New Delhi/Mumbai: On 12 March 1993, a dozen explosions ripped through Mumbai (then Bombay), killing 257 and injuring more than 700 as terrorism struck the heart of India’s commercial capital.
Twenty-five years later, of the 100 accused, 12 people have been given the death penalty, 20 sentenced to life and 23 acquitted.
It remains the single-largest synchronized terror attack in India, although in 2008, 10 members of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) executed a series of 12 coordinated shootings and bombings through Mumbai, killing 164 and injuring 308.
With over 4,000km of coastline and vulnerable, open riverine and spaces in the North, intelligence officials said loopholes in security need to be plugged to prevent such attacks.
“Very little was done between 1993 and 2008 to prevent the attacks. Our response system is very lax because we are unable to prevent civilian casualties. The Union home ministry is in the process of setting up marine police stations and the army is guarding our northern borders, but that in no way is a deterrent to Pakistan’s home-grown terror outfits to hit our country,” said a senior intelligence official, who did not wish to be named.
So far, 27 of the 1993 suspects, including alleged mastermind Dawood Ibrahim, are absconding.
Tushar Priti Deshmukh was 13 when one of the 12 blasts at Century Bazar killed his mother Priti and 112 others. When some 250-plus eminent citizens signed a mercy petition for key conspirator Yakub Memon in 2015, Tushar launched a counter-petition that got thousands of signatures of ordinary citizens.
“Terror attacks continue to happen because we, as citizens and victims, fail to answer one big question—do we value treason more than patriotism? People are afraid of terror also because they see that patriotism and martyrdom count for little but terrorists do get people to sign mercy petitions,” Deshmukh says.
On Monday, Tushar, who runs a car rental business and a restaurant in Dadar, will be at Century Bazar to attend a memorial service. He will also seek signatures to demand that all fugitives of the terror attack are brought to book.
“Unless we punish Dawood and others, we will never be able to defeat terrorism and convince ordinary people including victims and survivors of terror attacks that terrorism can be defeated by patriotism. People are afraid of Dawood because he has not been punished,” Tushar says, demanding a fightback by the government, security agencies, and citizens.
Key conspirator Tiger Memon’s brother Yakub Memon was hanged in July 2015—the first execution to be carried out in the case. Abu Salem was arrested in 2005. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Dawood’s close aide Farooq Takla on 8 March.
The investigating officer of the case Rakesh Maria could not be reached for comment.
A former official of CBI said with some of the key accused seeking refuge in countries which have sketchy extradition treaties with India, the investigation still had a long way to go.
“Some of the accused are still absconding. As far as Dawood is concerned, he is known to be in Pakistan and Pakistan will never hand him over to us. Takla’s arrest was a one-off case. Another accused Iqbal Mirchi died in the United Kingdom in 2013 without being extradited,” said this person on condition of anonymity.
Salem escaped the death penalty despite charges of arranging and supplying arms and ammunition.
“Salem has been claiming that Indian jail conditions are terrible and has challenged his extradition from Portugal. Extradition becomes a challenge because the accused cite poor human rights conditions in Indian jails,” the official quoted above added.