The blasts that broke Bombay: The sweetmeat seller told journalist Rahul Singh a bomb had gone off only a couple of miles away. That was just the beginning . . . two hours later, 300 lay dead and the city was in ruins
Sunday 14 March 1993
Flora Fountain, just a couple of miles from where I live, is in the heart of Bombay's business district. I immediately phoned the Indian Express, the newspaper I onced edited. 'There's been a big explosion at Bombay Stock Exchange,' the news editor said.
The Stock Exchange, where more than two-thirds of India's shares are traded, is a brand new 28-storey building. Pashupati Advani, a stockbroker, has an office across the street.
'I first thought it was an earthquake,' he told me. 'The whole building shook and everything fell off my table. I have lived in San Francisco and experienced an earthquake there. But when I rushed out on to the street, I realised it was a bomb. There were mangled bodies, shattered glass, blood and smoke everywhere, and people with blood- stained clothes were wandering around in a daze. I have never seen anything so horrible before, and I thought to myself, 'Bombay is turning into another Beirut'. '
Little more than an hour after the first blast, I heard the clap of another explosion, loud enough to make the pigeons that live in my building scatter into the air. I tried to ring the Express again. No luck. The lines were all busy.
I eventually got hold of the Times of India. 'A second bomb has just exploded at the Air India building,' a reporter told me. 'Many people have been killed.' The Air India building, another huge skyscraper, is in Nariman Point, also an important hub of business and commercial activity. Next to it is the Indian Express building, and across the road the five-star Oberoi Hotel. The legislative assembly and the main state administrative building are less than 100 metres away. Several state ministers have their homes in the area.
'I was in the boardroom on the fourth floor when we heard the explosion,' said Himmat Sandhu, the manager of the Oberoi. 'Smoke was coming out of the Air India building and people were rushing from it and from the Indian Express building.'
At about the same time, two other bombs went off in rapid succession. The first was at the Sena Bhavan, the headquarters of the militant right-wing Hindu party, the Shiv Sena, which was behind the communal riots that engulfed Bombay in December and January. The second exploded close to the passport office in the northern part of the city.
Arun Sadhu, a writer who was on a bus in the area, heard the Sena Bhavan bomb and thought it was a car accident. 'Then the bus stopped at the traffic lights just before the passport office. At that moment, a huge explosion took place right in front of us. The bus shook, as if an earthquake was taking place, and a shower of metal splinters fell on it. A taxi a few paces away was completely smashed. Five or six other buses were completely demolished . . .'
Later I visited the scenes of the early blasts. The ground floor of the Air India building and the nearby Bank of Oman had been gutted, with a huge crater where the bomb exploded. The twisted wrecks of burnt-out cars littered the street. Among the rubble a torn banner, erected by peace campaigners during the communal rioting, fluttered in the breeze. It read: 'Bombay ko bachana hai' ('We must save Bombay').
At the Stock Exchange, where at least 50 people died and hundreds were injured, blood-soaked clothes lay among share certificates and files. Stalls lay broken in the road outside. 'Many of those who died were poor hawkers,' said Mr Advani.
Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando
First full-length look is finally here
World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'
- 2 The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
Sex abuse inquiry: 'Victims receive death threats' after MPs release names online
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Teenager brandishing fake gun taken down by police after demanding airtime on Netherlands' NOS TV station
The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£26000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Content Manager is re...
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...
£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...