Following intelligence inputs that suggested major cities in the country may be on the terrorists’ radar on the occasion of Maha Shivratri on Monday, Indian authorities have sprung into action, stepping up security around sensitive areas, crowded marketplaces and iconic landmarks. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) had sent an alert saying 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba militants had entered the country through Gujarat and were planning a strike on the occasion of Maha Shivratri.
On Monday morning, Home Minister Rajnath Singh chaired a high level meeting with the chiefs of IB and RAW and also National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Following the meeting, massive security arrangements were underway at several key places in Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, etc. The National Security Guard (NSG) has sent a 120-member team to Gujarat, and has asked more teams to stay on standby at other locations.
According to a report in The Hindu, Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Naseer Khan Janjua informed his Indian counterpart about the militants having sneaked past the border, following which Doval sent a note to the IB warning them of a possible attack, particularly at “some coastal pilgrimage centres in Saurashtra or Kutch”. “We have received four teams of NSGs. They have been deployed in Ahmedabad and Somnath temple. Along with the state police, NSG personnel are on standby mode,” said Gujarat DGP PC Thakur to the newspaper, adding that leave of all police officials and personnel have been cancelled.
The Somnath temple on the Saurashtra coast had turned into a fortress by Monday, with NSG commandos and state police officials deploying personnel there. Shivratri events, which were to be held at the temple, have also been cancelled following the intelligence inputs. “The NSG team has positioned itself at the temple. We have accepted the suggestion of the police and called off the cultural programmes that were to be held on Sunday and Monday. But the number of tourists has not been affected,” Pravin Laheri, secretary of the Shree Somnath Temple Trust, which manages the temple told the Indian Express.
In Porbandar, the deputy director of fisheries issued a circular asking personnel to keep a close watch on fishermen who had returned from Pakistani jails. IG (border wing) AK Jadeja told the paper that a core group of 22 agencies, including police, BSF and IB were working in coordination. “We are maintaining records of people who have come from Pakistan on long-term or short-term visas. The water wing of BSF has intensified patrolling. Police are watching the coastline and border villages like Lodrani, Lakhpat, Nirona etc,” Jadeja said.
Confirming the security arrangements in place, Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel said, “With the kind of arrangement made by the state government, and help offered by the Centre, I do not think any untoward incident will take place. I pray there will be no incident in the state or anywhere else in the country.”
Other states too have intensified security presence. Maharashtra declared an official alert. A top police official of the state police said all unit chiefs have been asked to ensure maximum protection of persons and offices. A terror alert was also issued in Uttar Pradesh and state capital Lucknow, according to Times Now. Heavy security was also at force at the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi. The police were also keeping a close eye on the ‘Kanwarias’ (devotees who walk barefoot carrying the holy Ganges water as an offering to the Shivlingas) as there was apprehension that they may be targeted by terrorists.
At the NSC Bose International Airport in Kolkata, security was tightened following an e-mail threat warning of a bomb blast in the next 24 hours. Airport officials told PTI that the e-mail came to the airport manager’s ID and appeared to originate from Germany.
In Punjab, Shivratri celebrations at the Jatpat Bani Shivala temple near Pathankot were muted following the security threat. The temple, surrounded by 35 acres of forest area, was teeming with security presence. The paper also mentioned that police forces at Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have all suggested that a group of terrorists may have reached the Jammu region a few days ago and might be hiding out at the Sidhra area.
The Coast Guard, too, has enhanced its surveillance of the Western coast of the country, specifically along the seas off Gujarat. “We have enhanced our air and sea surveillance following the security threat. Our surveillance is always 24/7, but since the input has come directly from the NSA, we are being extra cautious,” said a senior Coast Guard official, mentioning that they have not only pressed more ships into the sea for surveillance but also increased sorties made by their planes.
(With agency inputs)