26/11 attack: Since Last 10 Years This Grieving Octogenarian Couple Has Been Fighting A Battle To Make Mumbai Safer
India is very familiar with what terrorist attacks can do to a country and it's people. Even after ten years, 26/11 is still very fresh and it still touches a raw nerve of every Indian. It is pretty obvious that family of victims have turned bitter, seeing the lack of steps taken by the government to make sure such incidents never happen again.
In last 10 years much has changed in the lives of Sevantilal and his wife Sarla Parekh- but if you look closely their life looks frozen in time something like a time capsule, after the death of their son and daughter-in-law- Sunil and Reshma- who were one of the victims of terrorists attack at the Oberoi hotel on that ill-fated day. The hapless parents are still holding on to things that was given to them by their dear son, be it his last message or a car that he gifted his father 12 years ago, on his 75th birthday.
While talking to The Week, this grief- ridden father, with tears welling up, shows his son's last text- "Dad, prevail over mom, but see to it that we buy that flat. Our children will bless us."
He lives inside me. He is alive in me - Sevanti Parekh.
The drawing room is just like a a memorial room, with blown up photos of the couple with their daughters, a painting bought by Sunil, a poem written by a friend about the couple, small mementos and family photo albums.
Everyone has their own way showing their sorrow, Sevanti who seems emotional after the loss, his wife, on the other hand, has a more practical approach, she believes it was destiny.
I knew it was God’s wish, Sunil always drove himself, but that night he chose to be driven. Had he been driving, he would have gone to park the car instead of entering the hotel at that time - Sarla Parekh to The Week.
Nevertheless, both are extremely bitter towards the way government has been dragging it's feet when it comes to taking steps to make sure there were no more loss of innocent lives.
Take A Cue From New York
Even after 10 years, the couple is still furious and blames the lethargic system. Because of this both octogenarians have become Social Activists of sorts. According to them if only Mumbai had followed the New York security system, people could have been alerted on time, they might have escaped the terrible fate.
There, even the smallest motel is supposed to have an alarm system which can go off by tapping a button at foot level. Here my son had no idea. He barely entered the restaurant and he died in the first five minutes - Sevanti to Hindustan Times.
Since 2008, the couple has filed three public interest litigations (PILs) - one on CCTVs, the other on compensation and the last on seeking less security for the VIPs
Demand For Surveillance Cameras
After the 26/11 terror attacks, the Maharashtra government had decided to install 6,000 CCTV cameras in Mumbai, but till today one can see little or no work done towards it. Realizing the government's inaction, they even fought the case on CCTVs right in the Court where they assured to raise enough money for the project. But the court rejected their plea saying that it was the prerogative of the government.
Is getting a CCTV system in place some sort of rocket science? The fact is that the bidding system is so mired in pulls and pressures of politicians that this seems as one of the reasons why they are dragging their feet on this issue. There are several experts who can be consulted, credible Indian companies who can get technologically sound and security system in place. Why breach our security for this? - said Sevanti to Hindustan Times.
Compensation To The Victims
Along with that they have also taken upon themselves to make sure all families of victims got their due compensation from the government and the hotel establishment.
I did not want others, who may be less fortunate than I am, to suffer the loss of their loved ones- Sarla said to The Week.
Reduce VIP Security
Sarla also filed a public interest litigation seeking less security for VIPs. She pointed out that the policemen are always busy in VIP security and have no time for commoners.
Even former UK prime minister Tony Blair had just three people as security, unlike our netas here - Sarla
In spite of fighting of day and night for the rights of the commoners, the old couple though angry looks defeated now. They are sole guardians of their grand daughters- Arundhati and Anandita- who now reside in the US. Since the attack they wished their granddaughters shifted abroad which was lot more safer option than India. In a 2014 interview with Hindustan Times, Sarla said,
I want to see them safe. Here we are constantly paranoid about their security.
In a recent Interview with The Week this doting grandmother said,
Today, both our granddaughters are NRIs, which means they will always be safe, I hope both settle anywhere in the world except India.
Picture Source : Hindustan Times; The Week; India Today; Jagran
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