9 blasts take place in 30 mins at the 1,500-year-old temple

Two monks were injured yesterday when nine bombs went off in quick succession at the revered Mahabodhi temple complex in Bihar’s Bodh Gaya town.

Symbol of peace: The temple complex, which is a UNESCO Heritage site, has direct association with the Buddha (566-486 BC) as it was the place where he attained enlightenment in 531 BC while seated under the Bodhi tree. Pics/AFP

Nine blasts took place between 5.30 am and 6 am at the 1,500-year-old Mahabodhi temple, annually visited by millions of pilgrims from all over the world. The deafening explosions triggered panic, but caused no major damage. An official had earlier said that there were eight bombings.

The blasts made the hotels, where a number of tourists were staying, shake, said a local who resides near the Mahabodhi temple. “All the people, foreigners and tourists, came out wondering what had happened,” said the local resident.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said four of nine bombs went off in the temple complex, three in a monastery nearby, one near the statue of the Buddha, and another near a tourist bus.

Bihar Police chief Abhayanand said the blasts were not of “very high intensity” and therefore no damage was caused to the sanctum sanctorum. “The evening prayers by monks will take place but general public would not be allowed inside the premises as of now,” he said.

Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami also confirmed the temple complex has not suffered any damage. “The monastery and the statue of Lord Buddha are safe.”

Additional Director General of Police SK Bhardwaj said that two Buddhist monks were injured -- one a Tibetan and the other a Myanmarese national.

Union Minister of State for Home RPN Singh termed it a terror attack, while strategic analyst C Uday Bhaskar told said that there is “little doubt that as per the classical evaluation of terror attacks -- the multiple blasts at Bodh Gaya will qualify as a definitive terror attack”.

Uday Bhaskar added there was some reference to intelligence inputs from Myanmar, about the likelihood of such an attack.

Political war
The terror strike triggered a political row between the BJP and the JD-U, which snapped their 17-year-old alliance barely a fortnight back.

“The state government had been told about recces that had been conducted by terror elements of the place, especially in context of the violence in Myanmar,” said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad, referring to the violence in Myanmar where scores of people have been killed in unrest between Buddhists and Muslims.
“There were warnings, but no preventive action was taken...Why?” he asked.

CM Nitish Kumar was, however, quick to refute allegations about his government having ignored intelligence inputs.

“There are CCTV cameras at the Mahabodhi temple... We have had a close look at the security of the temple earlier too... But the way these people entered and even became successful to plant bombs, we have to analyse in what dress they entered the temple and even examine the security at the gates,” he said.
The NIA would conduct a probe into the blasts, he added.

Intelligence agencies had last month warned the district authorities about a security threat to the temple.

A Delhi Police team is also likely to visit Bodh Gaya to share information provided by the arrested IM terrorists, who had earlier planned an attack on the temple, police said.

A Delhi Police official said they had alerted intelligence agencies and Bihar Police about a likely terror attack in the state.

All non-BJP ruled states should be careful: Digvijaya Singh
Taking pot shots at the BJP, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said the party which was part of the coalition government in Bihar till last month is criticising the state’s law and order situation over the Bodh Gaya blasts.

Nitish Kumar
On spot: CM Nitish Kumar visits the Mahabodhi Temple following the low-intensity serial blasts

“Any effort to destabilise the country, to destabilise the state and to bring about communal disturbance should be fought at all levels. It is not even a month and the BJP feels that the law and order is so bad that they can’t handle anything. I also saw Ravi Shankar Prasad saying that probably the Pune bakery (blasts) culprits were also doing recce,” he said.

He added that the BJP and the RSS want to communalise politics again in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections. “Therefore, all non-BJP ruled states should be careful and Nitish Kumar should be more careful,” said the Congress leader.

Dalai Lama’s security reviewed
The security of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has been reviewed after the blasts. “We have issued an advisory to His Holiness’ personal security officials,” said Ngodup Dorjee, Central Tibetan Administration’s (CTA) department of security secretary.

“The Dalai Lama has already been provided Z-plus category security. But we have beefed up the security of his official palace and Tsuglagkhang temple (close to the palace) too,” he added. Dorjee said a meeting would be held in Dharamsala on Monday to review security arrangements of Tibetan monasteries and temples located across India.

The Dalai Lama and 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who are residing in Dharamsala’s suburb McLeodganj, which is home to a large Tibetan population, are frequent visitors at the Mahabodhi temple. Extra force has been put in place both at the Dalai Lama’s palace and the Gyuto Tantric Monastic University, where the Karmapa resides, SP Balbir Thakur said. 

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