| A boy injured in the Mumbadevi blast shows his bandaged hand. (AFP)
Mumbai, Aug. 26: The streets have been spruced up. The glass shards have been swept away. The twisted metal remains of the taxi, too, have been sent for post-mortem. The crowds are at bay.
The place where death struck yesterday has turned into an auditorium for the benefit of two VIP guests: L.K. Advani and Sonia Gandhi. Huge signs saying “Press” are up near the entrance, warning off other mortals who would like to take a dekho at the power visitors in Zaveri Bazaar.
But the authorities have not looked hard enough to rub off the blood drops that had slowly dried on the staircases of the line of shops on Dhanji Street. Right ahead is the building in front of which the bomb went off. Locals sit on these stairs, those who have been able to convince police that they are as good as the press. They want to see what the leaders have to say. They are also quite clear as to who had targeted them.
“My family has been here for four generations. We have a business of readymade garments. We know why the bomb was set off here. They want to scare us,” says Vinod Dwivecha. “Humey yahan se bhagana chahte hai. Lekin hum yahan se nahin jayenge (They want us to go from here. But we won’t go),” he says. “We will hear what Advaniji says. But he has to run his own shop in politics like we run our own shop of readymade clothes. So we don’t expect anything to change,” Dwivecha adds. “But this blast has nothing to do with Gujarat. This is meant to break the spirit of Mumbai. But we will not budge,” he says.
“This is the heart of the city. There is transaction worth crores and crores of rupees everyday. That is why they struck here,” says Rajesh Lakshman Shankla, owner of the 80-year-old Jodhpur Shoe Store that was damaged severely by the blast. “There are so many markets here — of gold, diamonds, cloth, shoes, old zari. They want to destroy the pulse of the city by striking here,” he says.
“At least 30-40 people were blown off yesterday,” says his brother Devraj. “We first thought that only the people on the streets had died. But now we know that almost every shop on the ground floor of the building lost one or more lives.”
“Three persons were killed in Ajuba Footwear. The owner of the old zari shop also died. There was a coolie here whom we have known for more than 10 years. He died. The cobbler, who was a permanent fixture here, also was killed.”
There’s a commotion and the deputy Prime Minister walks in. He takes a brief look at the damaged buildings and prepares to march away, but the crowds clamour for him to speak. He gives a short speech, pointing fingers at Pakistan and promises all help from the Centre to the state government to crush terrorism. A part of the crowd jeers at him, while others cry: “Advaniji, zindabad.”
After an hour, the Congress chief walks in. She takes a brief look at the buildings, too, but her speech remains completely unheard. It’s more like talking to herself. Nalin Parikh, who owns an electrical goods shop, remains unimpressed. “My son was injured yesterday. We had to spend money from our pockets to treat him. What is the point of all this' Mumbai ko sab log bigade ja rahen hain. What are the politicians doing'”