Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bombs shut down India diamond hub

By Geeta Pandey
BBC News, Delhi

Bomb disposal squad try to defuse a bomb in Surat
The discovery of bombs has created a sense of fear in Surat

India's diamond and textile hub of Surat in the western state of Gujarat has shut down after police defused 19 small bombs over the past two days.

Markets, malls, cinemas and schools are closed in the city and police have appealed to people to stay indoors.

A series of 17 blasts in Gujarat's commercial capital, Ahmedabad, on Saturday killed 49 people.

Gujarat state Chief Minister Narendra Modi has appealed for calm after visiting Surat.

'A message'

"We are fighting a proxy war and people, government, media, opinion makers, etc should come together to create awareness and work together to fight this war," Chief Minister Narendra Modi said after visiting the areas where bombs were found in Surat.

"There are certain rules of a war and if we do not fight, then terrorists will continue to attack us," he said.

Pravinbhai Nanavati, vice-president of the Southern Gujarat Chambers of Commerce and Industry, says there is a reason why Surat was chosen as a target.

Pravinbhai Nanavati
Mr Nanavati says people will have to be vigilant in the coming days

"Surat is a huge city, but considering all the bombs were planted in areas where the diamond industry is based, I think there is a message in that," Mr Nanavati told the BBC.

"The bombs were planted by those who wanted to hurt India economically. Stopping production for one day in the diamond industry means a loss of $28m. It's a very serious issue."

Three quarters of the world's diamonds are cut and polished in Surat and the industry - with exports worth $18bn a year - is the biggest foreign exchange earner in the country.

Mr Nanavati says any successful attack on Surat will cause panic throughout India.

"Surat is a mini-India. Of the city's population of 4m, 3.5m are migrants from the rest of India. So if there is panic in Surat, there will be panic in the rest of India too."

'A little fear'

As yet there is no panic in the city, but television images of bomb disposal squads trying to defuse innocuous looking blue packages which contained bombs have shocked the city residents.

Sanjay Jain, Surat-based businessman, says there is definitely a "little fear" in the people.

"Security in the city is tight, cars are being checked and people are staying away from place wherever there is expectation of a crowd," he says.

"But being fearful is not going to help," he says. "You can stay home for a day, but the next day you have to go out. Terrorists are targeting the whole of India, not just Surat, they don't need a reason to plant bombs."

Says Mr Nanavati, "I think Surat is safe at the moment. When there are lots of policemen around, no militants will be able to come in or create any problem.

"But once things quieten down, and the spotlight is off Surat, there is a fear they will try to attack us again. In the coming days, people will have to be very vigilant."


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