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Taj tops list of threatened structures

Intelligence inputs suggest Taj Mahal is now the third most threatened place in India, reports Nandini R Iyer.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2006 21:18 IST

India’s Monument of Love, the Taj Mahal is now on the list of top three protected structures in the country. Recent intelligence inputs suggest that the Taj is the third most threatened place.

The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and various nuclear installations have been on top of the list for many years. While there have been random threats to the Taj Mahal in the past, it never made it to even the top ten of the list of seriously threatened structures. This is the first time that the Taj Mahal has emerged on the list of top ten and that too, at third place.

"When we interrogated militants who had threatened the Taj earlier this year, they told us that if they were able to target a large number of tourists in one stroke, it would send out a global fear perception about India. Moreover the Taj is irreplaceable,’ a senior Home Ministry official told Hindustan Times.

Directions have accordingly been issued to concerned agencies to step up the security at the Taj Mahal both in terms of numbers of security personnel and in terms of security measures, the official said.

On the list of top five protected places, the BARC is first and all the nuclear installations in India together are grouped at second place. The Taj is third, while the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Benaras and the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya occupy fourth and fifth place respectively, the official said.

The bulk of the threats to all these establishments, according to intelligence reports are still from Islamic fundamentalists especially from the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, the Hizbul Mujahideen, and the Jaish-e-Mohammed that is now known as the Tehrik-al-Furqan. “It is usually the Arab Sunni Wahabi groups with a base in Pakistan who pose the most threats to all these structures and installations,” an official said. In addition, there have also been threats to the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Masjid site from Hindu fundamentalists as well, he added.

The list of top five threatened persons is relatively more predictable. Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President APJ Abdul Kalam, Member of Parliament, Rahul Gandhi and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, L K Advani.

Interestingly the threats to President APJ Abdul Kalam are assessed as coming because not only is he the Head of State and from a minority community but also because he is very active. Similarly, threats to Advani indicate that they come because “he is a hardliner and a likely candidate from Prime Minister from the BJP’s side,” an official said.

On average intelligence agencies and local police divisions received between 15 and 20 threats for each of these protected persons in 2006 and of these about five in each case were graded as “very very serious”.

Numerous threats are also received by e-mail and through telephone calls though approximately 92 per cent of these have been proved to be hoaxes later. “However, we cannot afford to assume that any call or e mail is a hoax and the requisite security drills and investigations have to be put in place as soon as the threat is received,” say officials.

First Published: Dec 29, 2006 21:18 IST