Imphal, Aug. 17: An uneasy calm descended on the Iskcon temple in Imphal after a brush with terror on what was supposed to be a night of revelry.
Members of the temple management quietly went about cleaning the mess left by the grenade that killed four and wounded over 50 in the midst of a Ras Lila performance on Janmashtami. Outside the shrine, security personnel used sniffer dogs to hunt for clues, but nothing much emerged except speculative theories about who hurled the grenade on the devotees.
The police claimed to have information that could lead to the attackers, but ruled out the involvement of any fundamentalist group. “We have some background information, which could lead police investigators in a particular direction. Till now, we do not have any evidence of the involvement of any fundamentalist group in the attack,” director-general of police Anup Parashar said.
The People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak, one of the many militant groups active in Manipur, issued a statement to prevent speculation about its involvement. The Revolutionary People’s Front and the United National Liberation Front made similar statements.
The DGP denied there was any security lapse. “The attack was unexpected. This was the first instance of a religious place being attacked on a religious day in Manipur. The only thing we can say at this moment is that we are on the job and we have information that suggests the involvement of a militant group.”
Of the four who died in the attack, three were cremated at the Iskcon complex itself around 5 pm. Families, relatives and friends of the victims sobbed inconsolably as wreaths were placed on the bodies before the cremation.
Senior Iskcon functionary Bhakti Swaroop Damodar Swami said those who hurled the grenade may have killed people, but they failed to break the spirit of the devotees. “The attack was a despicable act of terrorism. But we are strong and will celebrate Radha Asthami eight days later.”
Damodar Swami suffered a minor injury in the blast.
Protesters, mostly women in traditional mourning attire, staged sit-in demonstrations at three different places along the road to Imphal airport. “Do they (the culprits) think they are brave by killing children and old men' Come, kill us if you think such an act can take you to your goal,” a woman from Ghari Mamang Leikai village shouted.
The Iskcon shrine is at Sangaiporou.
A police investigator said the Chinese-made hand grenade was hurled from close range by someone present at the mandap where the Ras Lila was being staged.
The police found an unexploded bomb near the Jagannath temple, located in the same complex, around 11 pm yesterday. (See inside)