A security team outside the Uttar Pradesh Assembly in Lucknow on Friday after explosives were found on its premises. (PTI)
Lucknow, July 16: The search for more explosives at the Uttar Pradesh Assembly has ended up exposing a "dirty" secret: pan masala and gutkha sachets stuffed under the cushions and spit stains below the members' seats.
State police's anti-terrorist squad has been combing the Assembly hall after the discovery of 150gm of the deadly explosive PETN under a seat last week.
"It seems that many of the lawmakers chew gutkha and pan masala during the sessions and stick the sachets under their own seat cushions' or their colleagues'. They also spit below the seats," an investigator who didn't want to be named said.
"We were looking for more explosive substances but came across these obnoxious things."
Yogi Adityanath had banned pan, pan masala and gutkha from state government offices on March 22, three days after taking over as chief minister, and asked departmental heads to punish violators.
While Assembly security snatches any pan masala or gutkha pouches it finds on the employees, the lawmakers are outside the ambit of the ban. It's the social shame associated with the habit that seems to have prompted the legislators to try and hide their sachets of these cancer-causing substances.
On Wednesday morning, the Assembly marshals had found a pack of white power under Seat No. 80, which had the previous day been used by Samajwadi Party members Manoj Pandey and Anil Dohare.
Adityanath declared on Friday that Lucknow's forensic science laboratory had identified the powder as the explosive substance PETN and suggested "a terrorist conspiracy" against the lawmakers.
Speaker Hriday Narayan Dikshit had immediately handed the inquiry to the anti-terrorism squad and written to the Union home ministry seeking a probe by the National Investigation Agency.
The anti-terrorism squad is still clueless how the explosive substance reached the Assembly hall. Police sources said the powder had been sent to the forensic science laboratory, Delhi, for further tests.
Sleuths interrogated Pandey yesterday and Dohare today. Sources said Pandey had told the investigators that on Tuesday, the first day of the budget session, the members had sat on any vacant seat they could find because the seats had not yet been allotted individually.
Pandey had asked a question in the House on Tuesday and left. Dohare then sat on Seat No. 80 for a few minutes.
Sources said that both members had told the interrogators they had not noticed any white substance below the seat.
Asim Arun, inspector-general in the anti-terrorism squad, told reporters that the sleuths had also questioned assistant marshal Joginder Singh Pundir and four engineers - Akhilesh Kumar, Virendra Dubey, Yatindra Singh and Suresh Kumar Dubey - besides the sweepers and air-conditioner operators.
Bullet-proof cabins were set up today at all the nine gates of the Assembly complex and handed over to the Provincial Armed Constabulary. Previously, the state police were in charge of security at the gates.
Three quick response teams of the anti-terrorism squad too have been deployed in the building, where the number of security cameras will be increased from the present 23 to 90.