A two-year-old girl named Swastika Sharma was killed and about 30-40 people, including four foreigners, were injured in a bomb blast at the Dashashwamedh Ghat on the banks of Ganga river in Varanasi at around 6.30 pm on Tuesday.
Terrorist group Indian Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the blast saying that it is a response to the recent Ayodhya verdict. A bomb hidden in a metal canister exploded during the Ganga Aarti (a daily lamp ritual) between Shitlamata Ghat and Dashashwamedh Ghat.
Additional Director General of Police (ADG)-- Law and Order, Brijlal said: "The state has been put on high alert. And anti-terrorist sqauds and a bomb disposal squad have been rushed to the site."
Though it has been reported that the bomb was possibly kept in a milk container. Quoting IG Varansai the ADG said that the bomb was placed in some cavity. All top Varanasi district and police officers are on the spot. ADG said that there was no laxity as the state was already on alert due to Babri Masjid demolition anniversary.
The blast took place when thousands of devotees and the foreign tourists had assembled at the ghat for having darshan of the Ganga Arti, police sources said.
All injured were rushed to the nearby Marwari Hindu Hospital, where doctors, including Dr AK Singh told HT that nearly 40 injured were brought to the hospital, out of which over ten have been referred in critical state to the BHU and Varanasi Divisional Hospital.
Dr Singh confirmed the death of a one year old girl Swastika Sharma, a native of Assi locality of Varanasi, who was brought dead to the Marwari Hospital.
Singh further said the injured, included at least five foreign nationals, among them Italian and Japanese nationals. Two more foreigners reached on their own to the district hospitals with injuries. They were two young women from UK. They after self-medication returned to their hotel near the blast spot.
“Injured have suffered splinter injuries, severe fractures, head injuries and other injuries in the incident,” Singh maintained.
"It was a powerful blast which shuddered buildings up to 500 metres and even blew away banners on the Shitla Temple. We ourselves saw dismembered limbs and many foreign tourists writhing in pain,” said Kishori Raman Dubey ‘Babu Maharaj’ who organised daily evening at the Ghat under banner of Gangotri Sewa Samiti.
A local cloth trader Kuldip Beri present at the spot when the blast took place told HT 10 to 15 people, including two foreigners were badly injured and were carried by us into the Ambulance. One of the foreigners had lost his limb.
One of the foreigners Alessandro (50), an Italian national has been rushed to the Heritage Hospital in critical state with profusedly bleeding multiple injuries. Blood remained sputtered all round the Ghat and the blast destroyed the railings and stone stairs of the ghat.
As per initial reports, the injured included Phool Rani (50) a native of Damoh (MP), Jitendra Bidhua (35) a native of Madhya Pradesh, Barkha Sahni (12) native of Dashwashamedh Ghat in Varanasi, Om Prakash (40) native of Bhelupur in Varanasi, Suresh prasad (65) a native of Karnataka, Shubham Sahni (10), Daswashamedh Varanasi, Ram Shankar (45) of Dashwashamedh Varanasi.
Injured are presently being treated at BHU, Varanasi Divisional , Heritage and Marawari Hospitals.
Some people have been injured due to the blast and some others due to the consequent stampede which occured due to the collapse of the railing.
IG Varanasi Police Range RP Singh confirmed the death of the one-year-old little girl and 20 others injured, two of them critically.
Just a few days ago only at a high-level security meeting in New Delhi, the UP Govt and Police had been alerted highly about terrorist misadventure towards the anniversary of the Ayodhya demolition.
Alert had also been sounded about banned SIMI operating via sleeper modules in various East UP districts under disguised names.
While the stairs leading to the New Dashwashamedh Ghat have door framed metal detectors, there was no such provision on stairs leading to the Old Dashwashamedh Ghat (Shitla Ghat).
As per Kuldip Beri, a native of Mir Ghat locality present at the spot, no security provisions or cops were present at the spot when the blast took place and there was total chaos for at least 15 to 20 minutes before the cops arrived.
Old and New Dashwashamedh Ghats are most crowded ghats particularly during the evening Ganga Arti, but still there is hardly any security on the Old Ghat also known as Shitla Ghat.
It was Tuesday on March 7, 2006 when terrorists struck Sankatmochan temple and Varanasi Cant railway station and today was also a Tuesday.
( With PTI inputs)