Mumbai, Aug. 1: Four low-intensity explosions and a bomb that did not go off in Pune this evening greeted Sushil Kumar Shinde on his first day in office as Union home minister.
One person was reported injured in the explosions spread over a 1-km stretch on the main arterial road in the heart of Pune, less than 2km from the venue where Shinde was scheduled to give away an award to social worker Baba Amte’s sons.
A tailor identified as Dayanand Patil was injured in the explosion at Bal Gandharva Rangmandir, the hub of Pune’s theatre and cultural activities, and admitted to a local hospital.
Patil suffered the injury apparently when an explosive in the bag he was carrying went off near the entrance. He was earlier seen near the India Against Corruption (IAC) platform near the auditorium where Anna Hazare supporters were staging an ongoing protest.
Police did not confirm if Patil was an IAC activist or if he was staking out the protest zone but added that he was a resident of Urali Kanchan, about 30km from Pune. Union home secretary R.K. Singh said the injured man would be treated as a suspect.
The bombs brought back memories of the 2010 German Bakery blast that killed 17 persons, including three youngsters from Calcutta.
The explosions, not louder than firecrackers, were heard from four spots on the busy Jangli Maharaj Road, which is frequented by students for shopping and eating.
The bombs went off between 7.27pm and 7.37pm on the stretch between Bal Gandharva Rangmandir and Garware Bridge, both Pune landmarks.
According to police, the explosions were heard outside the theatre, a McDonald’s outlet, near a Dena Bank ATM and Garware Chowk. Damaged bicycles were found near the ATM and Garware Chowk. The bomb outside McDonald’s was planted in a garbage bin. One bomb was defused.
At the nearby Tilak Smarak, Shinde was scheduled to present the Tilak Puraskar to Baba Amte’s sons Prakash and Vikas Amte. Shinde, however, cancelled his visit at the last minute as he took charge of the home ministry today. “I had planned to go to Pune at 6pm today to attend a functionů. I have no information of (the blasts) being a terror attack,” Shinde said in Delhi.
Pune police commissioner Gulabrao Pol said: “Prime facie, it appears to be mischief by someone to spread panic.”
“This is a message that some groups can execute blasts at will by activating sleeper cells. Softer targets like roads and shopping places remain vulnerable,” said an officer.