Security In Mumbai: An Impossible Task? Life in Mumbai is returning to its usual bustling frenzy after last week's massacres. But as investigators attempt to untangle the Islamist terror web behind the attacks, India is finding that security in a city of 18 million — and a nation of 1.2 billion — is a daunting job.
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Security In Mumbai: An Impossible Task?

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Security In Mumbai: An Impossible Task?

Security In Mumbai: An Impossible Task?

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen. India's top security official resigned today after this past week's terror attacks in Mumbai that, according to India media reports, left 174 people dead. Home Minister Shivraj Patil has been widely criticized for security lapses in India before the massacres. And as investigators try to determine who was behind last week's attacks, there are concerns that India's state of alert is already slipping into a state of complacency. NPR's Philip Reeves has more from Mumbai.

PHILIP REEVES: Among the many images that haunt the mind in the aftermath of the Mumbai massacres, one stands out. It's a grainy photo of two clean-shaven men with neat, short hair. They're entering a railway station where they will slaughter dozens of people. Each has an automatic weapon in his right hand. They're smartly dressed. One has a blue backpack. They appear to be walking. They look fresh faced and very young. They could almost be students. Fochin Fernandez(ph) manages a restaurant at the station, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, or CST as many here call it. Fernandez saw the gunmen coolly open fire.

Mr. FOCHIN FERNANDEZ (Restaurant Manager, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus): The shots were coming in, and suddenly we had seen two guys standing there. One was standing with a jacket, and he had a tracksuit. We could see them.

REEVES: So you saw them over there just about 30 yards away from here, less, 20 yards.

Mr. FERNANDEZ: Both were standing. One was here and one was here. One had a jacket, and the other one was - he was quite sort of built, heavily built. But the other one was a lean guy.

REEVES: So one was fat. One was thin.

Mr. FERNANDEZ: And they were young, about (unintelligible) 22 years old.

REEVES: The bullets flew through the restaurant.

Mr. FERNANDEZ: The first shot came there.

REEVES: There, meaning through your window?

Mr. FERNANDEZ: Yes, yes. That was the first shot. I got little glasses splinters in my hair and my pockets are full of glass. We had about three or four customers that day. So I told them to crawl. And we all came crawling here. And this was the third bullet.

REEVES: Officials in India now say only ten gunmen took part in the onslaught on Mumbai on Wednesday. They're trying to figure out how so few managed to kill so many. Who was the mastermind? Where did the gunmen come from? There are reports here the militants arrived in the waters off Mumbai in a hijacked trawler. The Indian media's broadcasting pictures of the body of a man lying face down with his hands tied. They say this was the trawler captain and allege his vessel carried the gunmen from Pakistan.

Today, Mumbai's CST station is returning to normal. Nowhere is better proof of the ability of the city of Mumbai and India, generally, to rebound after a massive attack. This is just a couple of days after it happened, and already we are looking at a railways terminal, one of the busiest in the world, getting back to business. The snack bars are open. There are lines at the ticket terminals again. I'm looking at a small crowd of women in brightly colored saris coming towards me, and they're smiling and chatting.

But you can tell that there has been a serious incident here. The clue to that is the number of policemen and security forces that are stationed around the terminal, and they're carrying automatic weapons, and there are a lot of them. In fact, some of them are positioned behind sandbags. It's impossible to protect a city as large and crowded as Mumbai from terrorist attack. Yet this railway station remains remarkably vulnerable. We watched passengers walk in, carrying bags, without being checked.

There's another guy going in with a blue bag. He goes through the security gate and walks out the other side. It says stop when the red light flashes stop. But he carries on walking. And I'm just going to go and have a look. No, nobody is stopping him, and he's right there in the middle of the station. And there are around him dozens and dozens of people.

Mr. PRAVIN GUPTA(ph) (Indian Hotels and Airlines Consultant): We have to clearly blame the government for this.

REEVES: Pravin Gupta is eating a snack in Fernandez's restaurant. He's a consultant for hotels and airlines. Security is part of his work. He travels through this station regularly and isn't impressed.

Mr. GUPTA: We have about 106 police personnel at any given time at the station. And all they're interested is when their boss is coming up and down, they're at attention with the carbine. And when he goes away, they're not bothered about - they have so many screening metal detectors machines. Have you seen anyone using them? I mean, it's there just for name's sake, totally symbolic.

REEVES: In the last few days, attention's focused on two besieged five-star hotels frequented by foreigners and the Indian elite. Gupta says other victims are being forgotten.

Mr. GUPTA: I mean, today, people are talking about Taj and Oberoi, but so many people died here. Has anyone talked about them? If you look at the death toll, there were only 22 Westerners who were killed.

REEVES: Your point is that the death toll overall among Indian people is much higher than 22.

Mr. GUPTA: Yes. It's much higher. It's much higher. So it's not that they were targeting Westerners. They were targeting anyone. There were Muslims who were killed here.

REEVES: Right here, right where we're sitting, there's a bullet hole, right here on the window. And you're sitting about three inches from it. You don't feel any worry or concern?

Mr. GUPTA: It's destiny, basically. See, if I have to die, I could die anywhere. I mean, I've been here so often. And it's just destiny that I was not here that day. One of my friends got shot down. He's on a ventilator in Bombay Hospital. So it's just destiny.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Mumbai.

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