Eyewitnesses recall Pune's night of terror
Fear and rage writ across their faces, the eyewitnesses who helped take the injured and the dead to nearby hospitals after the German Bakery blast in Pune on Saturday, described their horrific experiences to rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore and Rohan Jagan.
Sameer Ahmed Shaikh, who has been a rickshaw driver since the last 12 years, was enjoying a cup of tea along with fellow driver Hanumant Sitaram Kute at approximately 6.45 on Saturday evening at a rickshaw stand just outside German Bakery in Pune's Koregaon Park.
Shaikh and Kute -- and many more like them in the city -- often come to this stand after ferrying passengers to their destinations.
"On Saturday evening (on February 13), I saw five people, two of them very young women, come out of the Bakery with their bodies aflame. The sound of their screams made my heart palpitate even this morning," says Hanumant, who spent a sleepless night, haunted by the images of that horrific night.
Incidentally, their detour back to the German Bakery has an economic rationale that's associated with the people who regularly patronise this hot and happening joint -- until the other day -- in Pune's hippest address Koregaon Park. Because of German Bakery's proximity to the Osho International Ashram and the Jewish Chabad House, the eatery is always choc-a-bloc with foreign tourists who tip these rickshaw drivers generously.
"I have many foreigners' name in my friends' list," boasts Shaikh, about how economics has helped total strangers like the foreign tourists, who speak a different language, befriend the likes of him who speak only Marathi. "They even wait for me to take them to various tourist places in Pune if I am not around," he adds, explaining how his profession and the tourists' urge to move around with someone they are familiar with, has encouraged an intimate relationship with foreign tourists.
Image: (Left) Hanumant Sitaram Kute and Sameer Ahmed Shaikh
'Their bodies were aflame'
And it is this bonding that makes Hanumant, who has been driving a rickshaw since the last 17 years, an angry Punekar, as he recalls the incident that evening.
"I think the perpetrators of such heinous acts should be hanged at a public square without any trial," he adds angrily.
Both Sameer and Hanumant took the injured to the nearest Inlaks and Budhrani hospitals.
Vishal Gondhale, a local resident, was driving his bike near the bakery when he heard a loud blast. He braked furiously to avoid hitting an Innova vehicle in front of him, which did the same to avoid hitting a Swift car at the same line.
The dead body of a young girl, with badly mutilated lower limbs, was flung high up in the air and fell in front of the Swift car, a few feet away from German Bakery. Stunned by the loud explosion, Vishal saw blood splattered over the Swift and a mass of human flesh all over the place. He managed to gather his wits, parked his two-wheeler along the road and rushed to witness one of the goriest incidents of his life.
Image: (Left) Tushar Nagawade, Vishal Gondhale and Anil Jawle
'Her black jeans had turned blood red'
"The girl must have been around 25-26 years old. She was wearing a black T-shirt and black jeans that had turned blood red," he says.
Immediately, Vishal called his friends Tushar Nagawade, 17, a resident of lane number 4 in Koregaon Park, another local resident Anil Jawle, 22, and the local Maharashtra Navnirman Sena corporator Rajendra Babu Vagaskar.
Vagaskar soon reached the spot with an ambulance and helped rush many of the injured victims to the nearby Inlaks & Budhrani hospitals.
(Vishal, Tushar, Anil and Agaskar are all MNS workers who did not think twice about the regional identities of the Indians and foreigners they helped take to various city hospitals. A lesson, perhaps, here for their senior leaders who leave no stone unturned to create a regional rift in India, unaware that it is ultimately humanity that transcends parochial identities.)
In this melee, Tushar helped an injured foreign tourist call up his father in the United States on his cell phone, as he was being rushed to Budhrani Hospital. "This fellow's lower limbs were in bad shape, he was writhing in pain. He asked me to connect him to his father on his cell phone in America. He gave me the number," recalls Tushar.
The worst graphic details of the entire episode, however, comes from Anil, who saw mounds of human flesh and fingers lying in the vicinity of German Bakery. "I must admit that I was extremely scared to see blood and human flesh strewn all across the street but somehow managed to help a few," he admits.
He, along with his colleagues, continued their yeoman's service through the night: taking the injured and the dead to various hospitals, arranging for blood donations and handing over the belongings of people to the police.
Image: An autorickshaw lies abandoned a few feet away from German Bakery as cops who have been on duty for more than 15 hours at a stretch drink water