The terror accomplice David Headley, associated with the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, had testified that he like filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt whom he wanted to enrol in Pakistan Army’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which is often accused of masterminding attacks on India. He had told Bhatt not to venture out in Mumbai on 26 November 2008, as he knew, following his reconnaissance report to the Pakistani terrorists, that would be the day when Ajmal Kasab and nine other Pakistanis would launch their attack on Mumbai.
On the 12th anniversary of the horrific terror attack, somebody who is making news of the wrong kind other than Mahesh Bhatt is his reportedly estranged son Rahul who says his father wanted to name him Mohammed. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had asked Rahul not to leave Mumbai the next year (2009).
In 2013, a court in the US sentenced Headley to 35 years of imprisonment. Of course, he had been, by then, identified as a double agent who had once worked for American interests too — a reason why Washington did not hand him over to the Indian authorities, lest he should spill American official secrets.
Rahul Bhatt aka Mohammed now says Headley’s jail term of 35 years is “unfair” and that the convict should be handed over to India where he should stand a public trial in Mumbai and then sentenced for the remaining life in Indian jails.
In an interview two years ago, Rahul had said, “Life, immediately after Headley’s episode, was tough. I embraced it, but it also showed me that there were very few people including my father, mother and sister Pooja Bhatt, who stood by me. Most of my friends and extended family members had distanced themselves from me.”
“When I realized who Headley really was, I was told by my mother to go to the then joint commissioner of police and give my statement. My father asked me whether I was involved in anyway like Sanjay Dutt. He said he would disown me if I was involved in the wrongdoings. I clearly told him that I had not done anything. Since then, he was one of my strongest support during the whole period,” Rahul aka Mohammed had said two years ago.
The son of the filmmaker who has always identified himself as a “half Muslim” wants people to believe that “I never got any negative vibe from him” although Headley and he would talk about “terror attacks and a bomb blast at one of the hotels in Islamabad”.
“Headley said to me that looking at the situation around, ‘you can see similar things happen in your country too’, Rahul aka Mohammed had said.
Then he said, “I was mentally strong and had the support system from the family hence I could embrace the whole episode. I had to go through character assassination due to my association with Headley, but now I can very proudly say that I have a clean record and there is not even a non-cognisable offence against me.”
The cost India pays for celebrating Mahesh Bhatt types
But what Headley and Rahul aka Mohammed had paved the way for was this: Ajmal Amir Kasab and Ismail Khan out of the gang of 10 terrorists attacked the crowded Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (railway station) on 26 November 2008, killing 58 and grievously injuring 100 people.
Kasab and Khan then went to the Cama Hospital where the alertness of the health workers did not let them spread the mayhem. However, while emerging from the hospital, the duo killed ATS head Hemant Karkare and five other policemen.
The other target was Nariman House, a business hub and also residences of the small Jewish community. The terrorists killed a Rabbi, his wife and five Israeli citizens after holding them hostage for some hours.
The Rabbi’s child, two-year-old Baby Moshe, survived the attack as his Indian-Israeli nanny Sandra Samuel had taken him away from the spot of firing. He went on to become the evocative face of innocence that the Pakistanis had planned to butcher for three days, beginning 26/11. While Narendra Modi met with teenager Moshe in Israel during his 2017 visit to the Jewish country, Prime Minister of that country Benjamin Netanyahu visited Nariman House to talk to the survivors in January 2018.
Leopold Cafe was another target of the terrorists before they hit the Taj Mahal Hotel. The Pakistani terrorists held people hostage for three days after which they killed 31 of them.
Around the same time that one faction of the terrorists’ gang attacked the Oberoi-Trident Hotel on 26/11, another entered the Taj Mahal Hotel. While the hostage crisis at the Oberoi-Trident ended on 28 November 2008, the terrorists had killed more than 30 people here.
The NSG commandos, who had arrived in Mumbai on the third day of the attack due to the mismanagement of the force by the UPA government at the centre and the INC-NCP government in Maharashtra, ended the lives of nine Pakistani terrorists.
An injured Kasab had been arrested by then by the ATS after he had killed Mumbai Police constable Tukaram Omble.
By this time, the NSG had killed the terrorists inside the Taj Mahal Hotel too, where the Pakistanis had killed 160 people.
These Pakistani terrorists had set sail for India from Karachi, on the way killing four people including one person who had helped them reach the Mumbai coast.
Kasab, the lone survivor among the terrorists who were being handled by Pakistani Islamist ideologue Hafiz Saeed of LeT-turned-JuD, was hanged in 2012 at the Yeravada Jail in Pune after his clemency petition was rejected by the then President Pranab Mukherjee.
26/11 not Bollywood‘s only association with terror
The lovers of Pakistan in Bollywood have had a dubious record. Sanjay Dutt has been linked to the 1993 Mumbai bombings carried out purportedly in retaliation of the Babri demolition in 1992 in Ayodhya. Arjun Rampal has been known for his links with Arun Gawali. If Farhan Akhtar and Salman Khans have alleged links with the gang of Dawood Ibrahim, Shahrukh Khan allegedly had dealings with Chhota Shakeel.
According to Mahesh Bhatt himself, “There’s hardly anybody in the film industry who has not been contacted by the mafia.”
The reports of the role the underworld played in the murder of music cassettes maker Gulshan Kumar are now rarely recalled. The suspect Nadeem Saifi of the Nadeem-Shravan duo is still a fugitive. And the films for which the composers were making songs were of Mahesh Bhatt’s production house while the music rights were with Kumar’s T Series — a contract that did not work out, leading to the murder of the fruit juice seller-turned-producer of films and cassettes.
A Wikileaks cable established that Bollywood had connections with the underworld and mafia. In the 1990s, Anil Kapoor and Govinda were regulars in events organised and/or hosted by Dawood Ibrahim.
There is a theory that the plot of 26/11 had been hatched to embolden the fake “Hindu terror” narrative evidenced by the sight of the Pakistani terrorists wearing orange (or saffron) threads around their wrists.
For the unititiated, in 2010, months after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, Indian National Congress (INC) leader Digvijaya Singh, along with filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and others had launched a book which claimed that the Mumbai terror attacks were an RSS conspiracy. While the world was holding Pakistan responsible for 26/11, then INC general secretary Digvijaya Singh and close aide of Rahul Gandhi, had released the book 26/11 RSS Ki Saazish?