|An NSG officer searches for evidence in the public toilet at Patna Junction, the site of Sunday’s first blast, on Monday. Picture by Deepak Kumar
Patna, Oct. 28: From the ashes of tragedy rises the farce of blame-game — and a classic lesson in how to play safe.
As charges flew on how the Bihar government ignored an Intelligence Bureau alert, a letter popped up and confirmed India’s worst-kept secret: no official will ever stick his neck out in writing.
The IB letter [no. 111/PA/2013(3)] is dated October 23 and was received by the state government on October 24 — three days before Narendra Modi’s rally in Patna.
The letter cites the arrest of Indian Mujahideen kingpin Yasin Bhatkal from near the state’s border with Nepal in late August as an additional “factor” in the vulnerability of Modi and of the BJP mascot “being perceived as a leader of Hindus”.
“The recent arrest of Yasin Bhatkal of IM (Indian Mujahideen) and other IM modules from different parts of Bihar, including Darbhanga, in the recent times, makes it imperative to factor in the vulnerability on this count. Narendra Modi being perceived as a leader of Hindus invokes a fair degree of dissent from a number of radical Muslim groups and may be targeted by rabid elements/groups. This becomes pronounced in view of Narendra Modi also figuring as a target in the list of various terror organisations,” the letter says.
Why the considerable resources of the Intelligence Bureau are required to produce such “intelligence” that is common knowledge to everybody and his uncle is anybody’s guess.
But the beginning of the letter takes the cake.
“Presently there is no specific input indicating any threat to the security during the visit of the VIP to Patna. However, the following issues need to be factored in while making arrangements during the visit of the VVIP….,” the letter’s first paragraph says.
The second part of the letter was leaked first by those who wanted to embarrass chief minister Nitish Kumar who had yesterday categorically denied that any “specific intelligence input” on the blasts ahead of Modi’s rally. Nitish also holds charge of home affairs in the state.
Today, Bihar additional director-general of police Ravindra Kumar hurriedly called a news conference and declared there was no specific input. “The alert was of a routine nature. There was no specific information on the kind of subversive activities to be carried out.”
Director-general of police Abhayanand drew specific attention to the first paragraph.
Not that the Bihar government cuts a picture of efficiency when the preparedness on the ground is taken into account.
On October 23, a few days before the rally on Sunday, police officials from Bihar, Gujarat and central agencies had held a coordination meeting in Patna to assess the security situation
“The day information was exchanged, Gujarat police were cheesed off with the arrangements,” a Union home ministry source said in Delhi. Apparently, Patna police neither carried out basic security drills nor tracked threat sources, he claimed.
DGP Abhayanand said his force had followed the rulebook but added he would have to check whether metal detectors and CCTV cameras were installed at Gandhi Maidan, the rally venue where six blasts occurred before Narendra Modi took the stage. BJP leaders have alleged the safeguards were not in place.
“We have requested the NIA to take over the case. One of the suspects is at present in a critical condition. We have informed the court about it. Altogether there were 7,694 policemen present, from the airport till the Gandhi Maidan, on the day of the Hunkar rally,” Abhayanand said.
Other officers also insisted there was nothing new in the IB alert. “Narendra Modi has heavy security cover and it is natural that such apprehensions are made in the form of such alerts whenever he visits any place,” said a senior officer.
IB officers pointed out, however, that such alerts were issued in this form. “We would have hardly required the help of Bihar police if we had specific information,” said an officer.