Mumbai mourns victims of 13/7 blasts on 1st anniversary
Mumbai today quietly mourned its dead on the first anniversary of July 13 triple blasts last year that claimed 27 lives and left over 100 wounded.
There was no huge posters and cutouts of the victims, no show of collective public grief and anger that have become a ritual on every anniversary of 26/11 Mumbai attacks, as victims' families try to come to terms with the loss.
The bustle is yet to return to 'Khau Galli' in Zaveri Bazaar, lined with stalls selling snacks, which attracted huge crowds before the blast that brought back shocking memories of 26/11 carnage that left in its bloody trail 166 dead and many more injured.
'Khau Galli', where a scooter packed with explosives went off that fateful day, now scares many in Zaveri Bazaar, the city's diamond and jewellery hub.
"We still remember the scene after the blasts...It took the life out of us...cannot forget the horrific incident. People lying in pools of blood and others running helter skelter," says Ramesh Pandit, a trader, with the scene of moments soon after the blast firmly etched on his mind.
"Khau Galli brings back those shocking and sad memories. I have stopped going there now just because I don't want to be reminded of what happened that evening," says another diamond merchant.
Traders complain that despite their repeated demand for setting up a police picket in the locality, police have not taken steps in this direction.
"So, we continue to live in perennial fear," a trader said.
Zaveri Bazaar, with its narrow lanes and bylanes, had also been targeted by terrorists on August 25, 2003 when two taxis exploded there and at Mumbai's landmark Gateway of India, killing 54 and wounding 244.
The explosions were believed to have been triggered in retaliation for the Gujarat communal riots the year before.
"We are going about our jobs but there is always this fear on the back of our minds that anything can happen any time," says Paresh Thakur, a shopkeeper.
CCTV cameras have been installed at various locations in Zaveri Bazaar and Opera House and security has been tightened including at the nearby famous Mumbadevi temple, which is visited by thousands of devotees every day.
Police patrolling was intensified at Zaveri Bazaar and Opera House a fortnight ago as a precautionary measure ahead of the first anniversary of the triple-blasts that rocked Kabutarkhana in Dadar besides these places.
A police van is stationed in the locality since last couple of days and beat marshals are making the usual rounds.
The streets which once used to be chock-a-block with people and vehicles are far less crowded as roadside parking has been banned. The place has also been cleared of hawkers.
Balwant Singh, brother of Sundar Singh Bisht, who lost his life in the Zaveri Bazaar blast, says his family is still trying to come to terms with the loss.
"Sundar's wife got some compensation from the government but how long will it last?" asks Balwant, who is worried about his brother's son Rohan.
Chetna Vankar, who lost her husband Chandrakant in the Opera House blast is still hunting for a job to raise her family.
Meanwhile, the trial in this case is yet to begin. Police have arrested five accused - Naquee Ahmed, Nadeem Shaikh, Kanwar Pathrija, Haroon Naik and Mohammed Qafeel, and filed a charge sheet in the case. Six others, including alleged masterminds Riyaz Bhatkal and Yasin Bhatkal, are still absconding.
Ujjwal Nikam, who has been appointed special public prosecutor in the case, said he cannot tell when the trial would commence.
Investigators believe the absconding accused are not in India and may have taken shelter in neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad also suspects that the bomb which exploded at Dadar in Central Mumbai was planted by Tehseen Akhtar Shaikh, a wanted terrorist.
The other wanted accused in the case include Riyaz Bhatkal, Yasin Bhatkal - top operatives of IM, Waqas Ibrahim Sad, Danish alias Tarbez and Dubai-based Muzaffar Kola.
With the ATS naming Kola, an associate of jailed 1993 serial blasts accused Mustafa Dossa, as a wanted accused in the 13/7 triple blasts, the link between underworld and home grown-terror outfit Indian Mujahideen has surfaced.
Kola, who runs Muzaffar Kola Enterprises based in Dubai, was instrumental in making available Rs 10 lakh to IM's elusive chief operative Yasin Bhatkal, ATS sources said, adding that the money was used to fund the blasts.
"Kola has been associated with Dossa and his absconding brother Mohammed Dossa. On Kola's instructions, hawala operator Kanwar Pathrija (arrested in the 13/7 blasts case) handed over Rs 10 lakh to one Shivanand, who later turned out to be Yasin Bhatkal," an ATS source said.
Mustafa Dossa was charged with conspiracy and making arrangements for landing of arms and ammunition at Raigad coast for the 1993 serial blasts. His brother Mohammed, also wanted in the same case, is absconding. The explosions had killed 257 people and injured 574. The main trial in the case is over and the court has convicted 100 accused. However, Mustafa Dossa and some other accused, including extradited gangster Abu Salem, who were taken into custody at the fag end of trial, are being tried separately.