Indian Americans in Region Horrified by Mumbai Attacks

After a wave of coordinated terrorist attacks turned parts of Mumbai's financial district into a combat zone, officials in New Delhi, India, and Islamabad, Pakistan, grapple with the political and diplomatic fallout of India's deadliest terror attack in 15 years.
By Fredrick Kunkle and Christopher Twarowski
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 28, 2008

Indian Americans have watched the Asian nation's growing prosperity and economic strength carry their homeland toward a place among the world's most powerful industrialized nations.

But Wednesday's brazen assault on luxury hotels and other sites in India's financial capital dealt a horrifying blow to the expatriate community as India joined the ranks of other nations whose most powerful cities have been humbled by a catastrophic terrorist attack.

"This is like an Indian 9/11 in many ways," said Lakhinder Vohra of Woodbridge, whose uncle was rescued by Indian commandos late Thursday after spending nearly 24 hours trapped inside a hotel targeted in the assault.

Indian Americans in the Washington region were consumed with grief, anxiety and outrage yesterday over the still-unfolding terror attacks in Mumbai that have left at least 125 people dead.

Two Virginia residents, Alan Scherr, 58, and his 13-year-old daughter, Naomi Scherr, of Nelson County are missing after the attack, the Associated Press reported. The pair were part of a group traveling to India for a spiritual program.

Members of the local Jewish community also shared a feeling of being targeted as news came that the terrorists appeared to have singled out Jews.

Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, regional director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Maryland, said a colleague, Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg, Holtzberg's wife and others were being held captive at the Jewish outreach organization's center in Mumbai.

"We are shocked," Kaplan said. "We are horrified. We are pained by it. We are an organization that reaches out to people all over the world; that's why we are in Mumbai. And for us to be the recipients of this kind of attack is just horrifying."

Although India has been struck by 44 bomb blasts since May, Indian authorities said Wednesday's assault was unprecedented in the audacity and success of laying siege to well-known symbols of the country's prosperity and tourism industry.

Members of the Washington region's Indian American community followed the events half a world away through the experience of Vohra's elderly uncle, Jang Bahadur Singh Bakshi, who was trapped for 20 hours inside his room on the 18th floor of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.

Vohra, who is executive director and editor of, a news portal for local Sikh community members, said his uncle lives for extended periods at the hotel while conducting business in India.

His uncle, who is known in the Washington area as Bill Bakshi, had been staying in the wing opposite the heaviest fighting after the terrorist assault began. He was without food but had access to the Internet, utilities and a cellphone and received hundreds of calls from business associates, relatives and others who knew he was a frequent guest at the hotel.

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