| A roadside vendor does business in Paharganj market on Sunday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Oct. 30: Sarojini Nagar Market mourned its dead in the morning and in the afternoon crept back slowly into the arms of at least a pretence of normal life as traders grimly lifted the shutters.
Of the 59 people killed in yesterday’s three blasts here, 43 died in Sarojini Nagar.
“The market should remain open and we should let the terrorists know that they can’t defeat us and that we are with the mainstream. We had meetings with the commissioner of police, the deputy commissioner of police as well as area MP Ajay Maken and they all requested us to open the markets because they wanted the message to go that everything is normal,” said Mohan Kukreja, the president of Sarojini Nagar Market Traders’ Association.
“We agreed but because many of members were also victims we wanted to keep the shutters down till 2 pm,” he added.
Three days before Diwali and on the occasion of Dhanteras, the market would have been thick with shoppers making last-minute buys. Traders who had opened their shops to clear the gloom said local residents from nearby government flats had trickled in.
“They are not customers from outside Sarojini Nagar. They are either residents or people who have come to see the tamasha. When the blasts happened in Lajpat Nagar (May 1996), it took them quite a while to get back up on their feet. It is going to be the same,” said Jagdish Prasad who runs a dry cleaner’s.
At Paharganj, the site of the other big explosion, shops opened, too, but business was thin.
In other Delhi markets, there were crowds, but not as much as might be expected on a festival day ' Id is also approaching. In markets like Greater Kailash M Block, a tony shopping area, metal detector doorframes had been put up.
Vivek and Ekta, a young couple, were among those who had come to Sarojini Nagar from outside. Carrying their sleeping baby in his arms, Vivek said: “Life goes on. I was so used to coming here even during my college days.”
They had come all the way from Faridabad in neighbouring Haryana to buy a dartboard as a gift for his little cousin. “It is less crowded today. On other Diwali days, no one has the time to show you their wares. There is hardly any place to walk and there is a traffic jam. We just took a chance,” said Ekta.
By Sunday afternoon, the Sarojini Nagar blast site ' the fruit juice and chaat corner which was popular with shoppers and now cordoned off with yellow tape ' had become somewhat of a curiosity as people gathered around it to see the remains of a terrorist attack. Members of Delhi police’s special cell and crime branch were at work there.
Kamal Gupta, who owns a flour mill in front of the blast site, said: “The owner and his two sons died in the blast. The bomb was placed there right next to the cylinder.”
Representatives of the Confederation of All-India Traders met chief minister Sheila Dikshit today and decided that all markets would remain open.
At Paharganj, Sumit Kakkar of the traders’ association, said: “We want to show the terrorists that they can’t defeat us.”
There was this intrepid couple who Ram Lal, a grocer, spotted. “I saw a couple one of whom had been injured in the blasts. They were back in the market today to make Diwali purchases,” he said.
“What is there to be afraid of' Terrorist attacks have become part of our lives. What can the police do' In Delhi, everyone has to look after their own security,” said Suresh Malhotra who had gone to Paharganj to buy gifts.