their fire. But our revolvers were not effective at that range. We were told not to allow them to come down; we didn't."

"We did that by firing on the staircase every time they tried to come down," he continues. "We knew they were coming down thanks to the CCTV cameras. They must have been wondering how we knew every time."

"We held fort till 3 am when the naval commandos arrived, the National Security Guard arrived much later. When we finally came out all of us were injured -- either with bullets or with burns."

Image: Inspector Deepak Dole with one of his paintings.

Also see: 'I didn't want to run away, so I fought back'

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