Hoon theek chu, mane haath ane pag ma lagyu che. Mane khabar nathi su thayu. Hoon hospital ma chu, mane beeja lokoni khabar nathi. Maro mobile mara pase nathi” (I am fine, I have hurt my hands and leg. I do not know what happened there, I am in the hospital and I have no clue about others. My mobile is not with me). This is what Neeta Jethwa (55), told her husband Bharat (57) a resident of Kapolwadi, Ghatkopar (W), hours after the blast that killed three of their relatives and injured five others in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday at 1.30pm.
All the eight women (see box) were related to each other and most of them were based in Mumbai. They were on a planned pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi and Amarnath. Two of them were Indian-origin UK nationals, who were vacationing.
Ketan Mehta, a relative who spoke to SMD, mentioned that the pilgrimage programme was finalised three months ago. All eight left Mumbai on July 19 by Rajdhani Express for Delhi. They reached on July 20 and stayed at Swaminarayan temple for two days. On July 22, they left for Vaishno Devi. As per the itinerary, all the bookings and travel arrangements were done through Jethwa’s local contacts in Jammu. After the pilgrimage they were also to spend some days in Kashmir and return on August 1.
Jethwa and his daughter Urvi were happy that Neeta was safe, and were praying for the wellbeing of others.
Speaking to SMD, he said, “I won’t inform my son Rakshit who is in Netherlands and other distant relatives about the incident until I personally visit the hospital in Srinagar and get first-hand information. I am leaving for Delhi tonight and will take a flight for Jammu early on Sunday morning.”
Minutes after our conversation with them, the family received a phone call from J&K police informing them about the demise of Jethwa’s mother-in-law Nirmalaben Rathod (78). The grieving family decided not to comment further.
Mehta said, “Bharat and his family are in a state of trauma after the J&K police broke the news of death of Nirmalaben. No matter what we do, she is not going to return.”
Police suspicious about terrorist act
Rajendra Kumar, Additional Director General (L&O), Jammu & Kashmir State Police, told SMD, “We are puzzled by the nature of the blast. Doctors at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science, Soura, Srinagar, say they have found splinter pieces in the bodies of the injured victims and some have even sustained burn injuries. But it is not clear if the splinters were that of the LPG cylinder used in the vehicle or of a hand grenade. Had it been a hand grenade, we would have found the lever of the grenade, which we have not found yet.”
Vijay Kumar, Deputy Inspector General, Anantnag, J&K, said, “A team of forensics scientists from Srinagar will arrive on Sunday. They will inspect the scene of the crime and only after which we can find the cause of the blast.”
Injured driver in hospital, likely to be arrested
Abdul Hamid, Station House Office (SHO) attached to Brijbehra police station, revealed that they have taken the driver of the tempo traveller bearing Jammu registration number JK-02-AP-0676, Ashok (30), to a local government hospital, as he had been injured in the blast.
Preliminary inquires revealed that the tourists from Mumbai booked the vehicle from Jammu and were on their way from Srinagar to Pahalgam.
Instead of taking the regular route (Brijbehra-Anantnag-Pahalgam), which is the safest tourist route manned by armed platoons of CRPF through out the stretch, he driver, Ashok took a shortcut from Brijbehra to Pahalgam, to save fuel and approximately 8 km (30 minutes), said the police. DIG Vijay Kumar added that the stretch where the incident took place is known for a heavy presence of Lashkar and Jaish militants.
The driver will be arrested for negligence after he is discharged from hospital, the police said.
List of Dead (3)
Nirmala Rathod (78) — resident of Vile Parle
Nisha Jethwa (61) — Indian origin UK national
Indu Parmar (65) — Indian origin UK national
List of injured (5)
Neeta Jethwa (55) — resident of Ghatkopar (W)
Bharati Purohit (73) — resident of Vile Parle
Prathima Jethwa (66) — resident of Malad
Jayshree Desai (62) — resident of Matunga
Jasuben (80) — resident of Mumbai