Guwahati, May 18: A flash of light, a deafening explosion, shrieks of agony, blood — Guwahati’s central business district went through this increasingly familiar scene of terror for the second time in a fortnight.
Thirteen people were wounded, two of them critically, when an improvised explosive device hidden in a cycle rickshaw went off at a parking lot near Central Jail in Fancy Bazar at 11.25 am today.
The last blast in the capital city was on Monday, when a bomb strapped to a motorbike exploded in front of an apartment-cum-market complex at Athgaon. Another motorbike bomb had left 19 people wounded in Fancy Bazar only eight days earlier.
As usual, it did not take the administration long to blame Ulfa for the latest explosion. Kamrup (metro) deputy commissioner Avinash Joshi said Hindi-speaking people were the targets of the attack, basing his assumption on the community’s sizeable population in Fancy Bazar and its adjoining areas.
Joshi appealed to the people “not to get agitated”, but that was a difficult advice to follow in the circumstances. As traders and bystanders rushed the wounded to nearby Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital and the wail of sirens pierced the air, a mob gathered at the blast site and pelted the police contingent that had just arrived with stones. A lathicharge and some teargas shells forced the people to disperse.
An impromptu meeting was held in the area later to condemn the violence.
The police had faced public fury on Tuesday, too, for branding one of the two persons who died in the Athgaon blast as the perpetrator of the incident.
Asked “how” militants were able to repeatedly trigger blasts in the city’s central business district, senior superintendent of police (city) S.N. Singh focused on the “why” instead. He said Ulfa’s objective was to disrupt trade in the business hub by instilling a sense of insecurity among the people. “We will deploy more security personnel at Fancy Bazar and the nearby areas,” he said.
The assurance of “more security personnel” did little to calm frayed nerves. “We cannot understand what the police are doing. After so many explosions in this area over a short period of time, can you blame us for feeling insecure'” N.K. Soni, a resident of Fancy Bazar, asked.
Rajat Kamti, who witnessed the IED explosion but escaped unhurt, and Sumit Mittal echoed him. “It is quite natural for people to become agitated in such a situation. The police have failed to protect citizens. Instead, they have made a habit of beating up people,” Mittal said.
Rickshaw-puller Qurban Ali, whose three-wheeler contained the bomb, told the police in hospital that he ferried a youth with a bag from Machkhowa to Fancy Bazar.
“The youth got down near Madhukunj, a sweet mart, after paying the fare. Ali was returning to the rickshaw stand at Machkhowa when the bomb exploded,” the police said.
The police are trying to identify the youth from the description given by Ali, 55.