Screams, silence as families collect bodies in Jaipur

A shock of thick black hair was all that peeped out from under a white sheet that covered a small body Wednesday at a morgue in Jaipur after serial bomb blasts killed about 80 people.

Eight bombs went off within minutes of each other in crowded markets close to several Hindu temples in what police said was a terror attack on the city 260km west of India’s capital.

The body on the stretcher belonged to 10-year-old Kanha Mahar, who had gone to a temple to the Hindu deity Hanuman on a traditional day to pray to the monkey god. He had huge gash in his head.

“We were looking for him all evening,” said his uncle Jagdish Kumar Gathera, who found him at the hospital, unable to breathe.

The doctors ordered drugs but before they arrived the boy was dead.

Gathera and family looked on in shocked silence as Mahar’s body was taken off a rusty gurney into an ambulance, leaving behind a pool of blood.

Volunteers of the right-wing Hindu organisation Rashtriya Swayamseval Sangh (RSS, National Volunteers Association), who were manning the short-staffed hospital mortuary said it was a scene that played through the night.

Bodies arrived quickly from one of half a dozen blast sites, family members had to search for loved ones and corpses were put into the morgue’s deep-freeze for identification through the coming hot day.

With several of the bombs going off near temples, there were fears that Hindu-Muslim riots could break out, an ever-present worry in religiously divided India.

Blue-fatigue clad paramilitary troops of India’s Rapid Action Force and police fanned out across the city as a curfew was imposed from 9am (3.30am GMT).

The nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has links to the RSS and rules the western desert state of Rajasthan, of which Jaipur is the capital, called a strike Wednesday to protest against the bombings.

But in the hospital wards and at the morgue, both Hindus and Muslims, a strong minority in the city, were among the dead.

A man clad in a red shirt who arrived shortly after the Gatheras left, cried out in anguish when he saw his niece Arina Maruf, also 10, laid out on the gurney Mahar had just vacated.

The little girl’s head was a tousle of matted curls caked with dried blood and her eyes were still open as the volunteers carefully covered her with a white sheet.

The centre of the attacks was the walled city’s Johari bazaar, a strip of jewellers and clothes shops housed in the pink buildings with delicate filigree windows that are the hallmark of Jaipur, known as the Pink City.

Jaipur is popular with foreign tourists but there were few in the city in mid-May, the hot season in northern India when temperatures soar above 40°C.

Shops were closed ahead of the curfew as curious bystanders milled around a blast site, staring at shards of glass, cracked windows of a car and scattered slippers.

At Jaipur cremation ground, Govind Khanagwal, his foot bandaged, sat by his father’s corpse as volunteers took kindling to add to the funeral pyre and recalled the confusion.

“Everything was black. I ran up an alley behind the shop,” Khanagwal (22) said.

“I came back after a minute or two and he was lying there, his legs and arms were no longer attached to his body.”

But he pledged to return to the destroyed stall run by his father that sold garlands for temple worshippers.

Another survivor vividly recalled the horror.

“I heard two explosions and I was wondering what happened. Then a bomb went off right in front of me,” said Malchand Bagoria, who runs a fruit stall opposite one of the bomb sites.

“Then I saw a woman’s body go flying through the air. There were so many bodies.” - AFP



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