Two days after ten explosions rocked the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya, investigating agencies are scouting for leads in the case.
According to a National Investigation Agency officer they have not got any concrete leads yet. “We did look at a Naxal angle, but found no evidence to back it. An identification card belonging to one Vinod Mistry was found at the blast site. The fact that Mistry hailed from a Naxal-dominated area in Gaya led the police to believe that Naxals could have been involved. Moreover, his father Bhajju is said to have links with Naxals.”
During interrogation Mistry told the NIA that he had lost his card a day before the blasts. “We have given Mistry a clean chit. At present, nothing suggests that he is linked to the Naxal movement,” an NIA official said. However, the investigators will continue to probe him.
Along with the identification card, the NIA also found a chit with three phone numbers scribbled on it. Two of these numbers are not operational, but the third one was operational till 4 am on Sunday, the day of the blasts. The call records indicate that there were nine messages that were sent to Delhi the previous night. The last message was sent at 4 am after which the phone was switched off, according to early investigations.
What has confused the investigators even more is a set of papers found inside the temple premises, which are in Urdu. In addition to this they have found pieces of paper wrapped around the two bombs, which did not explode. ‘Bada But’ (big statue) is written on one paper found near the Buddha statue and ‘Iraq War’ on the bomb planted near the Terger Monastery.
NIA officials believe that this could just be a tactic to mislead them and do not point at the involvement of any particular group.
The other aspect, which has generated interest among investigators, is the timer clock that was used in the attack, which had a lotus symbol on it. It may not indicate anything at all, the NIA pointed out.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was quick to admit that he was aware of the intelligence input of a possible attack in Bodh Gaya and measures were taken accordingly. However, looking at the ease with which the bombs were planted, it is clear that the arrangements undertaken by the government were inadequate, said the NIA source.
“A bomb was planted on a 16-feet statue of Buddha. This means a ladder may have been used to get on top of the statue. Our analysis tells us that there was no security at all. How could so many people (over 10) enter the premises, plant 13 bombs and go unnoticed. It is clear that the security personnel were asleep at that time,” said an NIA official.
The Bihar government has claimed that CCTV cameras installed at the temple were functional. However, the instruction to monitor the cameras in real time was not followed. Visitors were not frisked and there were no security personnel deployed at the metal door frames.
There was a review meeting on July 2 in Bihar and Bodh Gaya was a major part of the discussion. While all the officers pointed out several flaws, the absence of a senior official at the premises is what led to a very casual approach by the security staff, an officer said.
Image: A security personnel walks next to bloody footprints inside the Mahabodhi temple complex
Photograph: Krishna Murari Kishan/Reuters