The ashes of six Patna blast victims, the BJP's ongoing processions with the ashes across six districts and the imminent arrival of the party's lead player, Narendra Modi, in Bihar are making many in the state extremely uneasy.
Despite the Hindu nationalist party's claims to the contrary, the state administration is wary of the 'shahid asthi yatra' (martyrs' ashes
procession) stirring communal passions.
More so because the processions with the ashes of the six killed on the day of Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial nominee Modi's rally in Patna on October 27 will pass through some of Bihar's most communally sensitive districts.
Bihar officials said the processions and Modi's second visit to Bihar within a week were stretching the resources of the state's security agencies amid heightened concerns following the blasts.
"There is no specific intelligence input to suggest something untoward is on the anvil during the 'asthi yatras', but we are on guard and keeping our fingers crossed," said SK Bhardwaj, state additional director general of police (law & order).
Security agencies are worried that even if BJP leaders exercise restraint, there are simply too many uncontrollable factors.
For instance, the procession that started from Simrahi bazaar in Supaul (north Bihar), the home of blast victim Bharat Rajak, is scheduled to pass through Madhubani, Darbhanga and Samastipur. All three districts have a substantial Muslim population.
Intelligence sources reminded that Darbhanga was once the playground of Indian Mujahideen leader Yasin Bhatkal, who is now in custody.
What's more, Patna blasts suspect Tehseen Akhtar is from Maniarpur village in Samastipur.
"There is no dearth of mischief mongers. What if somebody were to throw a cracker at any of the yatras? The problem is there is no foolproof guard against such imponderables," said a police official who did not want to be named.
DM Diwakar, director of AN Sinha Institute of Social Sciences, a Patna thinktank, said such a risk was real. "At a time when the atmosphere is deteriorating, the politics of symbolism carries greater peril."
BJP leaders on Thursday flagged off the 'yatras', numbering six, from the village of each of the victims, ahead of Modi's visit to Bihar beginning late night on Friday.
Party state president Mangal Pandey said the 'yatras', set to crisscross the state before concluding in Patna on November 5, were a homage to the six martyrs to the party cause.
A number of other BJP leaders admitted in private that the processions were also meant to prepare an emotional setting for Modi's proposed visit to the villages of each of the six victims on Saturday.
Pandey said the message being disseminated through the six yatras was one of peace and social harmony. "Our message is terror blasts don't discriminate between Hindus and Muslims."
He said three Muslim supporters of the BJP were among those injured in the blasts. "They are undergoing treatment at the BJP's expense." He said the blame for fomenting trouble should lie with the BJP's opponents.
BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav, who flagged off one 'yatra' from blast victim Vikas Kumar Singh's Nisija village in Kaimur, said, "I was welcomed with open arms when we stopped at Jhali village in Kaimur (western Bihar) to meet Shamsuddin Ansari, who was injured in the blasts."
The other yatras have started from villages of the other four victims - Munna Srivastava (Bari Dhanesh in northwest Bihar's Gopalganj district); Bindeshwari Chaudhary (Tara Bariarpur in Begusarai district of north Bihar); Rajesh Kumar (Ahiyapur in Nalanda district of south central Bihar); Rajnarain Singh (Kamarji in Patna district).