October 29, 2005

Bombs turns India’s festive season into tragedy

By Anirban Roy

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - As dusk fell, fairy lights came on
and the mosques filled for prayers, deadly bombs turned three
of New Delhi's festive markets into tangles of charred bodies,
severed limbs and shattered shops in minutes.

The sound was deafening, even among the cheery chaos and
popping firecrackers of the peak festival season.

Many of the victims were women and children, brightly
dressed for their last big night out to shop before the Hindu
Diwali, or festival of lights, on Tuesday and the Muslim Eid
al-Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan later in the week.

The blasts hit Sarojini Nagar and two other markets as
millions crowded into the brightly lit streets and bazaars.
Officials said more than 50 people were killed and scores
injured, some suffering severe burns.

"I have never heard anything like this before. We just
ran," said laborer Ram Saran, dazed and barely able to talk,
squatting near the blackened debris and bloody clothing close
to the scene of one of bombs.

"I saw a completely charred body ... they must have carried
20 bodies away," said shopkeeper Manish Saxena at Sarojini
Nagar, one of Delhi's biggest and most popular markets, where
the rich rub shoulders with servants and the poor in the
crowded lanes.

"I saw injured people, women, running away from the scene,
many of them without clothes," said Bobby, a passerby at
Sarojini. "I counted 22 badly burned bodies, including


Firecrackers, whose the noise and smoke blanket the night
sky for days leading up to Diwali, littered the ground at
Sarojini, along with smashed up fruit, torn bunting and broken
glass. Acrid smoke filled the air.

A visibly upset Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who rushed
home from an official visit to Kolkata, said the attacks had
been deliberately coordinated to create maximum fear and havoc
at a special time of year for all Indians.

"My heart grieves for those who have lost their loved
ones," he said at his home, wearing his trademark light-blue

"These are dastardly acts of terrorism aimed at the people
of India. These terrorists wish to spread a sense of fear and
suspicion among our peace-loving people."

For Hindus, who make up more than 80 percent of secular
India's 1 billion-plus people and the Muslims who account for
more than 13 percent, this is normally the equivalent of
Christmas for Christians.

Diwali marks a new beginning and the triumph of good over
evil for Hindus, but some local media have already dubbed this
"Black Diwali."

"There was a huge sound," said Sunita, who lives not far
from where Ram Saran sits on the ground in Paharganj, a
bustling area in central Delhi crammed with stalls, restaurants
and cheap lodges filled with foreign backpackers.

"I saw many people lying on the ground. I saw a child's arm
cut off and somebody else's brain smashed out. It was very bad.
Very bad," she added.

Parvinder Singh, searching for his brother and
sister-in-law who were on their way to Paharganj, shouted
frantically into his mobile phone as he headed for the closest

"I have seen their burned scooter -- I don't whether they
are dead or alive," he said, before running off.

(Additional reporting by Palash Kumar, Y.P. Rajesh and
Shailendra Bhatnagar)