Adrian Levy and Ms. Scott-Clark: “The Siege: 68 hours inside the Taj Hotel”
By Elias Davidsson, March 25, 2014
Disturbing omissions and opaque motives
Let me first acknowledge the eminently readable and vivid style of the book. The dramatic composition of the chapters puts it at the threshold of fiction, which – depending upon the perspective – could be considered an asset or a liability.
I missed in the introduction a few statements explaining the motives of the authors to write a book about this particular theme. Were they hired to do so? Did they select the theme by themselves, and if so, why? The substantial investigatory work required for writing such a book, certainly required financial resources. Did any institution help finance that work and if so, who?
The authors do not provide a timeline for the events at the Taj. Was this omission deliberate? The fact that no such timeline has been released by Indian authorities is disturbing, as it suggests an intent to suppress knowledge about the events. The authors do not that fact, which is rather surprising and reeks of a deliberate obfuscation.
I note with dismay some important omissions. The authors fail to mention a number of witnesses who reported highly significant facts. Among those are Mr. Prakash Bhoite, who testified about bombs he discovered outside the Taj; NSG commando Rajbir Singh Lamba, who participated in the encounter at room 472; Mr. A. Vaidyanathan, an eminent economic and member of the Central Board of Directors of the Reserve Bank of India, who reported multiple large explosions from his room; Bruce Hanna, President and CEO of InterGlobe Technology Quotient in New Delhi, who was confined to room no. 527, and compiled a detailed account of his text messages with exact times (he revealed surprising facts); Myles Curtis and Hugh Brown from Australia, who claimed that two terrorists hid among the guests; as well as Yasmin Wong, William Hsu, Sonali Chatterjee and Andrew Stevens from CNN, who stayed at the Taj during the crisis and provided real-time coverage from the building.
The author rely heavily on Michael Pollack, a U.S.-based businessman turned academic. Yet, his personal account, published by Forbes, contains at least five dubious statements, suggesting that his testimony is not credible. He wrote that the terrorists “had stormed the lobby and were firing indiscriminately,” implying thereby that numerous guests had been hit in the lobby. Yet, according to the authors’ RIP, included in the book, only one of the 33 fatalities of the Taj (Sadanand Patil) was shot in the lobby and he was apparently not shot initially when the terrorists entered the hotel but a later stage. Pollack also wrote, without qualifying his statement: “We later learned that minutes after we climbed the stairs, terrorists came into the Harbour Bar, shot everyone who was there and executed those next door at the Golden Dragon.” Yet, according to the authors’ RIP, not a single person was killed in the Harbour Bar or at the Golden Dragon. Pollack also wrote: “[T]he terrorists managed to break through and lob in grenades that killed everyone in the basement.” Yet, according to The Siege, four persons were killed in the basement (cellars): Gunjan Narang, Nilam Narang, Vishu Narang and Chef Boris Rego, although far more persons had sought refuge there. Pollack wrote: “It was terrorism in its purest form. No one was spared.” Yet, according to the authors, the terrorists did not kill all hostages: K.R. Ramamoorthy and four other hostages the terrorists held in room 632 were left to their own devices by the terrorists. There are other testimonies demonstrating that the terrorists did not target everyone. It is, therefore, surprising that the authors should rely on such an unreliable witness.
The book’s subtitle is “Three days of Terror inside the Taj.” Officially, the crisis at the Taj lasted 59 hours. The authors devote almost 200 pages of their book to the first 10 hours of the crisis and only 20 pages to the remaining 49 hours. This huge discrepancy could not have been accidental. This discrepancy can also be observed in the Judgment of the Special Court on Kasab, which skipped almost entirely the 49 hours in which the NSG commandos were active in the Taj. What were the NSG doing in these 49 hours, which neither the authors nor the court wished to reveal?.
The authors rely extensively on sources that readers cannot verify. Under “A Note on Sources”, the authors, for example, state: “We obtained audio files and transcripts from the wiretaps placed on the gunmen’s phones from Indian, US and British security sources, the most complete to be assembled, which includes material never published before.” They also mention other unpublished sources, such as court documents and CCTVs. The authors do not explain on what account they obtained privileged access to such sources, to which even the families of the 26/11 victims did not obtain access.
From the above account it appears that the authors of The Siege were cooperating with intelligence agencies in India and the United States in promoting the official legend on 26/11. I have given the authors sufficient formal notice to address the above points. They chose not to answer my enquiry. I think potential buyers should know what they contemplate to buy.