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Mumbai lurches from blast to bandh

July 29: Anxious prayers on their lips, Mumbai’s 70 lakh daily passengers resumed their routine bustle after last night’s killer blast even as the government added a new word to its terror lexicon — Al Hadiz.

The Maharashtra government claimed that the new group, which had links to the Lashkar-e-Toiba, could be behind the bus explosion in Ghatkopar that killed three people and injured over 40.

The blast, the fifth in the last seven months, has sent the government scrambling to shore up security. Early in the morning, chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde held a high-level meeting even as Mumbai and the rest of the state — especially Nashik, venue of the Kumbh mela that starts tomorrow — went into alert.

“They (Opposition parties) are demanding my resignation but if it could help matters, I would,” said deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who claimed Al Hadiz could be behind the blast. “But I want to tell them that blasts and killings in Jammu and Kashmir, too, haven’t stopped.” The Shiv Sena and the BJP have called a Mumbai bandh tomorrow.

Even the police betrayed their anxiety. “We seem to be up against an enemy which is deadly and consistent,” said an officer. The police are looking for two burqa-clad women who boarded the bus at the Saki Naka stop and got down at a station ahead of Ghatkopar with a male passenger who was seen holding a bag.

Sena chief Bal Thackeray has launched a blistering attack on the Congress-led ruling Democratic Front. “The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that innocent people are getting killed…,” he said in his party’s mouthpiece, Saamna.

Sena leader Narayan Rane said it was “certain” that the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party were helping outfits like Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and the Students’ Islamic Movement of India.

Even the Centre seems to have decided that Simi is to blame. “Luckily, the damage has not been on a large scale. We have to ensure this is not a trial run for a much bigger attack,” a senior official said. “The government has banned Simi under the Prevention of Terrorism Act because the student group has been manipulated and used by unscrupulous elements to carry out such terrorist attacks.”

The blast has put fear in Muslim organisations. At a demonstration, the Jogeshwari Muslim Front said: “There has been a series of blasts over the past six months and our community has always been blamed. But terrorism has no community,” said Mansoor Unar Darvesh.

For the man on the street, fear has come flooding back. “This is the first time after the 1993 blasts that I am afraid for my family,” Makarand K. Patil said, clambering up the Churchgate local train.

“I don’t know if there is anything anyone can do if some group decides to kill innocent people. You travel by train and it blows, you travel by bus and it blows. Even autos are not safe.”

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