2003 Mumbai Blasts: Public May Have Forgotten, Survivors Cannot
25 August 2003 – A taxi exploded in the heart of Mumbai’s Zaveri Bazaar killing at least 29 people. The impact was so intense that glass panes of surrounding jewellery stores along a 200 metre radius lay shattered. Before the police or emergency services could kick in, another explosion, this time right next to the Gateway of India, left 25 people dead. Over 250 people were injured in the blasts.
Forty-eight-year-old Ramchandra Gupta was one of the lucky ones to escape unscathed despite being just 50 metres away from the blast at Gateway of India. Quickly regaining his composure after the explosion, Ramchandra started rescuing those injured before ambulances could reach the spot.
The modus operandi in both the attacks were the same – the bombs were planted in a taxi which exploded at a fixed time. During their investigation, the Mumbai police achieved their most important breakthrough after the taxi driver who survived the blast at the Gateway of India described the suspects in the case.
Cracking The Twin Blasts Case
Based on the description received, Mumbai police arrested the three key accused in the case – Ashrat Ansari (32), Hanif Sayed (46) and his wife Fehmida Sayed (43).
Further probe revealed that on 25 August 2003, Ansari, along with Hanif Sayed, his wife and two minor daughters, hired a taxi and reached the Gateway of India. They were carrying a bag of explosives with them, which they left in the taxi and told the cab driver that they would return after lunch. From there, they hired another taxi and reached Zaveri Bazar. Just minutes after the bomb at Gateway of India exploded, Zaveri Bazaar witnessed a similar incident.
Motive Behind The Blasts
During their questioning, the convicted trio said that their motive for executing the terror attack was to extract revenge for the 2002 communal riots that took place in Gujarat.
Seething with anger, Ashrat Ansari, Hanif Sayed and Fehmida Sayed made their first move in July 2003. The trio planted a bomb in a BEST bus in Mumbai’s suburban Jogeshwari area. The explosion claimed two lives but unsatisfied by its impact, they plotted the deadly twin blasts in India’s financial capital. This time, killing 52 people and injuring over 250.
Due to the heinous nature of the crime, Ashrat Ansari, Hanif Sayed and Fehmida Sayed were awarded death sentence by the POTA court.
While the 1993 serial blasts and the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai continue to remain fresh in people’s minds, the 2003 twin blasts have now faded from collective memory. However, for those who witnessed the attacks and its survivors, the incident remains etched like it happened yesterday.
The blast occurred just about 15 feet away from my shop. My brother who was with me at the store was injured, so was another boy who worked at the shop, but by God’s grace, I escaped unharmed. But even after 14 years, I remember every single detail from 25 August 2003.Mohd Wasique Khan, 2003 Mumbai blast survivor
Cameraperson: Sanjoy Deb
Video Editor: Kammaljiit Kainth