Terror alert holds back shoppers in Delhi

Fear was palpably in the air after an e-mail said a shopping complex in Delhi will be targeted Tuesday. The email claiming to be from terror outfit Indian Mujahideen was sent Sep 8 to various media houses following the Sep 7 Delhi High Court blast that killed 13 and left over 90 injured.

"I saw it in the news and SMSes are also circulating that there are terror threats to market areas today (Tuesday). So it is better to stay at home," says housewife Kamala Kaul living in Sarojini Nagar.

As this day also marks the third anniversary of the 2008 blasts at busy market areas of Karol Bagh in central Delhi, Greater Kailash-I in south Delhi and the central business district of Connaught Place, security was tightened in markets across Delhi.

"Additional police forces are deployed in all market areas, including Connaught Place, Mehrauli, Karol Bagh, Sarojini Nagar and Chandni Chowk. Even big malls in and around the city have been alerted," a Delhi Police officer requesting anonymity told IANS.

The Delhi Police have advised people to exercise a high degree of caution, monitor the surroundings and avoid visiting markets. "People should inform police if they find any suspicious object, person or vehicle."

The major markets like Sarojini Nagar, Karol Bagh, Connaught Place, Gaffar Market and Khan Market saw decreased footfalls during the day.

Sarojini Nagar Mini Market Traders' Association member Ashok Randhawa felt that it was not just the terror threat which kept Delhiites vigilant but the threat perception of the 2008 blasts in busy markets still dwells in many.

"Despite the strict security arrangements, many people have kept away from the market. Thousands of people visit the market even during weekdays but they gave it a miss today," he added.

Blaming the media, Randhawa said: "Hyping the issue of the terror threat and blasts has made people more panicky. Our sales have dipped to 40 percent as there is a drastic fall in the number of customers."

"The market looks almost empty even if there are about 200 policemen guarding the area."

Posh Khan Market also had a high police presence.

"Delhi Police have given us an advisory which we have circulated to all the shopkeepers in the market. We have 24 Closed Circuit Television cameras (CCTVs)," said Khan Market Association president Sanjiv Mehra.

Shopkeepers were hopeful of normalcy soon.

"We get panicky and scared by such threats but we should be cautious enough. How many days can we lock ourselves inside our home? After two days, everything will be back to normal," said Aman Singh, a shopper at Gaffar Market.

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