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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 September 2006, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
Victims await Mumbai 1993 blasts justice
By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

A judge in Mumbai (Bombay) has started giving his verdicts in one of the most widely anticipated trials in the country's history next month. The trial follows the 1993 bomb attacks in Mumbai (Bombay) that killed 257 people.

Photos of Vinayak's sister and brother

Those charged include India's most wanted man, Dawood Ibrahim, believed to be in hiding in Pakistan. The bombings were believed to be retaliation for riots in which hundreds of Muslims were killed.

Thirteen years have passed since Vinayak Devrukhar lost his older sister and younger brother in one of the 13 blasts that shook Mumbai, India's financial capital.

But the tears still come easily.

"I was 14 at the time," he said. "My sister Shashikala was 19 years and my younger brother was 11. Both of them were on their way to school and were standing at the bus stop when the blast at Century Bazar in Worli took place."

The blast at Century Bazar caused the heaviest casualties - 113 in all. The explosion took place on a busy junction with markets, offices, residential buildings and slums nearby.

Body parts everywhere

Vinayak lives in one of those slums. That day, 12 March, is still vivid in his mind.

13 blasts
257 dead
713 injured
123 arrested and tried
25 suspects absconding
10,000 pages of charges
686 witnesses testify
35,000 pages of evidence submitted
13 years to reach verdict

"I was standing in a shop at the time and I remember there was a big explosion, so powerful that all the glass jars in the shop fell to the ground and broke into pieces.

"The air became black and thick with smoke. My mother came running to me saying my brother and sister were out and I should go check where they are." Vinayak ran to the road and saw mayhem.

"There were bodies and body parts everywhere. The roof of a bus had landed almost half a kilometre away and there was blood everywhere. I ran to school, they were not there. I could not find them in the crowd and came back home."

Aftermath of the 1993 Mumbai blasts
Aftermath of the 1993 blasts

He said the next 24 hours were the longest of his life while he waited for his siblings.

They never did turn up. Their burnt bodies were recovered from a nearby state hospital the next day.

His father identified his daughter's body by a wound on her foot she had got a few months before the incident.

The son's body was identified by the colour of the shorts he was wearing on the day. Vinayak said his parents went into shock while one of his other two sisters became mentally unbalanced. He too suffered deeply.

Chandrakant Devrukhar
The government should give them maximum punishment, as harsh as possible
Chandrakant Devrukhar
father of victims

His sister "used to look after me. My younger brother and I always hung out together. She was to get married that year. I cried for two years after the incident and even now, whenever I talk about them, I can't control myself."

Soon after he dropped out of school because he lost interest in studies.

Now he runs a phone booth and does part-time jobs to make ends meet. He is the sole earner in the family.

The family got 400,000 rupees ($8,600) compensation from the government - 200,000 rupees for each of the dead.

Vinayak said the money meant nothing for the loss they incurred.

His father, 75-year old Chandrakant Devrukhar, hopes the guilty will be brought to book.

"My two children have gone. These people who have carried out these explosions did not think of any one enemy, they did it to get maximum casualties. So the government should also give them maximum punishment, as harsh as possible."

Five years of mourning

Forty-five-years old Baby Gopinath Gondhali lost her 13-year old son in the Worli blast. He was second of her three sons and they stayed in Nehru Nagar slum just off the road where the Century Bazar blast took place.

Mumbai slum
The blasts hit people in the slums

She managed a smile as she remembered him.

"His name was Prashant and he was the quiet, studious kind. He never mingled outside with others, always stayed at home and read books. He was very intelligent," she said.

On the day of the blasts, Prashant was standing at a shop on the road, buying something to eat, when the blast went off.

Mrs Gondhali said shattered glass went into his chest. She said he got very scared of the explosion so he came home and hid under the bed.

Since everyone else had rushed to the accident spot, she was alone at home and did not notice anything until she saw blood flowing from under the bed.

Baby Gopinath Gondhali
Gopinath Gondhali wants a future for her surviving sons

"I called out to him and pulled him out from below the bed. By then he had lost a lot of blood. I held him in my lap and then he closed his eyes."

She was in mourning for five years.

"I keep thinking he would have been a young man today. Both my sons also miss him, we often talk about him at home."

Life has only become tougher for Mrs Gondhali since then. The 200,000 rupees received as compensation was spent on rebuilding their home and lives after the blasts.

She also wants the guilty punished.

More than that, she wants the government to give her sons some sort of a permanent job so that their futures are secure.

"No one has come to visit us after the blasts. We barely live hand to mouth because both my sons had to drop out of school and start working early.

"After my husband died in 1992, I used to work but the shock of losing my son barely months later was too much and I stopped working."

While families that have lost relations clearly want the guilty brought to book, 13 years of waiting for a justice has dimmed their anger towards the perpetrators.

Now there is more a sense of resignation and hope that the verdict will act as a deterrent against similar attacks in the future.

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