In 2006, legal journalist Sharmeen Hakim was at her godmother’s house in Churchgate, Mumbai after a long day at school when she heard of the train blasts, which were orchestrated by the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (the ISI). Within six minutes, seven blasts rocked the city at seven railway stations, killing 189 people and injuring over 700. A decade later, Sharmeen collaborated with crime reporter Nazia Sayed, to write the investigative book Six Minutes of Terror, which expounds on the event with meticulous detail and probes the minds of terrorists whose actions claimed hundreds of innocent lives.
Sharmeen feels that reporting in court gave her the opportunity to get to the ‘other side’ of every story. And her book stands for exactly that: objective reportage.
Recounting the incident she says, “I remember clearly, it sent a chill down my spine–my favourite teacher stayed in the suburbs and could have been on one of those trains. But there was no way to find out that day. I later learned she was fine and until today continues to teach at Convent of Jesus and Mary (fort).”
The journalist, who had been reporting on the 7/11 train blasts case ever since she began working with Mumbai Mirror, was approached by author and former city editor of Mumbai Mirror, S. Hussain Zaidi to explore the book in more detail.
Sharmeen assures that the book is legally sound because of her experience as a legal correspondent. The writers were able to research and write the book within a year because they knew the right sources to tap.
She informs, “The blast may be ten years old, but 12 people were held guilty only a year ago. While the book is about the blast, its heart lies in the 9-year long trial for justice, if that’s what you can call it. Because one man’s justice will always be another’s injustice. There are six books written on the 26/11 Mumbai Attack, but not a single one (apart from ours of course) on the serial train blasts in Mumbai, despite the loss of life being greater in the train blasts. The glamour quotient may be missing, but it was necessary for someone to chronicle the incident.”
Investigating a decade-old incident comes with its own hurdles.
She adds, “Getting investigators to recollect minute details was difficult. Families of most victims were not very comfortable talking as they seemed to have blacked out this incident that had changed their lives forever. But the most difficult task was connecting the dots.The book lays facts bare, of not just this case but other connected incidents of terror during that time, including the Malegaon blasts, both of 2006 and 2008. Through these two blasts, we explore so-called ‘Islamic’ and ‘Saffron’ terror. This, I feel was perhaps the most difficult task.”
Sharmeen assures that the book is legally sound because of her experience as a legal correspondent. The writers were able to research and write the book within a year because they knew the right sources to tap. In fact, because she was covering the case so closely Sharmeen managed to interact with all those who were accused of the blasts on numerous occasions. She didn’t need any ice breaker to convince lawyers to talk as she had been interacting with them even before she started working on the book. She informs there is no way of knowing if the 7/11 blasts were a precursor to the 26/11 attacks.
“I don’t think they were. They were two separate attacks, their trajectories were different. In the 7/11 blasts, only Indians were arrested. Even though the Anti-Terrorism Squad claimed that there were Pakistanis as well, no concrete proof was ever found. On the other hand, as evidence shows, the 26/11 attacks were planned and executed by Pakistan.”