Terror struck the holy town of Varanasi on Tuesday — a day after the 18th anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition — as an explosive device killed a one-year-old child and injured at least 20 people.
The blast took place at 6.35 pm at the old Dashashwamedh ghat on the banks of the Ganga where one of the main tourist attractions, Ganga Aarati, was being performed.
Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the blast in an e-mail traced to Malad in Mumbai. It said, “Indian Mujahideen attribute (sic) this attack to the 6th of December that will haunt your nation of world's ‘Greatest DemoNcracy (sic)’.” The mail also warned of more attacks.
The five-page IM email referred to the Allahabad High Court judgment on Ayodhya and the “manhandling and heckling of the Kashmiri leadership in Indian cities”.
Condemning the blast, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was an attempt to “weaken” India’s resolve to fight the “evil forces of terrorism” and that the “terrorists will not succeed”.
The blast took place near the railing of an elevated platform. The explosion destroyed the railings and the stone stairs of the ghat and bloodstains could be seen all around the place.
"It was a powerful blast that shook buildings up to 500 metres away. We saw dismembered limbs being thrown about,” said Kishori Raman Dubey who organises the show at the ghat.
The PM asked the union home ministry for a report on the incident. In fact, the home ministry had recently alerted the UP government against possible terrorist attacks around the time of the Babri demolition day.
Varanasi police chief RP Singh confirmed the death of one-year-old Swastika Sharma and injury to more than 20 people.
A local trader, Kuldip Beri, told HT that no policeman was present at the spot when the blast took place and there was total chaos for at least 15 minutes before the cops arrived.