By Muneeza Naqvi
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, July 13, 2006
BOMBAY, July 12 -- In the house of B.P. Keshriwal on Tuesday evening, the TV set suddenly began to display images of twisted metal and bloodied bodies. Keshriwal watched anxiously. "For a long time it did not sink in," he recalled. "It was so terrible."
Then, as he began to grasp the enormity of what had happened -- coordinated bomb blasts tearing apart rush-hour commuter trains along a single rail corridor -- he had a very troubling thought: His nephew, Vasant Torka, usually rode that line home, right at this time.
He dialed Torka's cellphone. No response. "We couldn't get through . . . and we felt such enormous panic," the elegantly dressed man said Wednesday, twisting a large diamond ring around his finger.
For the next two hours, with television announcing an ever-rising death toll, Keshriwal, 64, rushed to and from seven different hospitals. But at each there was no sign of his nephew, whose wife and two young children waited anxiously at home.
Finally, in the emergency room of a private hospital, crowded with police and fast-working doctors, he found Torka -- alive.
The 48-year-old was being treated for serious head injuries, a dislocated shoulder and broken ribs that ruptured his lungs. He had been making his regular ride home when the fourth of the seven bombs exploded in a first-class train compartment near the suburb of Mahim.
All over this city of 16 million people, families like these gathered outside hospital emergency rooms Wednesday, a day after the explosions. Some grieved as they claimed the bodies of loved ones; others rejoiced as they located missing members of their families.
Authorities on Wednesday raised the death toll to 183, with more than 700 people wounded. But by midday the city, India's financial and commercial capital, was fast returning to normal. Trains were running again on the stricken line and were almost as crowded as before the bombings.
Police said they were investigating whether the radical Pakistan-based Islamic group Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed for other terrorist bombings in India, played a role in the attacks. But officials said that they had nothing conclusive. The group has been banned by the Pakistani government, but many analysts say it continues to operate under different names.
"We have some clues and an investigation is underway," said P.S. Pasricha, director general of police of Maharashtra state. Bombay, also known as Mumbai, is the state capital.
In New Delhi, Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna repeated an Indian demand that Pakistan crack down on Islamic radicals. "We would urge Pakistan to take urgent steps to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on the territory under its control and act resolutely against individuals and groups who are responsible for terrorists' violence," Sarna said.
He was responding to comments by Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri in Washington on Tuesday that solving the two countries' dispute over the divided region of Kashmir was the best way of tackling extremism in South Asia.
"We find it appalling that Foreign Minister Kasuri should seek to link this blatant and inhuman act of terror against innocent men, women and children to the so-called lack of resolution of disputes between India and Pakistan," Sarna said. "His remarks appear to suggest that Pakistan will cooperate with India against the scourge of cross-border terrorism and terrorist violence only if such so-called disputes are resolved."
In a conversation with Washington Post reporters and editors Wednesday, Kasuri called the Bombay bombings "completely horrendous," the work of "people who are opposed to the peace process."
He noted allegations that Lashkar members were acting under new organizational names but said they were being "watched like hawks" by Pakistani authorities.
Indian officials have accused their neighbor of arming and funding Islamic secessionists active in the Indian part of Kashmir. Pakistan has denied those charges.
In 2001, India blamed Pakistan for an attack on the Parliament building in New Delhi by a band of gunmen, and the two nuclear-armed neighbors came close to war. They have since initiated a peace process aimed at resolving their competing claims over Kashmir and other disputes.
On Wednesday, five Indian tourists were wounded in a grenade attack in Gulmarg, a resort town in Indian Kashmir. On Tuesday, eight people were killed by grenade attacks in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry has strongly condemned the Bombay attacks and Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, offered condolences over the loss of life.
Police official Pasricha called Tuesday's attacks "an effort to halt the country's economic growth," adding that "I'm very sure that the city will be back to normal soon." The stock market rose by 3 percent on Wednesday.
"Bombay doesn't stop for anything. Everything is already back to normal," said Vaibhavi Seth, a hotel executive who rides trains to work every day.
"Life in this city is faster than any other city in the country," said the gray-haired Keshriwal as he prepared to spend the night in the waiting room at Hinduja Hospital, the facility where he found his nephew. "And we must move on. Maybe some people will be anxious about taking trains for a few days, but then life will go on."
The doctors told him that in two weeks his nephew may be ready to go back home.
Correspondent Pamela Constable in Washington contributed to this report.