South Asians throughout Queens reacted with shock and horror to reports of terrorist attacks in the Indian financial capital of Mumbai Wednesday night that claimed at least 150 lives, according to published reports.
Hindus flocked to the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Flushing Thursday to pray for peace and hear Mayor Michael Bloomberg issue a short statement on the attacks, whose perpetrators have yet to be identified.
“This section of people who commit these kinds of heinous acts are of a different breed,” said Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Flushing temple, in an interview Friday. “It just shows that they have no concern for human life. Whatever they think they want to prove to this world, they have surely failed. They have only showed that they are out for no one but their own self.”
Roughly two dozen gunmen stormed locations in the city popular with foreigners, including two luxury hotels and a Jewish community center. Police and the military were still trying to eliminate the last of the barricaded terrorists Friday night, according to published reports.
Shiv Dass, former president of the Jackson Heights Merchants Association and member of Community Board 3, said people in the South Asian enclave around 73rd and 74th streets were concerned even if they knew no one in Mumbai, formerly known here as Bombay.
“We are all worried,” he said. “If it happened in Mumbai, it could happen anywhere.”
Subhash Kapadia, owner of the electronics and travel goods shop Sam & Raj on 74th Street, has four brothers and a sister who live in Mumbai. His youngest brother lives a mile away from the Taj Hotel, where terrorists held hostages for hours, he said.
“I called him up,” Kapadia said. “He said, ‘There was bombarding going on, but I’m all right. People are very scared here. Things are out of control.’”
Kapadia, who was born in Mumbai, said he had never seen anything like Wednesday night’s attacks.
Mukesh Patel, who has run East West Electronics on 74th Street for 24 years, said he has several friends who live in the nearby town of Ville Parle.
“We called, they are all fine,” he said. “We feel so sorry because a lot of innocent people lost their lives … Their families are going to suffer financial crisis.”
He said the state-mandated curfews for civilians were lifted after the first day.
“These were young kids,” Patel said of the terrorists. “What they did was unexpected and hard to believe. It was like a nightmare.”
Punit Singh, a native of Dehli eating lunch at Dosa Hutt next door to the Hindu Temple Society of North America, said news of the attack saddened him.
“You forget sometimes what people are capable of, the hate they can have in their hearts,” he said. “It’s terrible. A sad day for India.”
The South Asian community in Queens may reach out to the families devastated by the attacks. Patel said the Jackson Heights Merchants Association would meet to consider sending some sort of aid.
While the borough’s South Asian community condemned the attack, news also emerged that the terrorists had killed Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum, Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, all of Brooklyn.
Rabbi Eli Shifrin, an emissary of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement who acts as rabbi for the Chabad of Little Neck, said he did not know Holtzberg but called his death a “tragedy.”
“Right now is a time of mourning and grieving,” he said. “[Holtzberg] was only 29 years old and has a 2-year-old who won’t have a parent. There are no words to describe how we’re feeling right now, it’s heart-wrenching. But this will not stop our mission. We should not be controlled by terror and should continue to do good deeds for others.”
“Our hearts go out to the Lubavitch community, and to the many New Yorkers of all different religions and ethnicities who have been affected by the attacks,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement. “We will continue to pray for all of them, for all the people of Mumbai, for an immediate end to the violence, and for the release of all hostages.”
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who sits on the House Foreign Affairs committee, said the attack was a wake-up call that terrorists are not just interested in attacking the West.
“We need to come together to fight terrorism at its root — poverty and autocratic rule,” he said in a statement. “We need to expand international anti-terrorism cooperation, humanitarian efforts and the promotion of democracy world-wide.”
Stephen Stirling and Nathan Duke contributed to this article.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@tim
©2008 Community News Group
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