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Families numbed by pain

Families of Wednesday blast victims share stories of their frantic search for loved ones and the traumatic news of their deaths. Nivedita Khandekar and Jaya Shroff report.

delhi Updated: Sep 08, 2011 11:00 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

Had he not forgotten his black robe at home, 21-year-old Amanpreet Singh Jolly -fondly called Shampi by his relatives - would have been alive today.

Unlike other days, when the Amity University law student, a regular visitor to the Delhi high court, would gain easy entry, thanks to his advocate's dress, on Wednesday he stood in the queue to get a visitor's pass as he had forgotten his black robe.

A resident of Guru Nanakpura in Janakpuri in west Delhi, Amanpreet had gone to the court to submit a petition on behalf of his uncle. He was among those killed in the blast that occurred near Gate number 5 of the court.

A grievously injured Amanpreet was taken to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where he underwent an emergency operation. However, as a nurse broke the news of his death to his family at 1.34 pm, the world came crashing for his waiting family and friends. His father wailed as he said he should not have forced his son to go to the court.

The family wasn't even able to donate his organs as the hospital told his father Manmohan Singh that Amanpreet's body was badly mangled in the powerful blast.

His father's wish was an extension of the family's devotion for sewa. Amanpreet himself was a regular with a group of youngsters who offered sewa (service) at the five gurdwaras in the neighbourhood from 10pm onwards till late night.

"It was a routine for Amanpreet every night to offer sewa and despite late night service, he would continue regularly with his day time routine," said Bhupinder Singh Bahri, his relative.

After the family returned, a Reh Raas Sahib Ka Path was conducted at their house. A small white pandal stretching across the street in front of their house was flooded with relatives and family friends even as the family members remained inconsolable.

Amanpreet is survived by his parents, younger brother and grandmother and a horde of close relatives.

"The cremation will most likely take place tomorrow evening when Amanpreet's Taiji and her son return from the US," Bahri added.

Pawan Bansal (54) from Gurgaon
Had come to the high court to attend a hearing in his employer's case

The year was going to be full of festivities for Pawan Bansal's family. He had made all the arrangements for his son's impending wedding.

But the family got a rude shock when they were told of his death in the Wednesday blast at Delhi high court.

"He had made all the preparations and was very excited about the wedding. He was the one who had chosen the girl and was planning on throwing a lavish reception after the wedding. But we cannot do anything but mourn for the loss now. Within a span of a few minutes, our lives have been turned upside down," said Raj Bansal, wife of Pawan.

Bansal looked after the administration work in a doctor's chamber and lived in Gurgaon.

"He was at the Delhi high court to get a pass made for himself to enter the premises for a particular case. I didn't know that this would be his last day," said his grieving wife.

The day will leave an imprint on the Bansal family as one of mindless terror and the pain of the divide between the two visitors' lines at the hospital, one for the families of the dead and the other for the injured.

"Why must we suffer? My family is over. Can the government return my husband to me? For them it is just some common man who has died in the blast. But for us our life has come to a full stop," cried Raj.

Pawan Bansal was one of the nine victims who was brought dead to the hospital.

Mehtab Singh Dabas (55) from Ghewar village, Nangloi in West Delhi
Had come with his son for a hearing on land dispute case against his brother.

It was an important day for Mehtab Singh Dabas, a farmer from west Delhi. Wednesday was his first time at the high court and for the same reason he had left his Nangloi home early in the morning along with his son.

They reached the high court at 8:30am. Dabas was involved in a land dispute case against his brother Raj Singh Dabas.

"At 8:35am he called me up to inform that he has reached the court. He hadn't visited the high court ever in his life, so he had reached early on Wednesday morning. My associate also reached there to help him with the pass and other things. I called him just before the blast happened but he didn't answer the call and the very next moment I heard the blast. I rushed to the blast site. Dabas did not survive," said lawyer Sanjeev Beniwal, who rushed his client Dabas to Ram Manohar Lohiya (RML) Hospital after the explosion.

His twenty-year-old son Rohit, who suffered serious injuries, was also admitted to RML. "He was fighting a property-related case at the high court. He was getting his entry pass made when the blast occurred," said BS Gulia, brother-in-law of Dabas.

Dabas had already succumbed to the injuries when he was brought to the hospital. The Dabas family broke into tears and wails after identifying his body at the hospital's trauma centre.

"The explosion took place at 10.12am, 'rush hour' for the courthouse that usually starts hearings at 10.30am. On Wednesday, Public Interest Litigations (PIL) are heard in the high court, drawing larger than usual crowds. His death brought him to the court," added Beniwal.

Vinod Jaiswal (54) from Sarai Rohilla, Delhi
Had come to the court in a case related to a property dispute

Vinod Jaiswal from Sarai Rohilla was standing in the queue to get his entry pass made outside the Delhi high court on Wednesday when the blast took his life.

He was at the courts in relation to an 80-year-old land dispute, which his family was involved in.

"We have been fighting a court battle with an advocate who has illegally occupied our land in the posh Hauz Khas colony," said Ashok Jaiswal, the brother's victim.

"We were hopeful that the court would rule in our favour and my brother was very positive about a just verdict," he said.

Till about 4.30pm on Wednesday, no one in the immediate Jaiswal family knew about his death.

"We had been frantically looking for him ever since we heard of the blast on television channels. I have just come out of the hospital after identifying his body. I am not sure how I will break the news to his wife and sons," his brother added.

"I will try and keep the news to myself till we reach home. I am really not sure about how his family will react if I told them about his death right now," he said.

Jaiswal is survived by his wife and two sons, aged 29 and 30.

"The only worry is both his sons are yet to be settled in life; both the sons are still unsure about their livelihood or what to do with their lives," he added.

Jaiswal's family also claimed that they had received no information from the police or the hospital about his death.

"When we heard of the blast from the news channels, we first rushed to the court from there we were told that the injured were taken to AIIMS, Safdarjung and Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital. We had no clue where to go and how to look for him," the brother added.

"Finally after waiting for over three hours I somehow found my way inside the trauma center at RML Hospital, and then into the room where the bodies were kept. I think there should be a more organised arrangement to help anxious families," he added.

HD Joshi (68) from Naraina
Had filed a civil case against civic bodies for non-development of Naraina industrial area

When his wife Chandra Joshi, 62, and daughter reached the hospital at 3.45pm, they had no clue that he was dead. "Just half an hour back, we were informed that he was in the hospital. We have come to enquire about his well being," said his wife, dressed in a bright red kurta.

"Madam, sir is no more," interjected Ramanand Gupta, president of Naraina Industries Association, who had just identified the body with some of his associates, minutes ago.

Joshi was a footwear manufacturer and patron, Naraina Industries Association. "No, you don't know. You are mistaken. He is undergoing treatment," insisted his wife, dismissing Gupta's claim.

Gupta, who was visibly shaken after personally identifying the body, preferred to remain silent. Just then the nursing attendant called out for Joshi's family, when she went in.

Minutes later, she came out wearing a shattered look, with her hands tearing into her peppered hair. "This can't be true," she wept as she tugged into her daughter, who tried to maintain her composure. "Mummy, be strong," she said, wrapping her mother in her arms, trying hard to hold back her own tears.

Joshi was a regular at the high court, as he was fighting a civil case on behalf of Naraina Industries Association against the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Delhi Jal Board and Delhi Development Authority over the non-development of Naraina industrial area.

Joshi owned a PVC Footwear factory. His family was upset that no one from the hospital or the police informed them about his injury.

"We only came to know of the blast from reports on television channels. This is not good. It is the duty of the state to inform the families of the injured in such a situation," said Ram Gupta, a family friend of the Joshis.

Joshi is survived by his wife, two married daughters and an unmarried son Abhik, who is presently in London.

Darshan Lal (62) from Shakti Nagar
Had come to get a pass made for a hearing in a property dispute case

"One moment my father was standing in the senior citizen's line and the very next moment he was gone," said Rajkumar Jain, son of Darshan Lal who died in Wednesday's blast.

"We were fighting a property dispute case and my father was waiting for an entry pass. Things have come to an end for us now," he added.

His father ran his own business in Shakti Nagar extension in north Delhi.

For the Jain family, a few metres is all it took to change their lives. Had his father decided to stand in the line behind him, he would have been alive today.

"The two queues were just a few metres apart. If we had arrived a few minutes late or early, things would have been different. I don't think I'll ever be able to recover from the shock of losing my father, who I was so close to," he said.

Veerpal Singh (50) from east Delhi's Gandhi Nagar
Had come for a hearing in a civil suit related to his sister's marriage

At 9.20am on Wednesday, Anand Prakash left his house with his friend Veerpal Singh, a resident of Gandhi Nagar in east Delhi, to appear for a hearing in a civil suit related to the latter's sister at the Delhi high court.

But not even in his wildest dreams had Prakash thought that this would be their last trip together, anywhere.

At 10.14am, the world came crashing down for both the friends.

"I was filling a form while Veerpal was in the queue to get his pass made. Suddenly I heard a loud bang and next thing I saw was bodies lying around in pools of blood. I couldn't find my friend after the incident," said Prakash.

His friend had died in the powerful blast that shook the city. Singh is survived by two daughters and two sons.

"I kept calling on his mobile phone but it was unreachable. A minute ago, he had been just 10 steps away from me, and after the high intensity blast, his was one of the charred bodies I saw lying near the visitor's gate of the Delhi high court," added Prakash.

Singh's family came to identify the body at the trauma centre of Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital.

"We have just identified the body. He was wearing a blue shirt. As soon as we saw the news of the blast on TV, we called Anand uncle, but he didn't answer our calls. After some time he called us to inform that my father was dead," said an inconsolable Kanchan Singh, daughter of Veerpal Singh.

Singh had an optical shop in east Delhi's Gandhi Nagar and both his sons worked with private companies.

Inder singh (80) from Geeta Colony
Had come as a witness in a civil dispute case with a neighbour

They stood inches away from each other, yet one father lost his life in the explosion, while his son managed to escape.
Things took an unprecedented turn for Inder Singh, who stood in the senior citizens queue to avoid waiting endlessly, when the explosion rocked the vicinity of the Delhi high court.

"My father, who was a retired government official, was waiting to get his entry pass made for a hearing on a civil dispute case. For a moment I didn't understand what happened. But when I realised that a bomb had exploded, I saw my father lying in a pool of blood. His legs had been blown away by the bomb's impact," said Harjit Singh, Inder's son.

Harjit picked up his father, bundled him inside a police gypsy and rushed him to the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital. Around 15 members from Inder's family waited anxiously inside the emergency ward at RML Hospital to take possession of his body.

"As if losing our father wasn't enough, the hospital staff added to our misery. We didn't know when we would get the body or where it would be taken for post mortem," added Harjit.

Similar stories of devastation and estrangement surfaced across hospital compounds in the city.

Video: Eyewitness account

Ashok Sharma (55) from Palam Extension, Delhi
Had come for a PIL

Ashok Sharma's family was unwilling to talk. He is a resident of B-201 Palam extension, Dwarka.

Nalini Agarwal (34) from Vasant Vihar
Nalini Agarwal had come to the high court with her husband Brijesh Agarwal, who is hospitalised at RML Hospital. He is stated to be out of danger and was shifted to a ward post his operation.

(Text by Jaya Shroff, Neelam Pandey and Rajat Arora)

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