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March 11, 1998


Bombay blasts destroyed the lives of victims as well as executors

The serial blasts of March 12, 1993, which shook Bombay to its core, has left a swathe of misery in its wake, affecting the lives of the families of both victims and perpetrators.

While the key conspirators are ensconced in foreign locales, those being tried in Bombay are the lower-rung operators, whose families contend that they had no idea that they were being used in the execution of such a heinous plot.

The wife of one of them, who is charged with the task of carting around the deadly explosive RDX which went off at 13 predetermined spots across Bombay, lamented that her husband was innocent and had been merely entrusted with the task of driving around a jeep.

Since the incarceration of the family's bread-winner, she has been working as a maid servant to make ends meet, and has not told her two children where their father was. As far as they know, he works in Bahrain.

Once, when they were taken to meet him at the Arthur Road jail in central Bombay, where he is detained, the children found the 'working conditions in the factory' very strange. "Why was he speaking through a grill, and why is every door barred?" they wanted to know.

Amir Shaikh, who was gainfully employed in the Gulf, returned two years after his brother was arrested and charged in the blasts case. He has since spent a lot of his Gulf money on his brother's defence.

Shaikh, who now looks after his brother's family as well, says there is no hope for his brother. "He is always begging and pleading with me to get bail, but what can I do?" he asks in despair.

There are several more like Shaikh, and all of them have only one question on their mind: "Will we ever be freed?"

For the families of the blast victims, the question is slightly different: "Will the perpetrators ever face justice?"

Sarla Gidwani, the widow of one of the blast victims, today runs her late husband's import-export business. The gruesome day, is still etched on her mind. She was at home and did not know anything about her husband's fate till late in the evening. She had heard about the serial blasts, but did not relate it to her husband. Finally, when she visited the KEM hospital later, she found her husband's body.

Resigned to her fate, she is vehement about the blasts accused. She says those found guilty must be given the harshest punishment.

Satish Hegde, a despatch executive with a courier company, was killed in the blast at the Bombay stock exchange where he had gone to effect some deliveries. So far the family has received no help from the government, says his brother, a waiter in a city restaurant. But despite the loss, the brother is objective when it comes to the trial and says it is only the small fry who are facing the music while the major culprits have got away scot-free.

The state government under then Congress chief minister Sharad Pawar, granted an ex-gratia payment of Rs 200,000 to the families of those killed. But, as Suresh Tandel, whose wife was killed in the blasts, says, it will not bring back his wife. "How do I explain to my two young children that their mother has gone away for ever?" His wife, Rukmini Tandel, a fishmonger, was travelling from Worli to Mahim when she was killed in the blasts.

Mangesh Patil's case is even more pathetic. A factory worker, he had come to see a movie at the Plaza cinema, when he was injured in the blast that went off near the theatre. Mangesh lost his left leg and now runs a telephone booth in Dadar in central Bombay.


The wheels of justice grind slowly in the blasts case

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