The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Security scurry at piety points

The shadow of Gandhinagar fell on Calcutta as a security blanket was cast over some popular places of worship on Wednesday.

The police, however, said “there was no reason to worry”, as the situation in the city was “absolutely normal”.

Though most of the temples did not register any immediate drop in attendance, worried temple-management committees spent Wednesday petitioning the police for more security.

The Swaminarayan temple on Chakraberia Road (North), whose headquarters in Gujarat was attacked on Tuesday, reacted to the carnage by retreating into prayer.

A shradh ceremony was cancelled for a special prayer session even as, outside, the security cordon served as a grim reminder of Gandhinagar.

Deputy commissioner (Special Branch) Gaurav Dutt paid a visit to the temple, while his men frisked everyone before allowing them entry through a door in a door. All other entrances remained shut. A police van waited some distance away to provide “extra cover”.

A few kilometres south of the Swaminarayan temple, Kalighat bristled with security as well. Five Special Branch officers covered the entrance, checking every devotee who passed. Four of the six gates were closed and the two being used on Wednesday were manned by cops armed with muskets.

“Though there is no threat to the temple, we are not taking any chances,” said Kalighat police station officer-in-charge Jayanta Das. “Our men have been asked to check every bag and every packet.” The security, however, did not appear to have any impact on the devotees. Temple committee secretary Pradyut Haldar said Kalighat had its regular share of 5,000-odd visitors on Wednesday.

The entrance to Birla Mandir, the Ballygunge temple drawing about a thousand devotees every day, had a similar fortress-like look. Guards of a private security agency were checking every visitor with metal-detectors.

Personnel from the local police station were also on hand to give the temple a more secure look. All gates, except one, were closed and senior officials were keeping a strict vigil.

What happened at Akshardham temple on Tuesday has prompted the management of the Lakshminarayan temple on Lansdowne Road to contemplate arming its own security-guards with licensed guns.

“We are in close touch with the police,” managing committee member Indranarayan Jha said on Wednesday, adding that the temple already had some plain-clothes officers monitoring things.

Police cover, however, did not come around for every large temple in town. Managing committee spokespersons for the Parasnath temple, near Maniktala, and the Shree Ganesh Murugan temple, near Lake Gardens, said they waited in vain for the police to turn up. At Dakshineswar, the only visible change was the presence of two additional home-guards and a constable from the Belghoria police station.

The management of Thanthania Kalibari, on Bidhan Sarani, however, said there was no need for extra security. “The situation is normal and we don’t expect things to change,” the pujari said.

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