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New safety plan for holy cities

The Union home ministry will soon work out a special security and intelligence plan specifically for the holy cities.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2006 00:44 IST

The Union home ministry will soon work out a special security and intelligence plan specifically for the holy cities of Varanasi, Ayodhya and Mathura in UP. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting in the ministry late on Tuesday evening, in wake of the serial blasts at Varanasi. Additional battalions of the CRPF have been rushed to all three cities.

According to sources, both the ministry and central intelligence agencies were absolutely clueless that Varanasi might be targeted, even though there had been specific reports in the past that militant outfits were planning to strike in the city. Following the militant attack in Ayodhya last year, security in Varanasi - particularly at the Gyanvapi Temple - and in Mathura, Ayodhya and Agra had been beefed up. But there were no intelligence inputs in the last few months to suggest that there could be trouble in Varanasi.

Senior officials feel that just tightening the security at these places isn't enough and that arrangements need to be made more stringent and foolproof. The ministry will convene a meeting with senior state officials to work out the new security and intelligence arrangement.

"The serial bombings have revealed that there must be separate plans for each of the three cities, keeping in mind local problems and requirements. Furthermore, there has to be greater emphasis on intelligence-gathering, which failed completely in the case of Varanasi," a top ministry official said.

The situation also points to failure on the part of the UP police, because the ministry had in a recent communication to the state police expressed concern over the increasing number of "sleeper agents for militant groups and ISI in UP". It had asked the police to launch a special drive against these agents.

Meanwhile, the Centre has asked the UP government to ensure there is no communal backlash following the explosions. In a telephonic conversation with chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, Union home minister Shivraj Patil is believed to have agreed to provide additional funds and resources to beef up security in the three cities.

Union home secretary V.K. Duggal said the Centre had placed 500 CRPF personnel at the disposal of the state police, 200 of them in Varanasi, to ensure there is no communal flare-up. Asked if there was a possibility of a communal backlash, he said it was possible as one of the explosions had taken place in a temple.

Duggal said he had sent a message to all states to keep a close watch on the situation. He said the Centre was in continuous touch with the UP government and he himself had spoken to the chief minister.