Uttar Pradesh Assembly bomb scare: MLAs' egos shouldn't hinder NIA inquiry

The discovery of 150 grammes of explosive pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) — a white powder like substance — in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly raises some very serious questions. The topmost being how did it get there and from where was it sourced.

One would imagine you do not walk into a shop and ask for PETN in a paper bag and cart it along with your groceries. Just as you would not expect it to be on a special sale, 30 percent off or something alluring like that.

File image of Uttar Pradesh Assembly. PTI

File image of Uttar Pradesh Assembly. PTI

It's possible that someone in a high security area could be stealing PETN and selling it on the sly. It's also possible that somebody in a position of authority could be misusing his position and managed to bring it inside the House, either with the help of the system or in collusion with others. That stuff did not just saunter into the House on its own.

If Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath truly means to get to the bottom of this tangible threat, he should ask the investigators to round up the staff on duty in the past 24 hours and question them on their whereabouts and liaisons as well as expect the 403 MLAs to become a part of the solution. They must inquire among themselves as to how did the packet arrive close to the chair of the Leader of the Opposition, Ram Kobind Chaudhary, as the chief minister has stated.

If the white powder had been just that and innocuous in itself, one could have assumed that it was a tasteless prank and a cheap shot at best to embarrass the Opposition. But considering lab tests have confirmed it to be PETN, it dramatically moves the goalposts. Suddenly this has turned serious and underscores the fact that the intent and design of this act were evil.

What makes it even more worrying is the possibility that someone with access to the Assembly jettisoned the powder inside the House and was carrying it on his or her person for delivery, or usage on the outside. It's possible that the substance was meant to be used in some projectile to destroy a target. Either way it's an act of terrorism.

To preclude the members or the staff in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly from a security sweep would be to assume that a strange third party without official access trotted past the circles of security and deposited the explosive next to Chaudhary and departed, which is even more frightening. But then why would anyone take the risk — seeing it demands some major logistics and planning to obtain it secretly and safely — simply to leave it there.

While it is commendable that Adityanath has called for a thorough investigation and not made a light work of the presence of the explosive because it was placed close to the leader of the Opposition, it is incumbent upon the NIA and allied agencies to trace the source of this consignment. Where did it come from and which facility is missing it? What if more is missing? What if these 160 grammes were a small part of the theft?

Only by retracing the steps to the origin and storage of PETN and the day its absence was noticed that will we get some clue about how it finally arrived on the floor of the House.

Whether there will ever be an answer depends on how scared and serious the 403 members of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly are, and whether their collective ego will allow them to be verbally frisked. After all you do not get RDX and Semtex or PETN for the asking. Somebody in that building has to be the culprit.

Updated Date: Jul 14, 2017 16:06 PM

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