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Letters from India
Assam Mourns Death of Mumbai Terror Attack
By Nava Thakuria
Special Correpondent
Taj hotel in under fire in Mumbai terror attacks

Assam mourns the death of all victims of Mumbai terror attacks. The people of the Northeast Indian State were shock at the killing of everyone in the terrorist strike, particularly the unfortunate death of Sabina Sehgal Saikia, who was one of nearly 200 victims of circumstances. Sabina was trapped inside the iconic Taj hotel as the Islamist terrorists seized many parts of the financial capital of the country on Nov. 26, 2008.

Guwahati Press Club and Journalist's Forum, Assam have expressed shock and grief at the death of the consulting editor of The Times of India.

Sabina, a Punjab born and the daughter-in-law of Assam was found dead at Taj hotel after the counter-terrorism operation against the dreaded terror strikes in India was over. Her journalist husband Santanu Saikia, a former staffer of The Economic Times, identified her amidst the pile of dead bodies. With husband Santanu, Sabina left behind her daughter Anurndhati and son Aniruddha.

The Indian security forces declared iconic Taj hotel free from terrorists' clutch on November 28 morning. Speaking to scribes, the National Security Guard director general J K Dutt declared that the commandos had killed the last three terrorists hiding in the hotel.

The anti-terror forces had earlier regained control over Oberoi Hotel and Nariman House. The nearly 60 hours terror attacks left over 180 deaths including 22 foreign nationals. The operation that snatched away the lives of few security personnel was of course successful in eliminating nine suspected Pakistani terrorists and capturing one alive.

The Sentinel, a leading English daily of Assam, made editorial comments on Mumbai terror strikes as an attack on 'all Indians, who have proved to be a highly competitive nation and are confidently marching ahead towards becoming a global power.' Expressing anger on the government's 'counter-terrorism text with pseudo-secular dots and commas', the editorial added, "This is a war against India, which the country must win — and it has the resources, too, to win. But the only deterrence is the 'secular', effete Manmohan Singh government itself.

It does not have the guts to warn Pakistan, nor does it have the will to save innocent people from the openly declared jehad. It has, therefore, no right to rule any patriotic Indian."

Sabina's lifeless body was recovered from her room, which was adjacent to the general manager's suite. Backside of her head faced an injury that night be the cause of her death, the family source said.

Significantly, her room in the hotel looked intact. On her cremation on November 30 in New Delhi, people from all walks were present. Those significant were Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan and his Assamese wife Subhalakshi Baruah, members of Assam Association, Delhi with others.

Sabina married to Santanu, only son of an illustrious Assamese littérateur and journalist Chandra Prasad Saikia. The Sahitya Academy award winner authored C.P. Saikia edited a number of daily and literary magazines. Also chaired Asom Sahitya Sabha, highest literary forum of Assam Sakia died in 2006.

The member-journalists of Guwahati Press Club assembled in the club soon after the news of Sabina's death in terrorist's attack broke out on November 29. The journalists observed a minute's silence as a mark of respect to all the departed souls in the incident and also lit candles on the club premises.

Moreover, the front pages of all Assam based newspapers incorporated the sad news of Sabina's death prominently.

In a statement, Journalist's Forum, Assam expressed profound grief at the tragic death of an eminent journalist and also an 'Asomiya bowari.' The forum president Rupam Baruah condemned the terror attacks on Mumbai and urged the government to initiate prompt actions against the perpetrators. He also prayed for peace for Sabina's soul in heavenly abode.

Dileep Padgaonkar, former editor of The Times of India wrote, "Sabina's readers will miss her. And her friends and colleagues in The Times of India, a paper she was proud of serving and which was proud of her contribution, will thank her for the laughter she brought to their lives." He also added, "A word about another passion she cultivated after her marriage to Shantanu: a passion for everything Assamese. She learnt the language, studied its literature, reveled in its music and food and never ceased to laud the beauty of the state.

This Punjaban took to Assam much like the fish in her beloved Brahmaputra. And in this, as in so many respects, she was quite simply unique."

The Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi also paid condolence at the untimely death of Sabina. In an official statement, Gogoi said Sabina 'carved a niche for herself in the field of journalism and literature.' The death of Sabina Saikia is a great loss for the nation as well as Assam, the statement concluded.

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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove, and can be contacted at






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