To mark a month since the blast at the German Bakery on February 13, hundreds of students from the city's colleges took part in a ‘Nirbhay' (fearless) rally here on Saturday.
While there has been little progress in the investigation, Pune Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh once again sought to underline the importance of staying alert. Addressing the rally, Mr. Singh said: “The bag containing the explosive went undetected not for some 15-20 minutes but for close to one-and-a-half hours.” Since the blast, senior police officials have been addressing students across schools and colleges in Pune, urging them to be alert.
As for the investigation, Maharashtra Anti- Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief K.P. Raghuvanshi was reported to have said in Mumbai that a breakthrough was expected soon.
Though Mr. Singh, the official spokesperson for the investigation, has so far not named the terror group likely to be behind the attack, reports have pointed to an Indian Mujahideen link.
The bomb at the bakery went off at 6.52 p.m. on a relaxed Valentine's eve, killing 17 people and injuring 52. However, tell-tale signs of the attack still lingered. The starkest reminder was the site of the bombing itself, still shrouded under cloth and guarded by policemen. Not so much as the shards of the broken acrylic roof have been removed. The people who ran the bakery continue to wait to start picking up the pieces.
“I met Peter Lobo, inspector of the Pune ATS, and Suhas Nadgauda of the local police yesterday [Friday],” said Ram Gopal Karkee, manager of the bakery. “They aren't saying when they can give us a written NOC [No objection certificate] to start reconstruction. We don't know how long it will take to get the compensation amount. The bakery owner, Smita Kharose, may be able to wait for two or three months, but I don't know what she will do after that...” he said.
There were reminders of the blast in the vicinity as well. Armed men behind walls of sandbags kept an eye on the road outside the Jewish Chabad House, barely a 100 feet from the bakery. Koregaon Park Lane 1 next to the Chabad House has been barricaded for all, except visitors to the Osho International Meditation Centre located halfway down the lane. The Inlaks Budhrani hospital is located at the other end of the same lane. But those who wish to get there have to use a roundabout route as this one remains blocked.
In the last month, security has also been stepped up at the Ohel David Synagogue and a Jewish prayer centre in the city, as also the Rajiv Gandhi IT Park in Hinjewadi.
While security has been tightened at hard targets, police have urged commercial establishments to take measures at their expense. In a letter sent to institutions, the police urged them to employ CCTV cameras, hand-held and doorframe metal detectors and X-Ray scanners, for better surveillance of people and baggage. However, business owners have been unwilling to comply.
Chittaranjan Behl, president of the Poona Hoteliers' Association, said: “Four or five star hotels may be able to bear the huge costs — upwards of Rs.40 lakh-60 lakh — but not the smaller players.”
The principal of a leading educational institute said that some of the police proposals — such as disallowing bikers from covering their faces with scarves — were part of a knee-jerk response, leading to panic in the city and putting it under a ‘security raj.'
Those who were injured in the blast have slowly started to get on with life.
Hemant Kapoor (23) of Ludhiana, who lived in Pune between 2004 and 2009 and was here on February 13 to meet old friends, said over the phone: “I was recuperating in Delhi for a month. Tonight, I'll return to Ludhiana and start work on Monday. My eardrum was perforated by the explosion. I'll have to get it surgically closed this month.”
Silvester Cordeiro (36), a freelance artist and a resident of Koregaon Park, said: “I had to turn down some projects as I had 15 stitches in my hands and legs. For two weeks, I was limping. I am better now, though I don't know how long it will be before I restart painting.”