Survivors of the Mumbai terror attacks have accused police of causing the death of some of those trapped inside the Taj Mahal hotel by telling them it was safe to leave when militants were still at large.
The fleeing guests were subsequently shot dead. Dr Prashant Mangeshikar, a leading gynaecologist, had been trapped in the hotel along with hundreds of other guests as the militants stormed into the 105-year-old building, spraying gunfire. He and scores other barricaded themselves into a room and waited.
In the early hours of the following morning, police reached the group and told them it was safe to leave the hotel because four militants had been cornered on a different floor. “I was suspicious that the police were sending these guys down a different route where the terrorists were supposed to be,” said Mr Mangeshikar. “I refused to move away and the people who ran ahead of me, 20 or 30 of them, all died.” Around 32 guests and staff were killed by gunmen.
The allegation came as the attacked hotels, the Taj Mahal and the Trident-Oberoi, last night reopened amid heightened security.
It represented a symbolic yet important effort to move on from the attacks which killed 170. At yesterday's opening of the Trident-Oberoi, guests held pink roses and staff stood with folded arms, as Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist prayers were read in the lobby.
Part of the Taj Mahal hotel was also also reopened, with up to 1,000 clients and guests invited to a gala reception. Among the staff on duty was general manager Karambir Singh Kang, whose wife and two sons were killed by fire, trapped in their room on the sixth floor. All the while Mr Kang had worked to rescue other guests.
The disputed claim by Mr Mangeshikar and others comes as India trys to overhaul its counter-terrorism measures. Two bills, one to double the number of days suspects can be questioned without charge and another to establish an FBI-style agency, were passed last week. India's Foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, said last night the country had provided enough evidence for Pakistan to act against those accused of the attacks. “Mere talk is not enough. Pakistan has to act,” he added.