| A jewellery shop at the site of the blast in Zaveri Bazaar. Picture by Sanjit Kundu
Mumbai, Aug. 25: Those who attacked Mumbai today couldn’t have chosen their targets with more guile or venom.
While the Gateway of India — where the second bomb went off — is the symbol of Mumbai’s cosmopolitanism, its welcoming character and its history, the Zaveri Bazaar — target for the first and deadlier bomb — is a metaphor of the city’s present.
While the Gateway is Mumbai’s head, Zaveri Bazaar is the city’s heart.
Taken separately, terrorists today tried to destabilise both Mumbai’s face and its body, hitting hard at its tourism from outside and its business from inside.
The nature of today’s attack clearly demonstrates it was better planned than most of the earlier attacks, a hotelier in Marine Lines said.
“If one bomb exploded near the Queen’s Necklace (the name given to Marine Lines), the other hit her purse,’’ he said, adding that in the short run at least the attacks will have a debilitating effect on the city.
Any tourist coming to Mumbai is first taken to the Gateway of India. Zaveri Bazaar is a market place lined with the most expensive jewellery shops. More important, it leads to Mumbadevi temple, the temple of Mumbai’s reigning deity.
At any given point of time seven days a week, Zaveri Bazaar is chock-a-block with housewives, diamond merchants and goldsmiths. It is so crowded that taxi drivers prefer to leave their customers at the mouth of bazaar. It is a place that offers little escape.
“You know what attacking Zaveri Bazaar means'” asks Sandipbhai Patel, a shop owner. “It means that someone is saying they will attack not just the people any more, they will attack the source of sustenance. They will cripple us in every possible way.’’
Patel is right. In December last year, terrorists planted a bomb in a bus at Ghatkopar. The blast, which killed two persons, was limited in its scope as was a bomb that was planted in a local train that killed 12 people earlier this year. Two other bombs went off in a bus and a railway eatery. They targeted individuals. Today’s bombs have targeted much more than that.
In an insidious ripple, the bomb attacks have also strengthened the theory that terrorists are systematically and meticulously planning attacks on mostly Gujarati-dominated areas. The theory that Mumbai is paying a price for Gujarat has reared its head again.
Zaveri Bazaar is one place that has a huge concentration of Gujarati businessmen dealing in gold, diamonds, cloth and medicines. If one draws a chart of all the seven earlier attacks, it is easy to find a pattern. The Ghatkopar attack was in a Gujarati area as was the smaller attack in Vile Parle.
Then came Mulund, another Gujarati haven. Though chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has consistently said that the recent bomb blasts in Mumbai were not targeted at the Gujarati community, there are others who think it is. “Look at where the blasts have occurred,” said Laljibhai Chavda, a Gujarati businessman in Borivli, a locality in suburban Mumbai with a considerable Gujarati presence.
“Let the chief minister say what he wants but we are scared. All the blasts have been targeted at the Gujarati community and today’s blast in Zaveri Bazaar convinces me even more.”
Some senior police officials are not denying this. Some people arrested for the earlier bomb attacks have reportedly said that “revenge’’ for the Gujarat riots was one of the main motives.