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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

7/11 Mumbai train blasts: Justice denied for 16 long years

It was any other day in Mumbai when tired people were returning to their homes during the after-work rush hours but who knew they would never return. It was 11th of July, 2006 when one of the worst-ever attacks occurred on an urban transportation system in a metropolitan city.

More than 180 people were killed and around 800 injured through a series of seven bomb blasts in the first-class compartments of the Western line of the suburban (local) train which is known as the backbone of the city’s transport network in Mumbai, within 11 minutes from 6:24 PM to 6:35 PM.  The sufferers were mostly executives, businessmen, government employees, private employees, and college students. The mixture of RDX and Ammonium Nitrate bombs was set off in pressure cookers installed on the trains by the terrorists. 

Depiction of suburban train stations where blasts occurred

The trains were running from Churchgate, the city center end of the western railway line to the western suburbs of the city. The blasts were executed at different locations which are as follows:- Khar Road at 6:24 PM in which 9 people died, Bandra at 6:24 where 22 died, Jogeshwari at 8 6:25 where 28 died, Mahim Junction at 6:26 where 43 died, Mira Road at 6:29 where  31 died, Matunga Road at 6:30 where 28 died and, Borivali at 6:35 where 26 died leaving a total of 187 dead. Two more victims died after long struggles in hospital taking the total death toll to 189.

Attackers involved in the blast

The attack was carried out by the Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) with the ground support of the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). LeT is a front organization of Pakistan’s notorious spy agency ISI. A total of 12 persons were convicted under Maharashtra Control of Organized Control Act (MCOCA) and other laws. Faisal Sheikh, Asif Khan, Kamal Ansari, Ehtesham Siddiqui, and Naveed Khan who planted bombs in the trains were sentenced to death on 30th September 2015. The other 7 terrorists who were involved in this deadly blast were Mohammed Sajid Ansari, Mohammed Ali, Dr. Tanveer Ansari, Majid Shafi, Muzzammil Shaikh, Sohail Shaikh, and Zamir Shaikh. All of them were sentenced to life imprisonment. 

Men convicted for the 7/11 terror attack on Mumbai local trains (Image courtesy: groundxero)

The terrorists entered Bharat from the Nepal and Bangladesh borders. As of 2021, the necessary hearings for confirmation of the death sentences are yet to begin in the Bombay High Court. Most of the life convicts have also appealed their convictions in the High Court.

Official Statements and orders after the attack

It was after this attack that the Ministry of Railway passed a rule that non-passengers will not be allowed on railway platforms. The then CM of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav announced ex-gratia payments and jobs to the victims and families of those who died. However, various studies say that many of those promises have not been fully completed till now.

On the 18th of July 2006, exactly 1 week after the attack, President APJ Abdul Kalam held a tributary ceremony at 6:25 PM. People lit candles at the Mahim station and to mark this memorial service, sirens were blared across Mumbai.

Survivors of the blast

Artist Mahendra Pitale, one of the survivors of this terror attack said, “I will never forget the day of 11 July 2006 as I lost my left hand in the train blast. I remember I flew out of the train. People were helping the injured to reach the hospital. After the loss, now I am worried about how I will work because for an artist both hands are important. So I started doing design work on the computer and now I use a prosthetic arm.”

An injured commuter looks inside a shattered compartment (Image credit: Indiatimes.com)

Binit Patil who was a junior college student at that time shared his terror experience saying, “After jumping from the train I could only see people rushing, some lost their hand, some lost their leg. I had to jump from the train to help myself at the Borivali station when the bomb exploded. After the attack, I was in constant fear and trauma while traveling in my regular life. I had to overcome this fear to complete my education.”

Kamal Khemka, who had a printing business in 2006, said: “I was 36 back then and at the prime of my life. My projections for business in the coming years and expectations from life were much more. One incident and all my dreams went up in smoke.”

Parag Sawant, one of the survivors of the heart-wrenching attack died in 2015 after fighting for life for 9 years. His wife was pregnant with their daughter when the attack occurred. Parag was fully in a coma for 2 years and was in a semi-conscious state after that. When he came out of the coma his wife Preeti said that she got happy when he recognized her. He was visited by Sushma Swaraj, a leader of the opposition in the Parliament at the time. She criticized the government for not taking proper action on the issue.

Late BJP leader Sushma Swaraj meeting terror attack victim Parag Sawant (Image courtesy: PTI)

After Parag’s death, a prayer meet was organized on the 9th anniversary of the blasts in which several survivors attended. Many of them had lost a limb in the attack. They narrated their tale of bureaucratic apathy and how excruciating going through life had been for them. Some said they still don’t feel completely secure while traveling by local train. They unequivocally demanded that the strictest possible punishment should be handed down to the perpetrators, but shied away from commenting on the slow progress of the trial.

Conclusion 

Today, this terror attack marks its 16th anniversary and yet the terrorists have not been given the punishment they deserve for disrupting around 1000 lives and families. This attack was the deadliest attack in Mumbai after the 1993 serial bomb blasts. After the 7/11 blast, the railway ministers and officials made restrictive rules and regulations. The central government took several measures to tighten the security in railway stations which hopefully will prevent such attacks, but what about the justice that the families of the killed people want?

The damage is already done. But why is the government still feeding these criminals? Why are they not hanged even 7 years after being given the death sentence by a court? These questions about one of the biggest terror attacks in the financial capital of Bharat are still unanswered. 

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