Black Saturday haunts sellers, buyers at Sarojini Nagar (Three years after pre-Diwali blasts)

October 26th, 2008 - 1:40 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 26 (IANS) Prem Goyal sat in his shop watching the feeble crowd at the Sarojini Nagar market in south Delhi. Three years after a bomb ripped through the area days before Diwali, killing 34 people, fear has come back to haunt the shopkeepers and regular customers there.”Even if we want to, we can’t forget that terrible day when a bomb ripped through this market, immediately turning the festive mood into that of mourning. The spate of blasts in the capital last month has just added to the fear psychosis,” Goyal, whose shop was completely destroyed in the 2005 blast, told IANS.

This year Diwali falls on Tuesday, but even then there have been fewer shoppers at the market that once used to bustle with people.

“On Saturdays, especially, the market has a near empty look, unlike earlier. In 2005, and then last month, all the blasts were on Saturdays. Therefore people avoid the market on weekends. It is like black Saturday,” he said.

While attending to one of the customers in his shop that sells school uniforms, Goyal said the compensation he received from the government, a sum of Rs.50,000, was hardly enough to make up for the loss he suffered.

“I lost goods worth hundreds of thousands. The compensation amount was hardly enough, but the authorities couldn’t help. But we are pulling along, trying to string pieces of our lives together again,” he said.

Raju Paswan is another shopkeeper who suffered a great deal in the blast but has not received the compensation money because of a fault in the documentation process.

“My children look to me for new gifts and clothes for the festival, but since I can’t afford to, I have to disappoint them. I have just cleared my debt of medical bills for my injuries three years back,” said Paswan.

On Oct 29, 2005, three powerful blasts rocked the capital, killing 61 people, just three days before one of India’s grandest festivals, Diwali. Catching enthusiastic shoppers unawares, the most powerful blast was at the Sarojini Nagar market that killed 34 people and injured 32.

Three years later, just a few days ahead of Diwali, crowds of eager youngsters and excited families were busy haggling with shopkeepers at the market. But something was definitely missing.

“If you ask me, I try and avoid crowded places these days. With one blast after another, what else do you expect? We have to be careful,” said Sharda Misra, a homemaker based in Chanakyapuri who had come to the market with her mother-in-law for some Diwali shopping.

“If I have shopping to do, like I do today, I come early in the day. Evenings and weekends are definitely out.”

Ashok Randhawa, who owns a shop selling linen and curtains in the market, said shopkeepers as well as customers have become more vigilant after the blasts.

“After a lot of discussions and arguments, we got the police to allow people to park their cars inside the market about three days back. It was becoming such an inconvenience for customers,” he said.

“Not only that, we have hired our own guards across the market to help police in the security process,” Randhawa added.

But that hasn’t helped the shopkeepers boost their sales.

“In the evenings the market wears a near empty look because of which we are suffering a great loss. We generally stock our shops with clothes, toys and other things before festivals like Diwali, but this time we just haven’t had good sales,” Hari Prasad, a shopkeeper, told IANS.

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