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Jewellery hub hit third time

Mumbai, July 13: What Opera House is to the diamond industry, Zaveri Bazaar is to Mumbai’s gems and jewellery business its heart.

The blast today was not Zaveri Bazaar’s first brush with terror.

There is, however, some confusion about the number of explosions that rocked in the crowded market.

The Mumbai police chief and the chief minister both spoke of three explosions one each in Zaveri Bazaar, Dadar and Opera House but some eyewitnesses said there were two explosions in Zaveri Bazaar.

Both happened outside an eatery, Mohan Pudawala, in Zaveri Bazaar’s food street which is barely a few yards from the famous Mumbadevi temple.

The bombs, eyewitnesses said, were on two motorbikes.

Ramesh Ojha, who runs a dairy shop near the eatery, said: “Around 6.45pm or so, there was a low explosion, and it was followed by another one few minutes later. Both the bikes were in flames when I rushed to the spot.”

Video footage of the blast moments, recorded by an eyewitness on his mobile phone, showed a fire engulfing a cluster of vehicles and people running helter-skelter.

“We first doused the fire. I counted at least six bodies on the road. I placed at least three of them on hawkers’ carts and in private cars, and rushed them to hospital,” said Ojha.

“They were so badly mangled, I don’t know if they will survive. At least 25 others were injured by shrapnel,” he said. He pointed to the adjoining lane that had witnessed a similar explosion in August 2003.

Today’s blast was the third in Zaveri Bazaar. It first became an underworld target on March 12, 1993. A scooter laden with RDX exploded killing 17 people.

In August 2003, terror revisited the bazaar when a powerful bomb planted in a taxi went off.

The jewellery hub also lost several traders in the July 11, 2006, train blasts.

Today, most of the injured were rushed to the nearby GT Hospital.

When state home minister R.R. Patil visited the hospital close to midnight, relatives of the deceased shouted slogans against him and Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi, who accompanied the minister.

Kishore Gidh, whose 27-year- old neighbour Rajesh Khedekar died in the blast, asked: “If there can be protection for the politicians, why not the common man?”

He tried to console Rajesh’s younger brother Sitaram.

Rajesh, a Goregaon resident, was the sole breadwinner of his family and had been working in the jewellery market for five years.

“He was married just two years ago and leaves behind a wife and a child. Rajesh’s cousin Ramesh lost his legs in the blast,” Gidh said.

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