Nearer my hotel, I try to get closer to Nariman House, where a Chasidic rabbi, his wife and three guests are being held hostage, his two-year-old son having been rushed out of the building by a maid. (The Israelis are said to have offered the assistance of their commandos to rescue the hostages but the offer has been refused by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.) Nariman House sits behind a warren-like slum at the edge of a ramshackle fishing village and a popular street market. This village, it later turns out, is probably where the terrorists landed.
As I enter the narrow alleys near the market, I'm assailed by a stench of rot and sewage, and two lapdog-sized rats run between and over my feet. I can just see the top of Nariman House but there is nothing else to see at this hour and I pick my way past piles of refuse to the hotel, stepping on another rat, this one dead.
At the hotel a few hours before dawn, I check in with the excitable newsreaders. Every channel and newspaper has come up with a logo along the lines of "Mumbai at War" or "Warzone Mumbai". One station says that the army has announced the clearing of the Taj, following the killing of two terrorists. It is now being "sanitised", according to police sources, and the task will take many hours. Half-an-hour later, other security sources say that terrorists are still at large in the building.
Meanwhile, the celebrated local author Shobaa De has caused a stir by giving an interview in which she says that India has been "too tolerant", and "enough is enough". This is a theme that will be brought up repeatedly over the coming days. She is referring to the incompetence and cynicism of the politicians, though others decide she means that India is too tolerant of Pakistan or even the country's own Muslims. Others interpret it as a call for new laws and regulations.
It isn't clear that the latter would help. Form-filling is already required of all hotel guests and for most kinds of legal economic activity. Moreover, there are already various Prevention of Terrorism Acts in force in parts of India that severely restrict civil liberties and have allowed paramilitary forces to get away with torture and murder. Just before I switch off, the news says that there has been more firing at the Taj and the army believes there is a wounded terrorist still alive there.
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