The Centre swung into damage-control mode on Saturday as terror struck Pune, prompting the BJP to demand that the government reconsider the proposed dialogue with Pakistan.
Union home secretary G.K. Pillai sent a team of forensic experts and National Investigation Agency (NIA) sleuths to Pune and also convened an emergency meeting of intelligence officials for a preliminary assessment of the blast.
He said the home ministry had issued an advisory to the Maharashtra government informing it that Osho Ashram was one of the sites surveyed by 26/11 suspect David Headley.
Ministry officials said intelligence agencies had not ruled out a link between Headley’s Pune visit and Saturday’s blast.
Police sources suggested this was the security establishment’s key concern and a reason why the home ministry promptly acknowledged that the blast was a terror strike.
“It would mean that there could, and might be, more such incidents calibrated from across the border,” a security official said, pointing out that the NIA —which was probing the Headley visit — had not been able to unearth any sleeper cells.
BJP spokesman Prakash Jawadekar, who visited the blast site at night, demanded a relook at the proposed dialogue with Pakistan. “Terror and talks cannot go together,” he said. The blast was “a terrorist attack” and asked “what is the logic in holding talks”, he added.
Headley had visited the Osho Ashram twice, in 2008 and 2009. According to NIA investigations, Headley moved to Pune from Goa to recce the area around Koregaon Park.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who is in Tamil Nadu, will go to Pune on Sunday. The home ministry has issued an alert across the country, asking people not to open any unattended objects..
“This is a sad event. Significant terrorist incident after 14 months (since 26/11),” Chidambaram said.
All the information pointed to a plot to trigger the explosion in a place frequented by foreigners and Indians, he added. However, the government would wait for the forensic report before drawing a conclusion.