Guwahati, Dec 5: Two explosions that left four people with burn injuries, triggered a hysteria in the busy Fancy Bazar on Saturday afternoon. Setting aside initial reports of a possible sabotage attempt, forensic experts later claimed that the explosions were that of firecrackers.
Two ragpickers were setting fire to a garbage dump on HB Road, near the old jail wall when two "objects" exploded. "The first explosion was as low as that of a damp firecracker, but it was accompanied by smoke and sparkles. The second explosion was powerful, resembling that of a low intensity bomb," said a eye-witness.
Senior police officials, including police commissioner Mukesh Agarwal and deputy commissioner M Angamuthu, rushed to the spot. Both the officials claimed that the explosions are "most likely" to be that of firecrackers.
However, burn injuries suffered by four persons - who were rushed to Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital - raised doubts whether firecrackers could cause such an impact. "One of the commuters who was riding a cycle fell down due to the explosion. Another bystander received serious burn injuries," said another eye-witness. However, the two ragpickers did not sustain any injury, but a tube-light in a nearby building cracked at the same time. The injured were identified as Md Rafiq, Hasi, Deb Chanda Yadav and Ranjit Das.
A senior police official told The Sentinel in the evening that forensic experts who examined the area have communicated that the explosions could be that of firecrackers. No trace of explosive was found in the area.
"We have also examined the ragpickers. From their description of the objects that exploded, it appears that those were Barpeta-made firecrackers. They also said sparkles - resembling that of a flower-pot firecracker - accompanied the explosions," the official said, adding that had those been IEDs or gredes, the ragpickers, who were closest, would have been blown off.
TV channels added to the panic as they dubbed it as another attack on the Hindi-speaking people. Though the reporting in the channels toned down later, Netizens came down heavily on their "mis-reporting".
"From twin massive blasts with many dead / injured, it was scaled down to something bursting when a rag picker set fire to a garbage dump," Rajarshi Dutta Choudhury wrote in Facebook.
"This is called rumor mongering at its best to make political mileage," wrote Uttam Kumar Barthakur.
BJP leaders made a beeline to the spot and condemned the State government for "failing to provide security to the people of Assam".