Book Review: Black Friday - The True Story Of The Bomb Blasts

For  each landing we had to pay customs, the DRI and the police officials to ensure that the goods could be unloaded unhindered and transported to the city… for each landing we have to pay a fixed sum of money to customs DRI and the police”

“On Thursday evening, there were huge flashlights in the Garage and all those friends of Tiger Uncle were filling cars and scooters with a black substance. My friend Raju tried to go near them, but one of the men yelled at him and told us to go home. But we all kept looking at them from a distance

The book “Black Friday - The True Story of The Bombay Bomb Blasts” is far more than just a true crime expose; it is a mirror of our society and its self-destructing carelessness, lack of civic responsibility, corruption and is a conclusive indictment that we are our own enemies. The Indian society stands double damned and conclusively indicted through this moving and shattering expose that leaves no doubt as to how something so small as a bribe and silence can combine to create wholesale murder. This is not a Hindi movie or a Hollywood production; it is the dance of death that was played out on the 12th of March 1993 on the streets of Mumbai – a dance of death that could have been prevented or at least contained had we been less corrupt or more responsible and mature citizens.

The book traces the controversy to its beginnings in the aftermath of the 1992 riots, and painstakingly recreates the entire plot in threadbare detail. The style used is factual; there is no dramatisatoin whatsoever; it almost reads like a police case file – and yet is sufficiently fast-paced to ensure reader interest.  The story has been told from both sides – the police as well as the criminals, which makes for enthralling reading, as you are literally able to see into the criminal’s mind.

Extensive research has gone into this work, and it shows. The author has used a variety of impeccable sources to bring out the truth; the police officers who investigated the case, TADA court judges who gave encouragement, lawyers, police documents, government records, CBI dossiers, confessions, newspaper reports. The work has been checked for factual errors on incorrect reportage by lawyers as well as police officers attached to the case.

The involvement of Pakistan has also been categorically proven with corroborative confessional statements as well as forensic evidence that clearly establishes the Pakistani complicity in the entire matter. The arms, for example, have been conclusively shown to have been sourced from Pakistan. Pakistani documents, passports and even Visa numbers have been provided that prove the Pakistani hand – and these also establish the depth of the research.

The book is a fast read, is compact and short – some 288 pages only; yet is loaded with information. The pace would do credit  to any thriller writer – it unfolds precisely like a Mukul Deva thriller; except that at the back of your mind, you know that what you are reading has actually transpired. The ease with which the entire plot was carried out beggars belief; the book is a must read for every educated Indian for this reason alone. Furthermore, there is no bias of any kind that I could spot – it is impartial, as it points out police failings alongwith the successes with a minimum of fanfare in either case. It restricts its scope to the case in hand – the Bomb Blasts, and does not pass any value judgements. That is a masterstroke; it keeps the book short, enhances readability and lends to its pace.

This book also serves as a textbook case of how societal indifference, communal tensions and corruption can come together to create a lethal cocktail of death. Throughout the book, you come across cases of corruption and deliberate negligence- which would, if reported to the right authorities, have lead to the plot being intercepted. The terrorists used existing corruption-based relations to ship in explosives; proving that corruption is not benign and something to be tolerated. It can lead to death – as it has in this case. Our entire system stands indicted – and by system I mean both the institutions of our society as well as our society itself, which looks upon corruption with its typical chalta-hai attitude. Well, ladies and gentlemen of India, this once your chalta hai attitude cost 273 people their lives.

And in the case of the eye-witness case of the night prior to the attacks lies the greatest tragedy of them all. You spot someone filling cars and scooters with black substance, and keep silent? In several cars and scooters at that? And afterwards stay silent even as they loudly celebrate and drink, disturbing the neighbourhood? We saw once in the Nirbhay case how people just don’t care – no one stopped. And here, we see it again. Because of our society’s “it is not my problem” attitude…

Boss, corruption is a crime; both giving and asking for bribes is a crime,. It carries a cost- a cost that all of us our paying; only we dont realise it. You dont benefit from corrpution - regardless of the ease with which you attain whatever objective you had in mind while indulging in corruption. And if you believe that you benefit from corruption - you are a fool. Sorry, but that is what I can learn from this real-life story.

The book also covers the Sanjay Dutt episode in considerable detail and with proofs. The combination of the episode and the terror plot, when viewed through a common lens, make for pretty damning reading. On a side note, we Indians also seem to have forgotten this, and are actually on the streets demanding his release - the release of a man who kept hand-grenades and an AK-56 as he was "feeling threatened". Where are we? The Wild, Lawless West? And this guy saw 25 grenades and 9 AK-56s being delivered... beat that! And yet, we Indians  (quite a few of us, anyhow) support him... kudos to Nana Patekar, btw:

Nana: Have you ever seen me work with him? I dont watch his movies, or work with him. Awesome, Sir. Respect: you are a true Indian. Unlike quite a few among us...

As I always say…

Jaago, Sonewaalon!


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