Mumbai, June 1: Militants disguised as policemen tried to storm the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s headquarters in Nagpur shortly before dawn today but were gunned down in their car outside the gates.
No senior RSS leader was present in the complex but police said the three militants could have wanted to create a “hostage-like situation”.
With an attack on the “hub of Hindutva” fraught with the potential for a flare-up, the Prime Minister quickly appealed for calm and communal peace.
The BJP bristled at the Centre’s “soft” policies on terrorism, blaming it for the attempted strike, while the Sangh appealed to its cadre to remain calm.
A subtle game, too, began to play itself out within the parivar with L.K. Advani and Narendra Modi ' both not known to be in the good books of the Sangh ' taking the lead in singing paeans to the RSS and announcing a cash prize for the police for foiling the attack.
The attack bid began unravelling around 4.15 am when policemen on duty spotted a white ambassador with a red beacon outside the eastern gate of Hegdewar Bhavan, the RSS headquarters named after its founder.
“When the policemen challenged the vehicle, it started speeding towards the gate, breaking the barricades. Our team chased them and killed the three occupants in an encounter that lasted about five minutes,” Nagpur police commissioner S.P.S. Yadav said.
The shootout took place about 100 metres from the eastern gate of the sprawling, tightly guarded building, but the militants managed to breach the first barrier, 200 metres from the gate.
“The police found three AK-Ms, a modified and superior version of the AK-47, and 13 hand grenades, along with 5 kg of some suspicious powdery substance which seems to be RDX,” Yadav said.
Preliminary inquiries suggested the attackers were members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba, police sources said. They wore police inspectors’ uniforms and were about 20-22 years old. One of them carried a diary. “The diary indicates they were Islamic militants,” Yadav said.
The militants, he added, had left Patna a couple of days ago and intelligence agencies had alerted police chiefs.
Taking no chances, Mumbai police today stepped up vigil at big shrines in the city.
The thwarted attack comes weeks after a huge cache of arms was seized in phases in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad and 11 suspected Lashkar militants were arrested.