Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the concluding ceremony of Sikh saint Guru Gobind Singh’s 350th birth anniversary celebrations in Patna amid tight security on Thursday, following a warning from intelligence agencies that extremists may try to disrupt his visit.
Dense fog earlier in the morning had threatened to delay Modi’s arrival by around 30 minutes. However, the fog cleared around 11.15 am, after which the flight was permitted to land at 11.51 am, late by 9 minutes.
Met control room officials said early morning visibility was as low as 200 metres. Though the runway visual range eventually rose to 500 metres by 10 am, a minimum of 1,200 metres was required for the smooth conduct of flight operations, they added.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar will receive the Prime Minister at the airport.
Modi is expected to reach the makeshift tent city at Gandhi Maidan around 12.20 pm. He will address the pilgrims, and later participate in the ‘langar’ – where food is served to people from all walks of life.
Taking intelligence reports regarding threats from Khalistani and Indian Mujahideen militants into account, elaborate security arrangements have been made in and around Gandhi Maidan. The special protection group (SPG) has reported taken over the venue. “We have deployed a posse of policemen and magistrates at the venue for the Prime Minister’s function. Entry into the venue has been opened for now, but we will reassess the situation around 11 am,” said district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Agrawal.
Security officers said they have also been alerted to the possibility of Indian Mujahideen (IM) sleeper cells targeting the venue in retaliation for five of its members – including Yasin Bhatkal – being awarded the death sentence. The terror group had carried out serial blasts at the same venue during an election rally by Modi in October 2013.
Sources said Modi will go directly to Gandhi Maidan, and spend about two hours at Darbar Hall. He is also expected to address devotees attending the event. “The 10-km route from the airport to Gandhi Maidan will be sanitised minutes before the PM lands here,” an official said, adding that all roads leading to the venue will be closed to the general public for the duration of his visit.
Officials of the SPG’s advance security liaison visited Gandhi Maidan and took stock of the arrangements ahead of Modi’s visit. Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal has already reached the state capital.