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One year after Mumbai attacks, a push to move on

On the anniversary of the Mumbai attacks, some commemorate, others capitalize.

By Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / November 26, 2009



Mumbai, India

Inside the bustling marble lobby of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower in downtown Mumbai (Bombay), a bookstore sells a collection of reprinted newspaper articles and photos from the terrorist attacks here one year ago. One page features the iconic Taj under siege, smoke billowing from floors that remain charred and windowless today.

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Despite such pervasive reminders of the Nov. 26, 2008, attacks, however, managers at the Taj and other downtown businesses say operations are back to normal. Despite the candlelight vigils and memorial services held across the country for the anniversary of the attacks, they say they have no desire to commemorate it.

"We've moved on," says Nikhila Phat, public relations manager of the Taj. "Everybody is happy and smiling. We're a hotel and we're open for business."

As Ms. Phat walks through the palace, several baby showers and business conferences occupy the meeting centers. Sunbathers lounge beside the swimming pool where, last year, guests hid behind shrubs as gunmen sprayed the area with bullets.

'Not a day we're trying to remember'

During the 60-hour siege of India's financial capital, terrorists killed at least 164 people, including 31 here at the Taj and 35 at the Oberoi Trident. Gunmen also targeted Mumbai's main train station, a restaurant, and a Jewish center. Bombs destroyed whole sections of both hotels.

Only one of the 10 gunmen from the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which seeks to liberate the disputed Kashmir region from India, survived the attack. Ajmal Amir Kasab's trial is ongoing in Mumbai. He could face the death penalty.

Though Indian anger at Pakistan was potent and palpable following the attacks – small crowds moved through Mumbai's streets chanting anti-Pakistan slogans – the attacks also prompted India to look inward and ask if it had missed several warning signs. It was the sixth major terror attack in the country between May and November 2008.

On Wednesday night members of a citizens' group rallied outside the Taj urging more police reform.

Phat would have preferred the anniversary to pass quietly. "It's not a day we're trying to remember," she says. "It's a day we're trying to forget."

In the Taj's lobby, a small monument lists those killed at the hotel, and a small plaque inconspicuously hung in the Oberoi Trident's lobby also bears the names of staff killed.

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