Mumbai: Tight security and hopeful prayers were part of a multi-faith prayer ceremony held on Sunday to mark the reopening of the Mumbai’s Oberoi hotel three weeks after it was targeted in a militant attacks .
The simple ceremony, held in the lobby of the hotel, included Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Jain religious leaders and was attended by the entire staff of the hotel as well as guests.
Security around the hotel was beefed up, with sniffer dogs patrolling the grounds and armed policemen standing watch from behind sandbag bunkers near the entrance to the Trident Hotel section of the Oberoi complex. The Trident opened 100 rooms to guests on Sunday.
“There is no fear. We see the courage of the people and the staff,” said Kritika Srinivasan, 28, a regular guest at the hotel who went inside to congratulate the staff. “We have to show them (the attackers) that they can’t break our courage and solidarity”, she said.
Inside the Oberoi, private security guards manned all lobby entrances, passing bags through metal detectors and x-ray scanners. ID cards were checked and everyone entering the building was patted down by hand as part of new security rules installed in the wake of the attacks.
The reopening comes three weeks after 10 militants stormed sites across India’s financial capital on 26 November.
Terrorists from the banned Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba are accused of staging the attacks that killed 164 people over the course of a 3-day siege and paralyzed much of the Mumbai. Nine of the alleged gunmen were killed, and one is in police custody.
Two of the most high-profile buildings targeted were the sleek, sea-front Oberoi and another luxury hotel, the majestic, 105-year-old historic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower.
The main areas of both hotels, severely damaged in the shooting sprees and a 60-hour standoff with police, are expected to remain closed for months.
Taj likely to be fully functional by end-2009
Taj Mahal Palace is partially expected to be opened in February and the entire hotel by end of 2009, said Indian Hotels on Sunday.
“The north block of the Heritage wing of the hotel is expected to be ready by February 2009 while the south block will be ready by end of next year,” Indian Hotels Vice Chairman RK Krishna Kumar told reporters in Mumbai.
“The tower wing which opened for guests on Sunday has been cleansed of evil among other things. All the rooms and the kitchen have been fully cleaned and sanitised by an international agency,” Kumar said.
Religious rites of various faiths have been performed inside the hotel, he said.
On November 26, terrorists attacked Taj hotel and occupied the 5th and 6th floor of the Heritage wing. The south side of the Taj hotel came under heavy fire.
“The 5th and 6th floor have been damaged by the attack. The Wasabi and Harbour Bar have been completely gutted,” said Kumar.