The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Children bear blast brunt
- Fathers carry sons to the grave

Malegaon, Sept. 9: Mohammed Arif had taken his eight-year-old son to Bada Kabrastan to pray for his forefathers. Hours later he returned to the mosque-cum-graveyard, this time to bury his son.

“I was there, just a little behind him as he was getting out of the mosque. He just fell with the loud sound,” Arif wept, his head in his hands.

“We took him to hospital, but everything was over.”

Half the victims of yesterday’s blasts that rocked this textile town are children, the youngest of them just four years old.

Little Ansab had gone for a ride on his father Masood’s bike when the third bomb ripped through busy Mushaira Chowk in the nearby town square. Father and son died on the spot.

Kabrastan officials said 42 people have already been buried there, 20 of them children. But Maharashtra deputy chief minister R.R. Patil said 31 had died while 297 were injured, 95 seriously.

Today, many shops in the town were open and the narrow streets bustled with cars and buses. “Life has to go on,” said Syed Ahmed Asghar, a textile worker.

But for some, like Akleena Abdul Aziz who lost her 17-year-old son Mustafa, life has changed forever. “My kid is gone,” she wailed. “Let the government do what it wants.”

Her neighbours have not told her that Mustafa’s head was blown off, letting her retain the image of her son when he left for the mosque for Shab-e-Barat, the night of forgiveness or atonement, when Muslims hold night-long prayers for divine blessings.

Many of the children killed are feared to have died in the stampede as panicky devotees, who had gathered at the mosque in thousands, scrambled to rush out.

“There was blood all over,” said eyewitness Nadeem Shaikh. “Children tried to run out and many were trampled.”

Others said since it was Shab-e-Barat, fathers had taken their kids to pray in the mosque as the day is considered the holiest for Islam.

The blasts have snatched away many breadwinners. “Where is my abbu'” four-year-old Abdul Osama kept asking his mother. But 28-year-old Badrunissa Abdul Wajid was in no condition to reply. A mother of six, she now has to take care of the family.

Many relatives complained about the “condition” of the hospitals where the injured were taken. “There are no doctors. They don’t even have injections to treat a dog bite!” said a relative.

Friends of Anees Abdur Ghani Rehman said doctors asked them to take the 27-year-old to Mumbai, but he died “on the way”.

At the Wadia and Satrana Road hospitals, authorities requested relatives to arrange for medicines.

At the private Faran hospital, local physicians chipped in with medicines. An eight-year-old lay moaning on a bed in the hospital.

“The doctor said he will pull through,” said the kid’s elder brother Fahim. “We can only pray.”

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