While hurt and anguish resonates with the Mumbai attacks of 26/11, the role played by MARCOS in the rescue operation is remembered by the team members as their life defining moment.
On the 13 anniversary of the 26/11 attacks, Udaipur's Himmat Singh Rao, Commando in the MARCOS team then, narrates his live experience on the night long operation, which resulted in bringing things to relative order as well as saving 175 lives.
"It was 9:30pm on 26 November 2008. Our MARCOS unit was stationed at an island near Navi Mumbai. Breaking News flashes on Television, “another gang was in Mumbai…many killed”, says the anchor. In the next minute it becomes clear that it is not a gang war, but a terror attack. Leopold Café, Hotel Taj, Hotel Trident and Nariman House near the Gateway of India have borne the brunt of the indiscriminate firing by the terrorists. Our team was alert and ready as these are situations when MARCOS are summoned."
"In less than 15 minutes we receive the summons to duty. We were on the farthest end of Mumbai relative to the attack zone; hence we took the sea route to reach Gateway of India and dispersed into separate teams. I was a part of the third team. MARCOS team entered Hotel Taj and Hotel Trident."
"Our team had a face-off with the terrorists twice at Hotel Taj. Since there were many guests and staff captive at Hotel Taj, including VIP guests, it was not easy for us to return direct fire. Our priorities were to ensure that no further damage is caused by the terrorists and to escort the captives and guests to safety. We were successful in this. In the rescue operation that lasted from 11:30pm on 26/11 till the next morning, 175 people were saved. After the terrorists were eliminated, we entered Hotel Taj and there we recovered live bullets, hand grenades and other weapons. One of our Commandos, Praveen, was seriously wounded in this entire exercise."
“I was stationed at Gateway of India, 300 meters from Hotel Taj, with my sniper team. Our focus was to ensure that no member of the terrorist team attempts an escape from the area. We had cordoned it off. As soon as we arrived and the people in captive as well as onlookers came to know that MARCOS had arrived, they started raising slogans to motivate us. They were sure that safety was near when MARCOS was around. This motivation and respect and the expression of relief on their faces on seeing us is something that said we have achieved our purpose in life!”
On being asked what was going through his mind about his own safety, Himmat Singh says that this mission was the most important and memorable part of my life. During this period, the fear of death or the concern for our own safety was nowhere in our thoughts. Our focus was on the mission. Our training as MARCOS prepares us for situations like this. MARCOS is so well equipped at all times, that in an instant our teams are able to reach destination with all state-of-the-art equipment in place.
Himmat Singh Rao hails from Basantgarh near Pindwara and is currently the Tehsildar at Badgaon, Udaipur. Himmat Singh Rao joined the Indian Navy in 1999, when he was 18. In a span of 5 years, Himmat Singh qualified for the elite MARCOS (Marine Commando Force) division of the Indian Navy. MARCOS is the special forces unit of the Indian Navy and is responsible for conducting special operations. He took special training as Sniper and completed the basic as well as advanced Mountaineering course. IN 2014, after serving for 15 years in the Navy, he returned to Udaipur and began preparing for administrative services, following which he qualified in the Rajasthan Administrative Services and is currently appointed as Tehsildar at Badgaon in Udaipur. Himmat Singh and his father Swaroop Singh took retirement from the Armed Forces on the same day. Himmat Singh’s wife Huklam Kunwar is currently serving as the Tehsildar in the Delwara section of Rajsamand district.