The man at the other end of the phone line knew a thing or two about the kind of explosives used in the Bangalore blasts: after all, he has made many of those himself.
“I got into it somehow; my father was dead, I had a lot of family problems, and some of my friends were doing it,” says the soft-spoken 32-year-old man in an Uttar Pradesh town, adding that he gave it all up several years ago.
“It’s all so simple. It takes about seven minutes to make one. It costs just Rs 25, and you can sell it for up to Rs 300 — that’s good enough for drug addicts and jobless youth. You don’t need to be religious to do it,” he said.
His voice quivering at times, the man narrates how he used to make explosives in open areas at night — never at home because of the risk from chemicals — packing chemicals in empty tins of popular tobacco brands.
“Sulphur is used, then there is a silver coloured powder, potassium nitrate, these are all mixed… Then a kind of acid is dried and added to it, and some salt — that is what causes the burning sensation to people after the explosion,” the man says.
“All this must not shake — it will explode. When they are being made, a bucket full of water is kept underneath so that it does not explode even if it slips from the hands.”
The making of low-intensity bombs — increasingly being used in India by militants — is extremely hard to crack down on, simply because the ingredients are available in every second neighbourhood.
“Broken pebbles, nails, broken glass, they are all packed on top of two or three spoonfuls of the chemical material. For car bombs, some people use cotton dipped in petrol — it sets the body on fire or the place where it falls,” the man says. “Then it is all sealed tightly with wiring tape, available in electrical stores.”
The man now scans through newspapers, pleads with people to give him a job and does odd chores to make ends meet. “I had fallen into bad company, it was a horrible time for me,” he says. “I gave it all up, then I got married and now I have a little daughter.”
The bombmakers are not hiding in homes or dingy basements; instead they are working in abandoned open spaces like ruins and damaged homes, he says. And they are not scared, he adds.
“When there is work to do, you have to do it — like you are a journalist, you will get the story even if there is firing going on, won’t you,” he asks. “This is also their profession, this is their livelihood.”