Saturday, July 15, 2006

Just Rs. 50 needed to be a terrorist !

Anybody can buy gelatine sticks from tribals around Tansa Lake, 50 miles from Mumbai, for Rs 50 only.

These gelatine sticks are used in stone quarries, and are sold illegally to anti-social elements by these tribals.

The Economic Times reports:

With only Rs 50 lining his pocket, a tribal hands over a 10-inch gelatine stick, fuse and detonators. The sticks are smuggled out from stone quarries in Thane and sold illegally by unsuspecting tribals.

In the dense green woods around Tansa lake, just 50 miles from Mumbai, one can buy gelatine sticks for just Rs 50 each from tribals. When fixed with a detonator, a stick can blow a hole in a thick wall. Packed with rusty nails and glass pieces and exploded in a crowd, the sticks can reduce a bunch of people to a heap of bodies.

Barely 72 hours after terror on the rail tracks left more than 200 people dead in Mumbai, and in the midst of speculation that the blasts were caused by gelatine sticks, I managed to buy one such stick. Using a detonator and fuse, the man demonstrated how to make a bomb and exploded it in a pond, somewhere on the city’s periphery. The bomb, made of half a gelatine stick, caused such a huge explosion that the water rose to 15 feet and the driver accompanying me fell to the ground, trembling with fear.

A wristwatch serves for a blade to cut the fuse in the jungle

The tribals living in the 338 sq km area of Tansa sanctuary call these bombs ‘awaaz’ and regularly use them for fishing in Tansa lake, which supplies water to Mumbai. Packs of similar sticks were used in the blasts that rocked the city in 2002 and 2003

On hearing that gelatine sticks, a favourite of terrorists and Maoist rebels across the country, are easily available in the stone quarries here, this reporter and a photographer decided to buy the stick from the tribals, one of the easiest ways to procure it.

The fuse is in, the bomb is ready to rip, all in minutes

According to police sources, some quarry owners, who have a licence to keep gelatine sticks, as well as some workers sell these explosives to anti-social elements for Rs 50. When bought in bulk, the sticks may cost a mere Rs 25 per piece.

On Friday, the TOI team began its hunt for a tribal who could sell them a stick. On making some inquiries among the tribals, the team was directed to a man who agreed to sell an ‘awaaz’ and a ‘kape’ (detonator) for Rs 50. The man took the money, asked the team to wait and vanished into the jungle. He returned after 30 minutes, with a small plastic packet in his hand. The package contained a 10-inch gelatine stick wrapped in a white plastic sheet with ‘Superpower 90’ written on it in shining blue, two detonators and a fuse. With our hearts pounding faster as the devastating explosives came into our hands, we decided to take the packet to Mumbai and hand it over to the police to show how easily it could be bought in the neighbouring district. But the risk of getting caught with explosives en route forced us to return the stick to the tribal. The man, probably eager to show the quality of the stick, offered to make a bomb and explode it in a pond nearby.

The bomb hits the ‘target’ and causes a huge splash

To ensure that the stick was finally destroyed, we followed the man to the pond, a few kilometres from the sanctuary. On reaching the site, he split the stick into two parts, inserted the fuse into the detonators, pushed them into the ‘bombs’ and asked us for a cigarette to ignite the fuse. Since neither of us smoked we could not oblige him.

The man asked a local youth who was fishing in the pond to make a bonfire, picked a burning twig, lit the bomb and lobbed it into the pond. The moment the bomb kissed the pond’s surface, it spewed like a volcano with a huge splash and loud sound. A few minutes later the second bomb landed in the pond, sending up a fury of water and sound and leaving a huge cluster of dead fish.

As we headed back to the car, the tribal’s face lit up with the ‘baksheesh’ of Rs 200. He also demanded a small ‘cut’ of Rs 20 for the boy who lit the bonfire. On our way back to Mumbai, we were left wondering if the police were even aware that close to the city, gelatine sticks were being sold like a sack of potatoes. We bought the stick just to prove a point. Our intention was not to break the law, but to prove that dangerous explosives are easily available merely an hour away from Mumbai.


At 12:56 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, very interesting.


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