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RSS 2.0

How much more can Mumbai take?

By Shashwat Gupta Ray - posted Wednesday, 19 July 2006

The terror network has struck again and shaken people. Mumbai was typically resilient but is the State able to protect people from future shocks?

Terror returned to Mumbai full force, evoking memories of the serial blasts that had ripped at its very nerves and arteries in 1993. This time too, the targets had been well chosen and so had the time: bustling trains carrying middle-class Mumbaikars soon after offices had shut. But that was not all. There was a diabolical postscript. The intention of the terror-wreakers was aimed not just at paralysing the country’s financial capital or provoking a communal conflagration. It was also crafted at triggering a response outside the state of Maharashtra: first class compartments had been picked because Gujaratis can afford to travel in them.

The perpetrators of July 11, had done their homework. Ask any intelligence or security officer and they will all agree that the planning and execution of seven high-powered blasts in a matter of 11 minutes would take at least four to five months of preparation. They would have brought in the RDX from somewhere, stored it in Mumbai, undertaken dry runs and all of this cannot be done without local support and shelter.


Moments after the blasts, hundreds of commuters with bloodied faces and tattered clothes staggered out of railway stations wondering - why us? Why Mumbai again? How much more can Mumbai take?

The answers were not clear even as injured commuters were being lifted and carried out by fellow passengers, some on makeshift stretchers. Help was not available to most passengers. Angry commuters blamed the administration for not providing timely help.

The blasts took place near Matunga, Bandra, Khar, Mahim, Jogeshwari, Bhayandar and Borivali stations. All trains on both Western and Harbour lines were stopped immediately. Entire sections of the iron-hulled compartments had been ripped out, in some cases reducing the doorways and pathways to mangled steel. The blasts took place between 6 and 6.30pm, peak rush hour for the city when most citizens are headed north towards their homes.

Pandemonium spread through the city as reports began coming in. Phone services were jammed as anxious citizens tried to get through to near and dear ones though Commissioner A.N. Roy denied that there was any attempt to block or jam phone lines.

The survivors had a tale of terror to tell. A loud blast. Then smoke, blood, the acrid smell of burning flesh and screams. These commuters lived to tell about July 11.

“I’m probably the only person who survived in compartment No 4 (first-class). I was on the footboard when the coach blew up at Mahim. The force of the blast threw me on to the platform - that is how I survived. There was just blood everywhere,” said 50-year-old Prakash Shah.


Anand Sekhsaria, another passenger, had a lucky escape. He couldn’t get into the first-class compartment and had to find a second-class seat in the Borivali Fast Train which blew up at Mahim. “There were bodies lying around. This is a second life for me,” was all he could say. He wasn’t the only one who saw a divine hand in his escaping death. Another commuter, Kamlesh Shah, said, “I was going to Kandivali and was in the first-class coach. Suddenly there was a massive blast in Bandra. A ceiling fan hit my head. When I recovered, I saw just blood, bodies and severed limbs. I had lost my cellphone but there were several lying around. I tried dialling them to call my family but the phones were all dead.”

Perhaps used to the terror that now seems to be striking Mumbai with sickening regularity, perhaps used to the plain fact that they have to cope, the first rescuers at the Mahim railway station were survivors on the train and those waiting at the platforms. Locals too joined in rescuing the injured and taking out bodies. Emergency vehicles of the Mumbai Police, the Fire Brigade, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and voluntary organisations also pitched in.

Now was not the time to ponder the question of how much more could Mumbai take. The post-mortem, the analysis, would have to wait. Mumbaikars needed help and residents chipped in with food and water and makeshift stretchers for the injured.

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First published in Tehelka, India's fastest growing independent weekly newspaper, on July 15, 2006.

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About the Author

Shashwat Gupta Ray is a journalist for Tehelka in India.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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