When all roads led to Bandra
In the wake of the Agra blast, a large number of cops were deployed at Mount Mary and the fair grounds to keep a close watch on festivities
On the final day of festivities, Mount Mary's basilica was a veritable fortress, with policemen beefing up security in the wake of Saturday's Agra blast. There was conspicuous police presence at the fair grounds too.
With the rains having abated, pilgrims thronged Bandra yesterday. Special BEST buses packed with visitors left Bandra bus depot every minute, with hundreds queuing up to board them.
Hail Mary: Devotees flock to Mount Mary on the final day of Bandra
fair yesterday. PICS/sameer Markande
The road to Mount Mary Church was chock-a-block with traffic, even though the traffic police had created several diversions to ensure a smooth flow of vehicles.
Inspector Vijay Sathe, who was on duty at the fair, said, "We were expecting huge crowds on the weekend, and had put adequate security measures in place. But after the blasts in Agra last Saturday, we decided to deploy more forces, to tackle any unforeseen catastrophe."
Visitors gave mixed responses to the ubiquitous presence of armed cops at the fair. Visitor Valerie Pereira said, "There was a mad rush at the basilica as well as in the fair. Amidst all this, police officials armed with machine guns were patrolling the area. This made me a little uncomfortable." Rahul Vaz, who visited the fair with his friends, said, "So many people thronged the fair, causing mayhem and confusion. The police presence helped make me feel more secure."
Senior inspector of the Bandra police station Samad Shaikh said, "We have done our bit to ensure a safe fair for pilgrims."
Benedict Soares, a volunteer who helped the police control crowds, said, "We have all our volunteers on duty. There are policemen in civil clothes doing the rounds of the premises, to detect suspicious behaviour or objects."
Rebello ground, which was given a wide berth by visitors even last week owing to its mucky terrain, was teeming with people yesterday, who thronged the 80 stalls.
Eunice Rasquina, who was at the fair with her eight-year-old son, said, "It was so crowded that my son could not enjoy his favourite rides. But the toys he brought made up for all the disappointment, I think."
Here too, security cops were on high alert, intercepting suspicious-looking visitors and interrogating them, and keeping a watch on unattended bags and objects.
A police officer at Rebello grounds said, "With terror becoming almost a day-to-day phenomenon across the country, we don't want to take any risks which may lead to people losing their lives."