'I was fine, but the man next to me lost his legs'
Rediff.com's Sahim Salim reports from outside the Delhi high court where a high-intensity blast killed at least 11 people on Wednesday morning and injured scores others.
A huge crater in the middle of the road. Burnt leaves and a branch inside the crater. Spattered blood on the streets. Pandemonium of curious onlookers, wails of the affected, arguments of the media personnel, cluelessness of the investigating police personnel.
Sights of the aftermaths of a bomb blast have become just too familiar to react to anymore.
Being a Wednesday -- a public interest litigation day at the Delhi high court -- visitors numbering at least 200 had formed an organised queue outside gate number 5.
There is a counter right next to the gate where entry passes are made for litigants. According to prima facie accounts of eyewitnesses, "A man dressed in a white shirt" joined the queue. He was armed with a briefcase, which most probably contained the bomb.
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Image: Commandos use sniffer dogs to search for evidence near the site of a bomb blast outside the high court in New Delhi
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
'Just next to where I was standing, there was a huge crater'
At 10.14 am, the relative calm, which is usually prevalent outside the visitor's gate, was shattered with a deafening blast. According to eyewitnesses, the 200-odd visitors and lawyers present outside the gate did not react for a moment.
"After the blast, my ears started ringing. I sat on the ground for like two minutes. When the smoke cleared, there was blood and scattered papers (of the litigants) everywhere. Just next to where I was standing, there was a huge crater. The clearing smoke was suffocating. I immediately got up, checked myself for injuries. I was okay, so I surveyed my surroundings. There, a few feet from me lay a man who had lost his legs in the blast," said an eyewitness, Rahul Gupta, who had come to meet a lawyer over his property dispute case.
Gupta, who is a businessman based in east Vinod Nagar, said that most of the victims he saw had lost their legs. He immediately called the police control room, who arrived within minutes with ambulances.
"I helped the policemen to load the injured into an ambulance. There were so many of them. I personally carried eight unconscious men," Gupta added.
The media OB vans arrived within half an hour. Senior police officials barked at their juniors to barricade the blast site.
Image: A Delhi police personnel keeps vigil after cordoning off the site of the blast
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters
'It isn't possible to control what happens on the road'
A team from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory is expected any minute. They prefer to pick up samples from what they call an unhampered site. Thus we have to barricade the site. It gets difficult as curious onlookers try to come in. And with the media it is even more difficult, as they start threatening us with their contacts," said an IPS officer overseeing the barricading work.
Within minutes, teams from the CFSL, bomb squad and dog squads arrived. By 10.35 am, the high court was evacuated.
Bomb squads and sniffer dogs were taken to all the gates at the high court to look for more possible crude bombs. To add to the woes of the police, there is a metro construction site all around the gate. Sniffer dogs were seen searching these areas as well.
"No, there were no other live bombs in the area," special commissioner of police, Dharmendra Kumar, told rediff.com.
When asked if there was prior intelligence input of a possible attack, Kumar replied in the negative.
Just over three months ago, a bomb had exploded in a parking lot at the high court, following which security was tightened and a high alert was sounded. The alert is still in place, which means constant monitoring by the Delhi police and intelligence officials.
When asked how the blast took place in spite of the alert, Kumar said, "Security was beefed up inside the court premises. Nobody could have entered the court complex (with a bomb). This blast took place on the road outside the court. It is really not possible to control what happens on the road. There is a lot of movement here; it is practically impossible to frisk and check everyone here. We can't possibly block the road."
Image: A nurse tries to assist as a policeman carries a woman, who was injured by a blast outside the high court
'Briefcase containing the bomb was on the ground'
In what can prove to be a huge setback for the police, there are no CCTV cameras installed at this gate.
"No, there are no CCTV cameras covering this area," Kumar confirmed.
Had CCTV cameras been there, the 'man in white' who at least seven eyewitnesses have spoken about could have been identified. It is not immediately clear whether this mystery man in white put the briefcase at the gate and left or whether it was a suicide bomb attack.
Eyewitness Mahender Tyagi, a businessman from Burari, said the man fled soon after.
"There was a man in a white shirt, who ran just seconds before the explosion," Tyagi told rediff.com.
Another witness, Brij Mohan Sharma, a resident of Dilshad Garden, said the man stayed at the spot.
In any case, prima facie investigations reveal that the briefcase was on the ground when it exploded.
"Judging from the injuries on the victims, many of which are below the waist, and site inspection, it is a safe assumption that the briefcase containing the bomb was on the ground," a senior police officer from the crime branch said.
Image: A police officer looks for evidence at the site of a bomb blast outside the Delhi HC
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters
It is just a different day with the same story
At least seven eyewitnesses have told the police about the man.
Rediff.com has spoken to four of these witnesses. From descriptions given by witnesses, police say the man had short hair, was clean shaven and was dressed in white.
At least seven IPS officers, including the Delhi police chief and several special commissioners, reached the spot to conduct on-site inspections. Teams from the special cell (the anti-terror wing of Delhi police), crime branch and local police were present at the site. The National Security Guard and the National Investigation Agency also arrived by 11 am.
It began raining heavily at around 11.15 am. The hectic activity continued on site, with several officials continuing their work under umbrellas.
Officials were seen covering up the blast site to protect evidence. There was a sudden calm at the site, as officials, victims and media personnel rushed to take cover.
This blast included, the national capital has witnessed 19 terror attacks in the last 15 years. Six of these -- mostly low intensity ones -- remain unsolved.
It is just a different day with the same story.
Image: Commandos and police officers stand guard near the site of the bomb blast
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters