Petals placed by pedestrians at one of the blast sites at Dilsukhnagar in Hyderabad on Friday. (AFP)
Hyderabad, Feb. 22: Raju, 17, Aziz Ahmed, 18, Saida Nayak, 19, Giri, 20, Ramesh, 21….
As many as 75 per cent of the 16 persons killed in the Hyderabad blasts were in the prime of their youth and several of them were undergoing professional courses in the educational hub at Dilsukhnagar that draws students from eastern India, too.
One or more victims fall in every age bracket between 17 and 25 (see chart). They were among boys and girls, including those from the minority community, who had stepped out to buy books ahead of the exam season.
“It is a pity that our boys and girls were caught up in such a bloody carnage,” said Ravi Verma, a deputy commissioner of police in Hyderabad.
V. Vijaykumar, 23, and friend M. Rajasekhar, a year younger, were friends tracing their roots to the same village, Namnoor, in Adilabad district.
Vijaykumar and Rajasekhar, an MBA student, had stayed back in Dilsukhnagar to buy a book for an examination to become sub-inspectors in the excise department. After coaching lessons at a centre near the blast site, the friends had arrived at an eatery — Tiffin Centre — to have tea when the bomb went off.
Their friend Ravi Kumar recalled: “We were together till the last minute. I left them to wash my hands when an explosive force threw me off. I ran back and saw the mangled bodies of my friends. Then I tried calling their parents but the mobile phones did not work.”
Swapna Reddy, a 24-year-old BTech student, was walking when the blast hit her. Her uncle was initially unable to trace her body in the mortuary. Gut-wrenching scenes unfolded at a crematorium at Hyderabad where Swapna’s last rites were held. When brother Sudhakar Reddy circled the pyre, scores of relatives and friends, many of them young, were inconsolable.
The body of Aziz Ahmed, an 18-year-old polytechnic student, was so mangled that his family members identified him from a talisman. Aziz was also in the area to buy books.
For 25-year-old Abdul Wasif Mirza, it was a throwback to a terrifying day six years ago. Mirza, who lost a leg in the Mecca Masjid blast in 2007, was caught in yesterday’s blast, too. The youth, who was selling garments on the footpath, is in hospital with grievous wounds.
The wail of Yadamma, a domestic help who was seeing her son Giri through an MBA course, hung heavy over the mortuary. Giri, 20, was among those killed. “I sent my son to study MBA so that he would take care of me in my old age,” Yadamma said between sobs.
Some students escaped death by a whisker — among them was another Swapna. A student of the Netaji Institute of Engineering and Technology at Dilsukhnagar, Swapna Naidu, 22, was late and missed her direct bus home.
Waiting at the bus stand, she was caught by the impact of the blast and hurled on the road. Many toppled on her in a stampede and some cars almost hit her but she survived.
Another girl strolled towards peril. Kalpana Naidu, 21 and a student of a fashion technology institute, was waiting for a friend to pick her up at the bus stop. When her friend informed her he would be late, Kalpana strolled towards Venkatadri theatre and was caught in a stampede triggered by the blast. She is in hospital with multiple fractures.
Among the injured were three students from the Northeast.
All the dead students hailed from Andhra Pradesh but the area usually teems with youngsters from the eastern and northeastern states. “Students come here as the technical courses offered here are more affordable and the certificates are recognised in the industry,” said Maqbul Huq, a student from Odisha.
Some students from outside the state also would have died had the bombs been detonated on a Friday. Students from the east usually converge on all Fridays near a Saibaba shrine, hardly 100 yards away from one of the blast sites near a movie hall.
“If the blast at Konark theatre had taken place on a Friday, it would have hit many students, particularly those from Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal who visit the Saibaba temple,” said Kasi V. Rao, who runs several educational institutions and is a consultant.
Santosh Meena, a student from Bhubaneswar, said nearly 300 students from Odisha and Bihar were studying in some of the institutes in Dilsukhnagar. “But most of them are away as several courses were over in January-end. The next batch is to commence from Monday.”