Mumbai: Suspicion got the better of Bharat Tamore and led him to intercept the 26/11 attackers when they set foot on the Mumbai shore.
On Wednesday, he was the first eyewitness in the terror attack case to depose before the special sessions court here.
Mr. Tamore, resident of a fishing colony opposite the Badhwar Park, Cuffe Parade, told the court that around 9.15 p.m. on November 26 last he saw a speedboat heading towards the shore. He was on his way to the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, where he works as a steward. He was on night duty.
Of the 10 persons, clad in saffron life jackets, on the boat, eight got off. Of them, two came up further. He stopped them and asked who they were. “We are students,” came the reply in Hindi from one of the duo. He was none other than the lone surviving terrorist, Mohammad Ajmal Amir ‘Kasab’. The witness identified Ajmal in court. Mr. Tamore said he had recognised the accused at an identification parade as well.
The other who accompanied Ajmal was his partner Abu Ismail.
Mr. Tamore testified that on his enquiry, Ismail asked, “What is it to you?” After this exchange, Ajmal and Ismail proceeded towards the main road.
Six others who landed along with them also went towards the main road. And, the two who remained in the boat, headed for Nariman Point. When Mr. Tamore joined duty at the Taj, he later heard of the firing. He and the other staff in the basement, where he worked, were asked to take shelter. The police rescued them at 4 a.m. the next morning and they were released at 7 a.m. On reaching his colony, Mr. Tamore saw the police there; they were talking about a dinghy. He then went up to them and recounted his interaction.
The police asked him to describe the pair he had spoken to. That morning, he described Ajmal as a diminutive man of about 22 years who was wearing ash colour jeans and a T-shirt, and his partner (Ismail) as being tall, dark and up to 25 years.
In the cross-examination by defence, Mr. Tamore conceded that his police statement made no mention of short stature. He denied defence’s contention that he had identified Ajmal in the identification parade only because he was short. He said he had seen the arrival of the vessel from a distance of 15 feet from the shore and that was the first time he had seen a speedboat. Mr. Tamore was provoked by Ajmal’s lawyer Abbas Kazmi’s suggestion that he had never seen any boat that night. “Where did the boat come from then? Did it fall from the skies,” the witness retorted. “You can get them in the market,” Mr. Kazmi egged on. “Then where did these people come from,” Mr. Tamore replied, arousing a round of laughter in the court.