The heritage and temple town of Bodh Gaya was put on Red alert Tuesday, following an SMS to the administration, claiming that the township could be rocked by a series of bomb blasts reminiscent of the 7/7 blasts in 2013.
Gaya district magistrate Sanjay Agarwal and senior superintendent of police Manu Maharaaj inspecting Mahabodhi temple premises at Bodh Gaya on Tuesday.
The National Investigating Agency (NIA), which probed the blasts had connected it to the October 27 blasts of Patna during then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s rally and arrested 12 persons connected to a terror module based in Ranchi.
Director general of police (DGP), Pramod Kumar Thakur confirmed the receipt of such a message by the Gaya district magistrate and SSP. He said efforts were being made to locate the source and that the threat ‘was not verifiable’ as of now.
He, however, said the red flag was up and alert had been sounded with the Gaya police earlier to be vigilant on the second anniversary of the blast falling today.
Bodh Gaya is known as the ‘Mecca’ of Buddhist tourists from south-east Asia and countries round the globe and has Unesco heritage status attached to the main Mahabodhi Mahavihara temple, situated at the spot where Buddha attained enlightenment- some 125 km south of Patna.
Senior superintendent of police, Gaya, Manu Maharaaj told HT that the surveillance team was trying to locate the source, while security forces were scouring the main temple premises and some 75 foreign establishments, mainly monasteries and guest houses set up by south-east Asian countries, besides Sri Lanka and Bhutan, as a ‘precautionary measure’.
“There is no cause for alarm. The information provided was ‘ vague’,” he assured, adding, “We will be able to pin down the culprit soon”.
Police says, on the face of it, the SMS, which named some people as members of a terror group The arrested persons were connected both could be a ruse born out of some rivalry, though the entire matter needed to be verified.
National Investigation Agency, probing the Bodh Gaya seven serial blasts of July 7, 2013 had also recovered three live improvised timer armed devices and had connected it to the Patna serial blasts of October 27 the same year and with the blasts in Hyderabad, Chinnaswamy Stadium blasts of Bengaluru earlier.
Post the blasts, the state government had appealed to the central home department to handover the security of the to Bodh Gaya and Patna blasts heritage site to the CISF. Then Union home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde had agreed to the proposal. However, with the state government expressing its reluctance to take the financial tab on the deployment, Bihar Military Police (BMP) contingents were deployed for round the clock security.
T he Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC), meanwhile, claimed that it had installed 29 high resolution CCTV’s to cover the entire site and monitored from a centralised control room, which had been set up and inaugurated by chief minister, Nitish Kumar three months ago.
Also, security forces keep vigil 24x7 from four watch towers set up around the main premises, while the crowded market places next to the main temple have been cleared from the area and police barricades been set up at critical sites to check terror modules from slipping in.
“We have adequate security but are still trying to improve on it, said Dr Arvind Kumar Singh, member of the temple management committee.
The International Buddhist Council (IBC) and the Bodh Gaya Temple management Committee ( BTMC), meanwhile, jointly organised a special ‘Sutta Path’ under the Bodhi tree followed by a candle march by the monks in the evening, to send a message that the monks, devotees and the tourists are undeterred by threats and peace underwrites their endeavours.
The temple town is visited by over five lakh tourists-both domestic and foreign, throughout the year. Some 40% of the tourist traffic is from abroad, which include nations like Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Myanmar, China, Japan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the rest.
Pilgrims from the US and UK and other European countries like Israel, Switzerland, etc, make up for 1% of the traffic on the Buddhist circuit, Bodh Gaya, Rajgir (both in Bihar), besides Sarnath and Lumbini being the most visited on this circuit.