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1993 blasts: How the areas targeted by the terrorists have changed

It was with a lot of care that the terrorists chose the spots in Mumbai to be targeted. First there was the Bombay Stock Exchange, Asia’s oldest stock exchange that epitomises the economic energy of Mumbai. The bomb there was the first to go off. HT reports.

mumbai Updated: Mar 22, 2013 02:12 IST
HT Coresspondents
HT Coresspondents
Hindustan Times

It was with a lot of care that the terrorists chose the spots in Mumbai to be targeted. First there was the Bombay Stock Exchange, Asia’s oldest stock exchange that epitomises the economic energy of Mumbai. The bomb there was the first to go off.

Bombay Stock Exchange

The bomb blast in the basement garage of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) changed work routines for countless traders, brokers and employees.

From a place that one could breeze in and out of, the 32-storey building, BSE got transformed into a fortress with high security and introduced procedures for those who wanted to enter the building.

There are security personnel on every floor of the building. Once inside, visitors get a photo identity card and have to fill out a slip mentioning the name of the person they want to visit.

The slip with the person’s signature has to be deposited with the security while leaving the premises.

“Before the blast, the BSE building was an open house and anyone could walk in or gather around the building. Today, it is a fortress,” said Ashok Khandelwal, a businessman from Goregaon who was on the fifth floor when the blast took place.

Khandelwal said, “Now, there are too many formalities before entering the place. But, high security has also sorted the clutter at BSE and Dalal Street.”

Following the blast that also injured hawkers outside BSE, all hawkers have been removed from the barricaded entrance to the building and from the sides. (Reported by Nidhi Verma)

Plaza cinema, Dadar

Moments after the bomb blast at Lucky petrol pump next to Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar (West) at 2.30pm, a huge crowd of people ran toward the blast site from Plaza theatre a few hundred metres away to know what had happened.

Parag Sawant, then 16, was standing outside his office stationary shop along with one of the shop’s employees. Even as he tried to know the cause of the commotion, another deafening blast ripped through Plaza theatre at 3.13pm.

“Window panes and chunks of the wall from the first floor came flying toward us. The entire shop was shaking,” said Sawant, 36, who now runs another shop.

“The smoke and dust from the blast filled the area and all we could see was shocked people and mangled pieces of a red car that carried the bomb,” said Atmaram Mandavkar, 51, who was also present at the shop. Sawant said that 20 years and another blast later, there are still no CCTV cameras installed at the square opposite Plaza. “This clearly shows the apathy on part of the police,” he added.

Just a few steps ahead of Plaza, the staffers at Shivaji Mandir theatre continue to thank their stars as the famous auditorium was rumoured to be a possible target after the riots.

“We had got anonymous letters informing us of a possible threat to Shivaji Mandir. Luckily, there was no play being staged when the bomb at Plaza went off. It would have surely triggered a stampede,” said Sabaji, Malkar, 60, assistant manager at Shivaji Mandir. (Reported by Nikhil M Ghanekar)

Shiv Sena Bhavan, Dadar

On March 12, 1993, Omprakash Changoiwala was going about his business at his first floor office at Bharat Petroleum’s fuel station opposite Shiv Sena Bhavan.

Suddenly, something exploded at Lucky Petrol Pump. Shrapnel from the blast shattered several glass panes of his petrol pump.

“Sitting in my office, it seemed like a ball of fire was hurtling towards me. The explosion was intense. Thankfully, even at Lucky, all the workers had stepped out for lunch. Only one person from the petrol pump died apart from passers-by,” said Changoiwala, now 75 years old.

The sole victim from Lucky petrol pump was the last person to interact with the terrorists who had parked the car inside the petrol pump.

“The mechanic’s father told me later that he was filling air in the car’s tyre when the terrorists slyly walked away. Fortunately, as there was no car fuelling at the bunk, the nozzle from the bunk was not naked. That helped prevent the fire from the blast spreading towards our petrol pump,” Changoiwala said.

He added, “There was a scooter parked near the petrol pump. During the explosion, the scooter was flung in the air and almost landed on top of a double-decker bus.”

The petrol pump has since been demolished and a building is taking shape in its place. The square in front of Sena Bhavan continues to be a bustling junction.

The locality continues to ring with the presence of Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena headquarters and police keep a 24x7 vigil at the junction today. (Reported by Nikhil M Ghanekar)

Century Bazaar, Worli

Raghunath Shetty stands behind the counter of his Udupi restaurant at Worli’s Century Bazar, amid tables crowded with lunchtime patrons.

“The crowds returned as soon as we reopened, six months later,” he says. “In fact the area became more popular. People would come to see the site of the blast.”

The explosion that tore into the restaurant on March 12, 1993, was the deadliest of the 13 blasts that day, claiming 113 lives as it levelled shops nearby and shattered windowpanes.

Shetty, whose restaurant was just metres away from the explosives, lost three staff members. Twenty years on, locals such as shoe shop owner Salauddin Khan say they do not think about that day any more. The memory has not faded away completely, though.

Every year, on March 12, residents gather to pray at a peepal tree that absorbed much of the impact of the blast, later regenerating and turning green again.

“In a way, this big tree shielded us and we are grateful for that,” says restaurateur Shetty.

More than 100 metres away, businessman Umesh Nayak, 44, still lives at Adharsh Nagar co-operative housing society, where the blast shattered all the windowpanes.

“There were only hollows where the glass had been,” he says. “The damage has long since been repaired .”
(Reported by Mugdha Variyar)

Zaveri Bazaar

Hasmukh Sanghvi was in his clothing shop on the first floor of a building in Vithalwadi when he heard the loud sound of a bomb exploding.

The glass panes on the shop’s windows overlooking the lanes of Zaveri Bazaar shattered instantly. “The damage to the building was so bad that it needed a complete overhaul,” says Sanghvi, who is the fourth generation in his family to run the clothes business.

Kumar Jain who owns three shops at Zaveri Bazaar selling gold, silver and diamonds said the vibrations from the blast had them running out of the shops.

“We saw people covered in blood. The injured were being taken to hospitals on handcarts,” says Jain, who is the vice-president of Mumbai Jewellers Association.

With the insurance money, most shops were restored. Sanghvi’s clothes business is thriving again. But Zaveri Bazaar’s attempts to get back to business have been difficult. The area had more dates with terror on August 25, 2003 and July 13, 2011.

The maze of lanes and buildings still houses thousands of jewellery workshops and diamond polishing units. But many jewellery shops have moved to the suburbs and other businesses have moved in. The area lost its identity as the city’s jewellery retail hub.

“There are more imitation jewellery shops here. People are afraid to come to crowded markets; they prefer buying gold from local shops,” Sanghvi says.

The constant threat of terror means that every nook and corner in Zaveri Bazaar is now under CCTV surveillance.

First Published: Mar 22, 2013 02:02 IST