A Missile in the Living Room
The explosive RDX used in the Bombay blasts in 1993 had come to India on
boats that had dropped their cargos on the Konkan coast. (Bombay was
given the Marathi name Mumbai in 1996.) In that stretch of white sand
fringed by coconut groves is a village named Walavati, and I was going
there to meet Iqbal Haspatel. He had been arrested on charges of terror-
ism a month after the bombings. When I went to Walavati, the specially
designated anti-terrorism court was about to deliver its judgment in the
Bombay blasts trial. This had been India’s biggest criminal case and the
court had taken thirteen years to reach a verdict.
On March 12, 1993, there had been a series of bombings—one bomb
in the Stock Exchange, another in the offices of Air India, still others,
placed in scooters and cars, in crowded areas outside a temple and else-
where. These had resulted in the deaths of 257 people. The bombings were
to avenge the deaths of Muslims in riots just a few months before. All
this was unleashed by the destruction, at the hands of a Hindu mob, of a
sixteenth-century mosque in northern India. In those riots, according to
a report by a government commission, thirty-one police officers had killed
innocent Muslims and, sometimes, had participated in the riots them-
It rained for nearly all of the five hours it took me by car from Mum-
bai to Walavati. The driver’s name was Sharda Prasad Pandey, but he was
called Doctor because he had been frequently ill as a child. Every few
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