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Akshardham: Delhi has not learnt any lesson
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi |
September 24, 2003 14:51 IST
Last Updated: September 25, 2003 02:48 IST
A year after the terrorist attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar in Gujarat left 28 people dead, security measures are almost non-existent in Delhi's prominent places of worship.
Akshradham attack: Complete coverage
Intelligence reports at the Union home ministry speak of temples in Delhi being likely terrorist targets. But the warnings have largely been overlooked.
Intelligence Bureau sources say the government has information about the Gujarat Revenge Force, the group suspected of involvement in last month's twin blasts in Mumbai, aiming to create communal trouble in Delhi by targeting temples.
But there is little evidence that the government has taken the threat seriously.
Take the busy Hanuman temple near Connaught Place in New Delhi. The temple has only a metal detector. Devotees go through it only on days when a VVIP comes visiting.
"Anybody can enter the temple. There are no body searches. It is an easy target for mischief-makers," said Subhash Lal, a manager at a pharmacy nearby.
Lal visits the temple regularly. "We keep reading about terrorist threat to government installations and we see the security at these places. But what about our temples which are also being targeted?" he asked.
Senior home ministry official R C Panigrahi said as far as government offices are concerned, the security is provided by either the Border Security Force or the Central Reserve Police Force. "But in places of congregation, including temples, it is the Delhi police which provides security," he said.
At the Kalibari Mandir on Mandir Marg, entry is unrestricted even when the temple closes in the afternoon.
"I get a lot of peace. Just being with 'Ma' [the goddess Kali] gives me a sense of well-being," said Shambhunath, who walks to the temple every day from his home in Karol Bagh 4 km away.
Shambhunath retired as a government officer in 1997 and has not missed a day in his daily visits to Kalibari.
"Who in his right mind would create mischief here? I have faith that Goddess Kali will not allow such a thing to happen," he said.
The temple priest refused to discuss "futile issues." But Shorbori, a Bengali lady in her mid-40s, said increasing terrorist violence in the country often caused misgivings in her mind. "If terrorists want national attention, they are willing to go to any extent as was seen in Akshardham," she said.
A couple of hundred yards away the Birla temple is a little better off security wise. Temple staff constantly monitor visitors and a couple of police constables are positioned at its entrance.
The owner of a shop selling pedas near the temple felt places of worship are vulnerable because trouble at such sites would have a ripple effect. "Somebody determined to carry out a terror attack like in Akshardham cannot be stopped. But preventive measures must be taken. Their absence would only tempt mischief-makers," he said.
There is adequate security at the temples attached to the R K Puram headquarters of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Jhandewala headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
DCP Ashok Chand of the anti-terrorist cell says: "It is incorrect to say that there is no vigilance. Our men are deployed to look after security of sensitive spots, including temples, on a regular basis. We have plainclothes personnel and others who exercise a constant vigil. That is why we have had successes in neutralising terrorists (in the recent past)."
Maybe you need to combine spirituality with power to get the Delhi police's attention.