Curfew lifted in Jaipur; 63 dead, 216 injured (Night Lead)

May 14th, 2008 - 11:13 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Anil Sharma, Sahil Makkar, Kavita Bajeli-Datt
Jaipur, May 14 (IANS) Curfew was lifted Wednesday evening from Jaipur’s terror-hit walled city as the traumatised Rajasthan capital limped back to normalcy after its first bomb attacks left 63 people dead and 216 injured. Hundreds of police and paramilitary personnel, however, patrolled the streets and lanes with Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje saying she believed that “an international terror group” was responsible for the bloodbath.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sanctioned an ex-gratia amount of Rs.100,000 to the next of the kin of each of those killed in the Tuesday evening serial blasts in half a dozen crowded areas.

Eight bombs went off within 15 minutes in a one-kilometre radius. All the dead and injured were Indians.

Earlier, a strict curfew was enforced in a large swathe of Jaipur from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., emptying the streets of all traffic. Even areas outside the curfew zone saw no life as shops, offices and educational institutions were shut.

Although summer is not the tourist season in Rajasthan, the few foreign tourists admitted they were shaken. A young couple from Britain said their honeymoon had been rudely shattered.

Chief Minister Raje admitted the bombings would hit the tourism industry in the desert state. “The impact will be there. But we will be ensuring and taking all measures to minimise the impact.”

Raje added: “The bombers targeted crowded places. They wanted to inflict maximum damage. They wanted to raise Hindu-Muslim tensions. But I am confident that Jaipur will be back on its feet, there will be no problem. The situation is now completely under control.”

Most of the wounded were in two hospitals, where doctors worked through the night performing emergency surgeries. Many victims had shrapnel wounds caused when the bombs kept in bags and left on nine newly bought parked cycles went off without any warning.

On Wednesday evening, the police released the photo sketch of a man suspected to have purchased the bicycles.

Many Jaipur residents crowded the hospitals to offer blood, creating welcome scenes of brotherhood amid sorrow and grief.

Even as the world denounced the attacks - the US offered help in the investigations - Rajasthan’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government accused the central government of failing to provide focussed intelligence that could have foiled the coordinated bombings.

Raje said that with a 1,000-km long border with Pakistan, Rajasthan needed a tough law to tackle terrorism, akin to the now defunct Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). “We have sent a similar bill to the central government but it has been lying there for two years.”

Her party leader L.K. Advani urged the Indian government to re-enact POTA to meet the challenge of terrorists. “After seeing the major blasts in Jaipur, it is high time for the government of India to reintroduce POTA.”

The chief minister said the terrorists had used high-velocity RDX explosives and ammonium nitrate. “We have slender leads… We have detained two or three people for questioning.”

Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria told IANS: “The central government is equally responsible for the blasts.” He was asked if Rajasthan had been lethargic to warnings from New Delhi about possible terror attacks.

Under fire from the BJP, the ruling Congress came up with its own prescription of a federal agency to counter terror.

“All Indians must stand united. The government is trying to build a consensus on a central agency (to tackle acts of terrorism across the country),” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said.

The Indian government also asserted that “cross-border terrorism” was back on the agenda for talks with Pakistan this month following the Jaipur bombings.

One of the carefully choreographed blasts went off near a Hanuman temple that draws a large number of devotees on Tuesdays. The affected areas are home to both Muslims and Hindus.

One police officer said the police were looking for a woman who allegedly promised Rs.100,000 to a rickshaw puller to carry out the terror attacks.

“We are looking for a woman, identified as Meena, who tried to lure a rickshaw puller, Vijay, to carry out the attacks,” the officer said on the condition of anonymity.

Vijay, a resident of Mumbai who suffered minor shrapnel injures, told the police that Meena lives near one of the blast sites.

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