FOUR days after Mumbai was hit by one of its worst terror strikes, a shaken diamond trading community reacted in chorus — “expect no help from the government, we have to protect ourselves”.
The 7/11 serial blasts claimed 12 men from their community. Ironically, eight years later, after a special court pronounced its verdict in the 7/11 train blasts case Friday, the diamond and bullion merchants still feel unnerved, constantly on the watch.
“This (terror attacks) will not stop, ever. Year after year, we have seen this happen. The trading community lives in perpetual fear. I firmly believe we need to protect ourselves on our own. We have to be alert at all times,” said Kumar Jain, vice-president of the Mumbai Jewellers’ Association. Jain, who operates from Zaveri Bazaar in South Mumbai which has witnessed three attacks in the last two decades, said on an average at least 5 lakh people used Mumbai’s suburban trains to commute daily to Zaveri Bazaar alone.
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“Whether the accused of 7/11 are punished or not punished, the message is very clear that they (terrorists) want to get maximum publicity by attacking the influential gold and diamond trading community. The diamond, bullion and jewellery traders are the biggest tax-payers in the country. Why can’t the government improve security to ensure our safety,” said Jain. Jain’s fears are not unfounded. The Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) probing the case stated in its chargesheet that the attack was planned to avenge the 2002 Gujarat riots. “The accused choose the first class compartments of the local trains, generally taken by the Gujarati community,” said former ATS Chief K P Raghuvanshi, who headed the probe. A majority of bullion traders and diamond merchants belong to the Gujarati community in Mumbai.
A senior official from the intelligence agency too said the blast was unique not just for the ‘orchestra effect’ but for the manner in which a large number of the victims belonged to a single target group – Gujaratis in the first class compartments.
Repeated attacks on diamond trading hubs located in Zaveri bazaar and Opera House pushed the traders to shift to a new location. In 2011, most of these companies moved to the more secure Bharat Diamond Bourse in the Bandra-Kurla Complex in suburban Mumbai.
Spread across 20 acres with a built-up area of 2 million sq ft, the new hub has a security cover at par with global standards.
“The trading community has always been under attack whether it’s the 7/11, Zaveri bazaar or Opera House. But since the time we have shifted to BKC, the security situation has improved tremendously. We feel more secure now,” said Vipul Shah, chairman of Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council.