|Smoke floats over the crowd after one of the bombs exploded at Gandhi Maidan in Patna on Sunday. (Reuters)|
Patna, Oct. 27: For 90 nerve-shredding minutes, Brajesh Mishra watched over the plastic-wrapped device, pleaded with police to send a bomb disposal squad, asked people to stay away, and grew ever more frantic as five blasts went off elsewhere on Gandhi Maidan.
Then he watched the bomb go off from 15ft away at 12.45pm, the exact time shown on the timer.
The 50-something activist of the BJP’s Kala Sanskriti Manch had spotted the device at 11.15am as he stood on the Maidan’s northwest fringe.
“An SP and a DSP visited the site and we told them about the bomb but the defuse team never arrived,” said Mishra, who has splinters in his hands, from his bed at Patna Medical College Hospital.
“I guarded the bomb for an hour and a half. Then it exploded before my eyes,” the resident of Banka district said. It was the day’s eighth and last blast.
Samastipur resident Azad Thakur voiced another — very common — complaint against the police: they were slow to help the injured.
“After the blasts, the cops were running to save themselves. We cried for help but they ignored us. Some of the rally participants helped us to hospital,” Thakur said.
“I got injured in the middle of the field, probably in the fourth blast — I had already heard three explosions and was about to leave.”
|A bomb goes off while it was being defused in Patna on Sunday. (PTI)|
Till late night, the casualty figures remained at five dead and 83 injured, some 20 of them serious. Two explosions happened at Patna railway station, claiming one life, and six at Narendra Modi’s rally venue, Gandhi Maidan, killing four. One saving grace was that there was no major stampede.
Sources said the police had detained four people for questioning. Among them were a Ranchi resident who had arrived in Patna this morning and a BJP activist.
The first bomb struck in a toilet at the railway station at 9.30am, but the trains carrying BJP supporters had arrived some time ago and the platforms were not crowded.
The lone man killed was a “human bomb”, the police said. An unidentified young man was apparently tying a timer-fitted bomb with a belt around his waist when it exploded.
Security personnel then found two live bombs in the toilet, one of which exploded around 12.40pm while being defused. Bomb disposal squad officer Navin Mishra suffered injuries to his right arm.
Two other live bombs were found at Gandhi Maidan. Two people were killed in the fourth blast at the park, near the so-called twin towers (a residential-cum-commercial complex). Which blast killed the two others was not clear.
Someone had locked the room at Patna Medical College Hospital where the five mangled bodies had been kept and left. So, Naveen Singh, 29, had to climb the railings and peep through the ventilator to spot uncle Rajan Singh’s body.
“We got separated at the rally. Around 1pm, I got a call from home (Gaurichak in Patna) saying they had seen my uncle on TV, bleeding and being carried away by cops.”
Her face contorted by anguish, middle-aged Anita Singh pleaded helplessly: “Please ask someone to open the door, son.” Then she too hoisted herself on the railings for a peek inside. She was luckier: brother Anil was not among the dead.
After half an hour, a man opened the door and a big crowd entered.
In the emergency ward, bleeding patients shared beds, waiting their turn for surgery to remove splinters. But BJP leaders made a beeline for the hospital with their supporters, worsening the chaos.
Giriraj Singh, Shahnawaz Hussain and Rajiv Pratap Rudy tried to browbeat policemen to let them and their supporters into the jam-packed emergency ward, from where even patients’ relatives were barred. Their SUVs left little room on a narrow street for the ambulances.
Some BJP supporters banged on a ward’s closed collapsible gate and forced their way in, sending frightened attendants scurrying for safety.