|A bomb disposal squad officer tries to defuse the package of explosives at the temporary police control room in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan on Tuesday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey
Oct. 29: The afternoon was still early when a deafening explosion shook the grounds.
The first bomb had been defused.
The clock showed 12.57. It had taken nearly two hours for the squad to defuse it since the team from Bihar police and the National Security Guard found the device around 11 in the morning.
“The bomb disposal squad spotted a mysterious package just inside the boundary wall of the Gandhi Maidan. On probing, we found that it was a live bomb,” Patna city superintendent of police Jayant Kant said.
The cops would find two more today, one of them a deadly package of three bundled together. It was found in the temporary control room set up by the police for Sunday’s rally.
Two days after a series of low-intensity blasts rocked Gandhi Maidan during the BJP’s Hunkar (battle cry) Rally, the sprawling verdant ground has turned into a minefield in the heart of Patna. Security personnel in charge of sanitising the green patch have no clue how many more bombs lie hidden across the 62-acre ground.
Asked why it was taking so long to “sanitise” the Maidan, Kant said: “The area is huge. All the gates have been closed and we are trying to conduct a thorough search. But it is not an easy task at all,” Kant said.
Police suspect the bombs had been placed along with the 12 planted ahead of Sunday’s rally. Eight had exploded, killing six persons.
Sources said the first bomb found today was fitted with a timer device. “It (the bomb) was neatly wrapped in a white plastic bag and kept just near the boundary wall, at a distance of 50m from one of the gates of the Maidan. A small clock was attached to the bomb as a timer,” said a police officer who didn’t want to be named.
The second bomb was found around 3.50pm about 20m inside the boundary wall of the Maidan. It was inside a pile of sand sacks inside a tent that served as a police control room during the rally.
The NSG men tried to detonate it for an hour and a half and there was a low-intensity blast.
“It seems three bombs had been tied up together and kept at the spot. The officers are trying to defuse it. It will take some time. Right now, it is unsure if it was a single bomb or three,” senior superintendent of police (SSP) Manu Maharaj had said in the afternoon.
All the three bombs — found near the northern boundary wall of the Maidan — have been defused.
While the security personnel were struggling with the deadly package, two constables spotted another bomb in a plastic bag, around 100m from the second one. It was around 5pm.
SSP Maharaj said Bihar police personnel were scanning the grounds to check whether there were any more bombs. “The checks will continue till we are sure that the Gandhi Maidan is safe.”
The slow pace of the checks has affected Patna residents, especially students of Magadh Mahila College and the Women’s Training College, opposite the northern end of the Maidan. Both institutions will remain closed on Wednesday.
“The road leading to our institute was closed since the bombs were discovered nearby. The students told us they were finding it difficult to come to college,” said Jessie George Modi, the principal of Women’s Training College.