The Unsung Soldier Who Saved 157 Lives At Taj Hotel on 26/11

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26/11 attacks were one of the most deadliest attacks in the world. Lashkar-e-Taiba did a series of 12 attacks in a span of 3 days. No body even imagined in their darkest dream that India have to face this terrorist attack. 166 people were killed and 600 were injured.

There were people who were trapped in the Taj Hotels for even three nights and they never knew if they will be saved or not. The help came when the commandos stormed in and finished the terrorists who kept many people hostages. Mumbai attacks shocked whole India when it happened.

The handlers were giving instructions to the terrorists over the phone while watching the updates from the news. They were guiding them to take actions over the call and told them to create fire by burning the mattresses of the hotel.

Taj Mahal Hotel on early hours of 27th November 2017

There were many heroes who fought that day to save the people, one such unsung hero was US Marine Captain Ravi Dharnidharka who saved 157 lives while terrorists were in the Taj.

Captain Ravi Dharnidharka has served in US Marine Crops and flied more than 200 combat missions in Iraq which also included the bloody battle of Fallujah in 2004. In November 2008, Captain was in Mumbai to spend some time with his family who stay at Badhwar Park in Mumbai.

Capt. Ravi Dharnidharka( now Lt. Col in Reserve Marine Corps)

Marines get a very tough training which makes them better to analyze situations faster and Ravi knew that something wasn’t right that day. They decided to have a Lebanese dinner at 20th floor of Taj Hotels which had a restaurant called Souk.

Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, two journalists who were also trapped with the people authored a book called The Siege: 68 Hours Inside The Taj Hotel. They wrote the marine was on the edge all the time. Ravi was observing how too many calls were ringing that time and there was a call from the people sitting next to them who were asked if they are okay by their relative, Ravi was observing with a lot of caution. It was soon that his cousin got a call who told them about shooting in Colaba.

In the Souk at that night, there were few ex South African commanders, one of them was Wilmans who were working for a private security firm, Ravi walked upto them and introduced himself to them. They initially chalked out a plan on how they will save 157 people stuck in the restaurant at that moment.

Their immediate worry was the glass of the Souk restaurant which might cause a lot of danger by one simple grenade if it bursts. The ex South African commandos told people what was going on and made them write names on the paper and honestly, they did not want to check it later, that was to keep people engaged and to divert their mind from any sort of worry.

Pic from Reuters

On a recce near to Souk, they found a conference room which had around 100 Koreans who had no idea what was happening. They decided to move everyone there and told everyone to avoid any communication and telling anyone where they were because the media was covering the operation from any end they could and revealing their location to anyone could be deadly for them in any manner. They went ahead and took knives, rods or any possible thing that can help them fight any terrorist which can show up on their door.

While they were having a recce, they found two emergency fire exists, one through the conference hall and one through the floor they were on. They blocked the one which was not attached to the hall with possibly everything they can so that no terrorists can come above.

They sealed the main door wires and barricaded the main door after shifting everyone to the conference room.

Soon, they heard an explosion which happened at the sixth floor. The terrorists have set off 10 kgs RDX in the heritage towers of the Taj and the impact was felt even on the 20th floor. Ravi and the ex commandos worried that it might lead to electricity failure and might lead to any suffocation inside the hall if it spreads.

Security forces at Taj Hotels

Around 2 a.m., they made out a plan to exit. First two of the ex commandos went to recce to the exit and they found it to be clean and could be used to have a exit. Also the support staff volunteered to help. All of them removed shoes so as to avoid any noise and kept all their phones on silent, moved as slowly as they can out of the exit. They were also helped out with security forces.

There was an old lady aged 84, she was not in a position to walk. Ravi volunteered to pick her up and there was narrow exit, they kept moving slowly with the commandos giving a layer to them. Around 157 people escaped silently and they did not stopped till the time they reached where the security forces were standing.

There was a slight delay in getting out because no one wanted to rush out first, because all were scared if terrorists spotted them while going out and shot them. And one exit was getting the fire from security forces and would be dangerous.

So, they had to approach the adjoining exit which went through a lobby. However, according to Forbes, Shruti Mehta, a mother who was stuck with her family in Taj, grabbed her daughter’s hand and started running till she reached very far from Taj.

Ravi Dharnidharka                                                                                            Source

Ravi and the ex commandos were the unsung heroes of that day who saved the people and tried to do what they could. According to the journalists, Ravi did not waited to talk to anyone and just went silently from the spot and got no recognition of any sort. He is a true hero and behaved like a soldier would have.

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