Blasts dent diamond
industry By Sudha Ramachandran
BANGALORE - The serial blasts that rocked
Mumbai last week have jolted India's diamond
industry. Two of the three blasts occurred in
The first of the three
coordinated bombings was at Zaveri Bazaar, the
center of India's bullion market and a diamond and
jewelry hub. A minute later, a bomb placed outside
the Panchratna Tower in the Opera House area went
off. Offices of thousands of diamond traders and
brokers are located in the Panchratna Towers and
the adjoining Prasad Chambers.
attacks last Wednesday, police have been reviewing
CCTV footage and examining debris at the blast
site for evidence that helps identity those who
carried out the attacks. Alongside
the police scouring the shards
of broken glass are heavily-guarded laborers
looking for diamonds.
It will be some days
before the Indian diamantaires (as diamond traders
in Antwerp are called) in Panchratna can put a
figure on the value of the diamonds that were
scattered or perhaps even shattered in the blast.
India is a key player in the world's
diamond processing business; 70% of the world's
diamonds are cut and polished here, mainly in the
town of Surat in Gujarat but also in Mumbai.
According to the Gems and Jewelry Export Promotion
Council, in 2010-11, India imported rough diamonds
worth $11 billion and exported polished diamonds
worth $28 billion, up from $18 billion the
Most of this trade is
transacted in Mumbai. Around 60% of the world's
processed diamonds pass through the Panchratna
Tower and Prasad Chambers.
Of the three
blasts, the explosion at Panchratna was of the
The blast at Zaveri
Bazaar resulted in the highest casualties. A
crowded market housing 50,000 small and large
shops selling jewelry and gem stones and diamond
polishing units, the aptly named Zaveri Bazaar
(zaveri in Hindi and Gujarati means
jeweler; Zaveri or Jhaveri is also a surname) is
also the nerve center of gold trading and one of
Asia's largest gold bullion markets.
bazaar is also an old favorite target of
terrorists. On March 12, 1993, when 13 blasts
ripped through Mumbai, a scooter laden with RDX
(rapid detonating explosive) exploded in Zaveri
Bazaar killing 17 people. Then on Aug 25, 2003,
terror returned when twin blasts here and at the
Gateway of India monument claimed 54 lives. Last
week's blast was the third at the jewelry market,
occurring just 45 meters from the previous blast
The recent attack is said to be the
closest ever to two large safe-deposit vaults at
Mumbadevi Chambers and Dhanrukji Dewan. Nearly
80-85% of the city's diamond traders reportedly
use these vaults to store gold, diamonds and cash.
Mumbai's diamond traders are not worried
that the blasts will affect trade or deter foreign
diamantaires from visiting. Anoop Mehta, president
of the Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB), told Asia
Times Online that Israeli buyers are used to doing
business in a terrorism-hit environment. The
blasts here will not prevent them from coming, he
They are worried, however,
about the loss of life and limb that workers in
the diamond industry are suffering on account of
the repeated terror attacks, Kamlesh Jhaveri,
director of the London Star Diamond Company, whose
office is in the Prasad Chambers, told Asia Times
An understandable weariness with
violence has gripped Mumbai's residents. The city
has suffered 11 terror attacks on 40 different
locations over the past 18 years. Mumbai's
diamantaires fear they have been marked out by
The evidence suggest they are
not wrong. The diamond industry has been targeted
outside Mumbai as well.
In 2008, 29 bombs
were found in various parts of Surat, several in
the diamond cutting and polishing hub in the
Varachcha neighborhood. These were defused before
they could cause any damage.
Jhaveri, whoever carried out Wednesday's serial
blasts in Mumbai had two objectives; one was to
deal a blow to India's diamond industry and the
other to strike at the Gujarati community. This is
a view that is held not only by the Gujarati
community but also by India's security
Mumbai has a large Gujarati
community, which dominates - almost monopolizes -
the diamond industry and stock-broking.
2002, mass violence targeting Muslims broke out in
several cities in the western state of Gujarat.
The ruling Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP) and its fraternal organizations engaged in a
pogrom that resulted in the death of 790 Muslims
and 254 Hindus. Another 223 people were reported
The pogrom prompted hundreds of
angry Muslim youth to turn to terrorism for
revenge, with several terror outfits springing up
nationwide. Photographs and film clips of the
violence in Gujarat are reportedly used by outfits
like the Indian Mujahideen to recruit, motivate
and train their members.
interrogations of scores of suspected terrorists
have revealed that the Gujarat violence is the
major factor behind most terror attacks that have
happened in India in the years since. The
targeting of Gujaratis in Mumbai could be seen in
Several of the terror
attacks in Mumbai have been in areas that are
Gujarati-dominated. There were blasts in January,
March and July 2003 in Vile Parle, Mulund and
Ghatkopar respectively - all largely inhabited by
Gujaratis. On July 11, 2006 bombs tore apart seven
first class compartments of local trains going to
the city's western suburbs - Malad, Kandivli and
Borivli, which have a large concentration of
The four people convicted for
the August 2003 blasts said they belonged to the
Gujarat Muslim Revenge Force and had been sent by
the Lashkar-e-Taiba to Mumbai to carry out attacks
on the Gujarati business community there.
Mumbai's Gujarati community and especially
those in the diamond industry have been feeling
vulnerable. Last week's attacks have heightened
In the wake of the blasts,
the number of businessmen travelling from Gujarat
to Mumbai has dropped by around 50%, reports the
Times of India, adding that the Flying Ranee, a
train which runs from Surat to Mumbai, is running
half-full since the blasts.
decisions lie ahead for Mumbai's diamantaires.
The enhanced security in Zaveri Bazaar and
Panchratna in recent years hasn't prevented
attacks. Many are now considering shifting to the
far more secure Bharat Diamond Bourse in the new
business district of Bandra Kurla Complex, which
was inaugurated last year, or even to Gujarat,
"where they feel more secure".
(8-hectare) complex of eight interlinked
nine-storey towers, the BDB can accommodate 2,500
offices. It is the world's largest diamond bourse.
Besides offices for traders, it houses banks,
vaults and a dedicated facility for customs
clearance. It also has two massive halls where
small traders and brokers who cannot afford to
purchase office space in the complex can engage in
The convenience of housing
the entire business in a single complex with
state-of the art security infrastructure were
expected to draw diamond traders out of Zaveri
Bazaar and Opera House.
But nine months
after its inauguration, occupancy is low. A
diamantaire who has an office in the Panchratna
Towers said he was reluctant to shift to the BDB
as "it is surrounded by slums and unsafe".
Diamond traders in India often wrap
diamonds in little pouches that are sewn into the
insides of their shirts. They blend easily into
the crowds at Zaveri Bazaar or Opera House.
Trudging or taking a bus to the railway
station from the bourse is an unsafe trek, they
Mehta told this correspondent that
such fears are unfounded. The traders don't need
to carry around their diamonds if they are based
at the BDB as all industry related activity can be
done within the bourse's walls.
believes the reluctance of diamond traders to move
to BDB has to do with unwillingness for long
commutes. Panchratna and Prasad Chambers are in
South Mumbai, where most traders and brokers live.
BDB is situated in the suburbs.
Mehta said that 50-60 exporters are moving into
the bourse in August and that many more will move
during Diwali, an auspicious time for businesses.
Whether the recent blasts will persuade more to
move remains to be seen.
A more immediate
problem confronting the diamantaires of Panchratna
concerns the sparklers that lie scattered among
the blast debris. How does one figure out who is
the owner of a diamond recovered from the debris?
It is believed that they are considering
auctioning the diamonds and raising a fund to
support the kin of those who died in the blast or
those who've lost limbs and livelihoods.
Sudha Ramachandran is an
independent journalist/researcher based in
Bangalore. She can be reached at
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