People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 30

July 24, 2011


CPI(M) Team Meets Mumbai Terror Victims

Mahendra Singh


THIRTY-ONE months after the horrific attack of November 26, 2008 (sometimes referred to as 26/11), terror again struck Mumbai, the financial capital of India, on July 13, 2011. Three serial bomb blasts within a span of 12 minutes – 6.54 pm to 7.06 pm – struck at three of the busiest hubs in the city, viz Zaveri Bazar, Opera House and Dadar West, in peak rush hours. The blasts have so far claimed 19 lives and injured 131 people.


The Dadar blast occurred at Kabutarkhana on the west side of the railway station, while on the east side of the same station CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat and CPI secretary D Raja were addressing a public meeting demanding the scrapping of the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant. The meeting was wound up after condemning those responsible for the blasts, paying homage to the dead and wishing speedy recovery to the injured.


At Zaveri Bazar and Opera House, which are bullion and diamond hubs respectively, the blasts were engineered at the Khau Gallis where people gather in large numbers to have snacks after a hard day’s work before leaving for their homes. The blasts here were of high intensity, whereas the Dadar blast was of low intensity. There were 10 injured and no dead at Dadar. In Zaveri Bazar there were 10 dead and 73 injured, and in Opera House there were 7 dead and 48 injured. Two others succumbed to their injuries a few days later.


Among the blast victims the majority were economically weak. Some of the rich were also affected. It was the third time that terror had struck Zaveri Bazar and the second time that it targeted Opera House and Dadar. Casualties at Dadar would have been worse had the blast triggered off about 15 minutes earlier. It occurred at the BEST bus shelter near Antonio D’Silva High School. The students of the school had just left 15 minutes before.


After the first bomb blasts in Mumbai on March 12, 1993, in the wake of the communal riots in the city following the demolition of the Babri Masjid, there has been a series of bomb blasts in the city. Five years ago, on July 11, 2006, there took place seven serial blasts in railway locals in the peak evening hours, which claimed heavy casualties. And then, of course, there was the heinous terrorist attack on the city on November 26, 2008, which claimed over 200 lives, including that of ATS chief Hemant Karkare and other top police officers. Prominent among the bomb blasts in the rest of Maharashtra were the Malegaon blasts in 2006 and 2008 which were engineered by a Hindutva terrorist group called ‘Abhinav Bharat,’ and the German Bakery blast in Pune in February 2010.


Against this disturbing background, the recent Mumbai blasts once again underlined the stark failure of the intelligence and security agencies. The central and state governments have been indifferent to the task of beefing up the security and intelligence systems. In the aftermath of 26/11, the state government had set up a committee headed by Ram Pradhan, a retired top bureaucrat, to probe the terror attack. The committee suggested a number of measures to improve the preparedness to meet terror. The state government did not place the full report in the legislature on the grounds that it would be harmful to state security. The Ram Pradhan committee had made 25 recommendations. But most of them have not been implemented.


The state government has announced Rs 5 lakh compensation to families of the dead and Rs 50,000 to the injured, apart from free medical treatment. The central government has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to families of the dead and Rs 1 lakh to the injured.


The communal and chauvinist outfits have been quick in inciting passions to polarise people. Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray made the statement that the people should now themselves acquire arms for their own protection. For how long were Hindus going to be killed, he asked rhetorically. His nephew, Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS), tried to incite Maharashtrians against migrants from other states, particularly from the northern states. He declared cynically that so long as there is this unchecked migration into Mumbai, there is no chance of the bomb blasts coming to an end. BJP leader L K Advani visited Mumbai, said the blasts were due to the policy failure and called upon the central government not to hold talks with Pakistan.


Prime minister Manmohan Singh, home minister P Chidambaram and Congress president Sonia Gandhi visited Mumbai on July 14 and came out with the usual platitudes. 


The CPI(M)’s Maharashtra and Mumbai committees immediately condemned the blasts and called upon the people to maintain peace and remain calm.     


CPI(M) Central Committee member and leader of the CPI(M) group in the Lok Sabha, Basudeb Acharia, visited Mumbai on July 15. He, along with the party’s state secretary and Central Committee member Dr Ashok Dhawale, Central Committee member K L Bajaj, state secretariat member and Mumbai secretary Mahendra Singh and district secretariat members Sonya Gill and Shailendra Kamble, visited the G T, J J and Saifee Hospitals to inquire about the health of the injured blast victims.


At the government-run G T Hospital, Acharya met all the injured who were admitted there. Among others, he met Sunil Raut, one of the injured in the Zaveri Bazar blast, who hailed from the West Midnapore district of West Bengal. The dean of the Hospital, Dr Chaudhary accompanied the delegation. At the largest government hospital in the state, J J Hospital, the dean, Dr T P Lahane, a renowned eye surgeon, accompanied the delegation. At that time there were 25 injured in the hospital. The delegation also visited the private Saifee Hospital. There were 34 injured admitted there, most of whom were Opera House blast victims.


Basudeb Acharia and the delegation then met the state chief minister Prithviraj Chavan at his residence. The chief minister explained the steps taken by his government for medical care of the injured and the quantum of compensation given by the state government. Acharia suggested an enhancement of the compensation amount to Rs 15 lakh for the families of the dead. The compensation amount to the injured, he said, was extremely low and should be suitably enhanced. The CM assured that he would consider the suggestion.


Acharia suggested that the modernisation of the police force and the beefing up of the intelligence and security systems must be carried out at the earliest. He expressed displeasure that the decisions taken by the central government in the wake of 26/11 and the recommendations of the Ram Pradhan committee had not been implemented even after two and a half years. He also insisted that all terrorist organisations must be thoroughly investigated for their role in these blasts and strict action taken against the culprits.


Basudeb Acharia then addressed a press conference in the evening at the CPI(M) office at Azad Maidan. Here he severely criticised the central and state governments for their neglect of the security of the country and its people. He also came down heavily on the communal and chauvinist forces for their attempts to disturb communal harmony and social amity. He reiterated the suggestions that he had made to the chief minister earlier in the day. This immediate intervention by Basudeb Acharia at a time of crisis had a very good impact.