Nine explosions rock Bodh Gaya

Mahabodhi temple, Tergar Monastery, Buddha statue targeted; 2 monks hurt

Nine explosions rock Bodh Gaya

Nine serial blasts of low intensity rocked Bodh Gaya, the land of Buddha,  on Sunday morning.

While four explosions took place inside the complex of Buddhists’ holiest shrine, the Mahabodhi Temple, three other blasts took place at Tergar Monastery, also known as the Karmapa Monastery. Of the two other explosions, one was near the 80-foot high Buddha statue while the other blast took place near a parked tourist bus.

There was neither any casualty nor much damage to the much-revered shrine.
The police later managed to defuse three crude bombs at different places, including outside a hotel.

Two foreigners—one from Tibet and the other from Myanmar—were injured in the blasts. They were rushed to Anugrah Narain Magadh Memorial College and Hospital, where they are recuperating and are said to be out of danger.

The serial blasts took place a day after the Buddhists monks celebrated the 78th birthday of their spiritual leader Dalai Lama here. The first explosion took place at the Mahabodhi Temple around 5:40 am when a small group of monks  assembled there and started prayer.

The second blast, although of low intensity, took place near the sacred Bodhi Tree. This place has enormous significance for Buddhists as it was here that Lord Buddha spent the first week in meditation after attaining Enlightenment.

Incidentally, there was not much of a rush of devotees when the explosion occurred, or else, locals say, many people would have died or been seriously injured. So far, no terrorist organisation has claimed responsibility for the serial explosions, but the police suspect the involvement of Indian Mujahideen (IM) modules. Police sources said it could also be a fallout of the tussle between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar.

Another theory doing the rounds is that it was terror tactics adopted by IM modules to spread panic rather than cause actual harm. Yet another unconfirmed report said that it was the “internecine war among monks” which led to the explosions.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) had already alerted Bihar police way back in October 2012 about a possible attack on the Mahabodhi Temple, which is a World Heritage Site and is visited by devotees from China, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar and other Buddhists countries.

The IB alert was repeated in June 2013 following which Gaya Deputy Inspector General Nayyar Hassnain Khan and Senior Superintendent of Police Ganesh Kumar called a review meeting with the mandarins of the Bodh-Gaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC).
The security of the temple is in the hands of the BTMC, which disallows any police personnel with arms from entering the temple premises.

Expressing concern over lack of security arrangements at the temple, Khan on July 3 asked the BTMC to beef up security measures and keep an eye on the CCTV footage, besides setting up a control room.

“Despite the high alert, there was no frisking of tourists till yesterday (Saturday). Nor there was any police personnel with metal detector. All you had in the name of security was a door-frame metal detector and a few private security guards,” Nilanshu, a local, told Deccan Herald.

Meanwhile, security was tightened in and around the temple. In the evening, prayers were allowed on the premises after the temple area was cordoned off for outsiders.

“The temple will be opened for common people after the sleuths from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and National Security Guards (NSG) complete their investigation,” said Bihar Director-General of Police Abhayanand, who rushed to the site in a chopper along with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and state Home Commissioner Amir Subhani.

Notably, the NIA and NSG teams, which were flown from Delhi to Gaya, had to return to the national capital owing to bad weather.

They reached Bodh Gaya later in the evening.  Led by IPS officer Vikas Vaibhav, the NIA team drove straight to the incident site.

Earlier, a team of forensic experts, too, arrived from Patna and found iron nails, splinters and ammonium nitrate used in the suspected cylinder bombs.

Abhayanand, however, refused to identify the kind of bombs used in the explosion, as it would hamper NIA investigation.

Chronology of events

-5:40 am: First blast takes place at Mahabodhi temple.

- 6 am: By this time, nine explosions occur.

- 7 am: Injured rushed to hospital in Gaya.

-  8 am: Nitish, flanked by  DGP and Home Commissioner, flies to Bodh Gaya.

-  10 am: CM says no security lapse, but NIA will probe blasts.

-  4 pm: Bihar DGP informs that NIA team on way from Delhi to Gaya had to return due to bad weather.

-6 pm: Prayer allowed inside Mahabodhi Temple

-  7 pm: NIA team reaches Bodh Gaya.

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