Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt on Monday offered prayers at the famed Vaishnodevi cave shrine near Jammu but the government car and a police escort provided to the Mumbai blasts case convict has sparked a controversy.
The 48-year-old star, who will be on interim bail at least till September 27, paid obeisance at the shrine nestled in Trikuta hills for about half-an-hour. Accompanied by his girlfriend Manyata and two friends, Dutt also performed special
and donated money.
"Dutt visited the shrine like all other devotees and no special arrangements were made for him," Additional Chief Executive Officer of the Shrine board Puneet Kumar told PTI from Katra.
Clad in a white
and jeans, Dutt refused to comment on the controversy over the VIP security provided to him but the state police justified it as part of a security drill for important personalties.
"I have no idea about it," Dutt told reporters at the airport in Jammu after returning from the shrine and did not want to be drawn into the row. He did not respond to any other questions and only said
Jai mata di
as he left for Mumbai
Although no special arrangements were made for him during the
, the CRPF and Police provided fool-proof security through the
and return to Jammu.
The actor was provided with an official car and police escort for the pilgrimage as the state government apprehended he could be an "easy target" for terrorists in the terrorism prone region of the border state. Police, however, saw nothing wrong saying they cannot compromise on the security of any VIP.
"We cannot compromise with the security of any VIP. We have been providing police vehicles, secured accommodations and police escort to political leaders or even commoners if there is a security threat. How can we compromise on Dutt's security," a police spokesman said.
An official spokesman of the J&K government sought to downplay the issue of giving an official car and escort to the Bollywood actor, saying it was a precautionary security measure.
Jammu IGP SP Vaid said it is the police's responsibility to provide security for Sanjay Dutt as his sister is a MP and his father was one as well and Dutt himself is a prominent actor.
"Keeping all this in mind we have given him (Dutt) security," Vaid said, adding "I don't think any VIP status was given."
Vaid however agreed there should not have been a beacon on the government car in which Dutt travelled or it should not have been activated.
"I have asked the security to see that all vehicles do not have a red beacon. Basically it is a mistake committed at the lower level," he added.
A police spokesman said "Dutt could have been targeted in view of the highest degree of media attention he was receiving during his trips to different places."
Five terrorists were killed in an encounter in Trikuta hills in five months ago and a top Jaiish-e-Mohammad chief coordinator for India, Sifullah Kari was killed in Jammu last month, thereby raising security concerns, he said.
"When we provide police escorts, vehicles, secured accomodation and personal security officers (psos) to common social, political activists and the common man with any threat perception as a safety measure in J&K, we have to take care of the security needs of a prominent person, the spokesman added.
In Jammu, Dutt on Sunday said he would seek the deity's blessings for "everyone" including actor Salman Khan, who was convicted in a poaching case but is now on bail.