It was on a Wednesday less than two months ago that serial blasts shook India’s financial capital of Mumbai. And it was on Wednesday of this week, with the memories of that July 13 attack still fresh in the national psyche, that a deadly blast shook India’s national capital of Delhi, rattling not only the city’s High Court, but also the confidence of a nation trying hard to fight the menace of terrorism.
I reached the blast site within half an hour of the incident, and what I saw was complete chaos. Most of the injured and dead had been removed by that time, but some victims were still being hastily placed into ambulances while the police were cordoning off the area.
The gate where the tragic incident took place is the main entry point for litigants seeking passes to enter the court premises, and it’s generally very crowded in the morning. At 10:17 am, when the bomb went off, there were around 100 people in the area, according to an eyewitness to whom I spoke. One of the lawyers informed me that since Wednesday is designated for hearing public interest cases, it’s always a busy day at the court.
A lawyer, Gajendra Gupta, whose white shirt was stained with blood, told me the blast had taken place just as he was entering the building and that he had helped place the victims into the ambulances. ‘It was a deafening noise and by the time I realized what had happened, I saw many injured and dead bodies strewn around me. I saw at least five or six dead bodies.’
‘Some people died on the spot and others were injured,’ said another eyewitness, Dhirendra Kumar, who had minor injuries on her hand. ‘As I heard the blast, I stepped to the side and after 10 or 15 minutes, police came and took the injured to the hospital.’
This was the second blast to shake the Delhi High Court within the last four months. A low intensity bomb blast took place on May 25—also a Wednesday—but no one was hurt.
It’s a different story this time, however, and the scene at the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, where most of the injured were taken, presents a picture of chaos, shock, anger, and helplessness. The relatives of the victims haven’t been able to meet their loved ones, and the frequent visits of the politicians only ends up irritating the waiting kith and kin, who blame the government for being lax in tackling terror in the country.
Meanwhile, the dozens of injured are being shunted from one hospital building to another. Adding to the surreal feel of it all are the TV crews, who have been running after each stretcher to thrust their microphones at the victims.
I spoke to Dr. Sampoorna, who described the horrific scene inside the ward.
‘I saw at least 12 to 14 dead bodies,’ she said. ‘Some were without limbs, some were without legs, and some were beyond recognition.’
So far, 12 people are said to have died in the blast or from their injuries, with dozens more injured.
As Rajeev noted yesterday, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), a Pakistan-based militant group with an affiliate in Bangladesh, claimed responsibility for the attack. In an e-mail sent to media houses, the terror group claims to have carried out the blast in retaliation for the death sentence given to Afzal Guru, who was convicted in connection with the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001.
While Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told parliament that there had been some intelligence relating to threats, shared with the Delhi Police in July, he refused to identify the group that had carried out the bomb blast.
The attack comes at a time when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is on a historic visit to Bangladesh to bolster ties between the two neighbours, and some analysts see the attack as an attempt to divert attention from the landmark agreement signed between New Delhi and Dhaka. They argue that the attacks are designed to create a wedge between the two nations, and they point out that the serial strikes in Mumbai in July were on the eve of talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan.
Whatever the reason, the people of India are fed up with the government’s failure to contain terrorism. A palpable sense of anger can be detected in the hospital, at the blast site, on the streets of the capital and in the TV studios.
But no law—no matter how tough it is—can eradicate terrorism. We live in an environment where terrorism is a reality. And, since there’s not a single group that can be blamed for these attacks, there isn’t one motivation and therefore one solution.
For now, at least, India seems destined to grapple with these tragic Wednesdays.