The Forgotten Survivors of the Mumbai Terror Attack

“When my husband died that day, people thought that we got a lot of money from the government. But that wasn’t true,” said the wife of a victim of the terror attack in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. “We didn’t even have money or any resources to perform his final rites.”

After any terrorist attack, or any unforeseen incident, we generally remember the security personnel who laid their lives to protect the civilians, the martyrs, or the victims whose names feature in the casualty count.

There is a third kind of victim too, like the woman quoted above – survivors who have been left to deal with the blow of losing their loved ones or dealing with a grievous injury, with only one-time monetary compensation from the government to sustain them.

Field action project

Documenting the lives of some of the survivors of the 2008 Mumbai attack, on February 23, the Jamsetji Tata School of Disaster Studies (JTSDS), Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), conducted a virtual exhibition ’26/11 – Memories, Hope and Way Forward’.

The exhibition is one of the outcomes of the Field Action Project – AAPTI (Avenue for Psychosocial and Therapeutic Interventions). It was attended by students, alumni, faculty members of TISS, civil society organisations, young disaster management professionals, and other interested parties.

According to a press release issued by AAPTI, the field action project emerged from the TISS- TPSWT (Taj Public Service Welfare Trust) response to the 2008 terror attack under the leadership of Jacquleen Joseph, senior faculty member at JTSDS and Surinder Jaswal, deputy director at TISS. Over the years, the project, with its rights-based approach, has developed indigenous theoretical models of response and advocacy to seek government support for the survivors.

All the posters and paintings shown in the video above were created by young artists and alumni of JTSDS. Allan Mathew Alex, Pritha Choudhury and research officers at JTSDS contributed to research and artistic expressions.

‘Don’t just give us money’: survivor stories

Anamika, who sustained bullet injuries on November 26, 2008, inaugurated the event that was attended by several other survivors.

At the virtual exhibition, a few survivors shared their stories anonymously.

“Every year people take our interview, and go. And then nothing happens…the government must see if a person is treated well in the company where he/she was given a job after the attack. As you might know, a person’s life doesn’t just cost Rs 3 lakh (the compensation amount), there is more to him/her.”

“The government gave me a job because I became handicapped after the event but they haven’t checked on me since then, they don’t know if I have all the resources and support to be able to do the job.”

“My wife had applied for a job after the attack, but it was rejected on an unspecified reason.”

“Instead of giving us money, provide monthly ration or money for school fee. Give us monthly expenses until we are able to find a job to be able to fend for ourselves.”

The creative animation and aesthetic sound design in the video above was handled by Karthikey Smita Karnatak.

Community support

The virtual exhibition was followed by a panel discussion titled ‘Comprehensive Support Services of Victims of Terror’ which was attended by Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, head of the Chabad House – one of the many sites of the terror attack – senior IAS officer Dr Sanjeev Chopra, Advocate Rajeshwar Panchal and Kanchan Kanojia, a researcher who has closely worked with survivors.

They spoke about providing support to the survivors at their own level. While Dr Chopra offered to work with TISS on the rights of the survivors, Advocate Panchal offered pro bono services to the survivor’s rights-based assertions forward. Kanojia spoke about the impact of the terror attack.

As of now, according to Lavanya Shanbhogue, assistant professor at JTSDS, the project members are seeking public support for all the survivors, especially those coming from marginalised communities and were seriously injured at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus on the night of 26/11.

While those who got compensation are facing a hard time sustaining themselves, there are many who haven’t received full compensation yet.