Fear and anger gripped India's capital yesterday after a bomb exploded outside a court in Delhi, killing at least 11 people and wounding around 75.
It was the second such attack at the location within four months.
Up to 100 people had been gathered at the Delhi High Court preparing to enter the complex and file petitions when the high explosive device, believed to have been placed in a suitcase left at a gate, went off at around 10.15am. The explosion created a wave of shrapnel that left around 75 people injured and sent lawyers and their clients fleeing in terror.
Last night, as hospitals in the city battled to treat the injured, some of whom were said to be in a critical condition, several Indian television channels said they received an email from an Islamist militant group claiming responsibility for the attack. The
Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami is operational in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and has been linked to previous attacks. Despite the claim, government officials and investigators said it was too early apportion blame until inquiries were complete. Sketches were issued of two men wanted by the police.
Speaking from neighbouring Bangladesh, where he is on an official visit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a statement, that said India would “never succumb to the pressure of terrorists”. He added: “This is a long war in which all political parties and all the people of India will have to stand united so that this scourge of terrorism is crushed.”
Yet for all the talk of standing together, there was fury among many of those caught up in the blast, the deadliest in the city since 2008.
Rahul Gandhi, a senior member of the ruling Congress Party and son of the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, was reportedly heckled when he visited a hospital where many of the injured had been taken.
At the court, a number of people asked why more had not been done to protect the premises, located close to the India Gate monument which was the site of a failed car bomb attack on May 26. The Delhi High Court Bar Council president Rakesh Tikku told reporters: “The Home Minister visited the blast site and he assured that better arrangements will maintained here, like installation of CCTV cameras, the lack of which is a major setback of such mishaps.”
The timing of the blast appeared to be designed to ensure the maximum number of people were injured. Renu Sehgal, a 42-year-old housewife with a case before the court, had just received a pass to enter the complex and was standing her uncle and mother while her husband parked
their car when the explosion happened. “The sound was so huge and suddenly people started running. We were all in such a big panic. I’m lucky I survived,” she told the Associated Press.
The bomb was the latest in India since three devices exploded in Mumbai in July, killing 20 people. Given that security in cities such as Delhi had supposedly been raised in the aftermath of the attacks, yesterday’s incident sparked fresh questions about the ability of the authorities to protect the public. “Have we become so vulnerable that terrorist groups can almost strike at will?” Arun Jaitley, a senior member of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, said in parliament.
Independent News Service