Hidden behind last week’s twin blasts in Hyderabad are the nefarious designs of terrorists who wanted to trigger communal riots in the historic city. A small incident could flare up tensions in a highly polarised society that had recently witnessed vitriolic speeches by controversial leaders, both Hindu and Muslim, say sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

An apparently failed attempt to target the famous Sai Baba temple at Dilsukhnagar, a few metres from the blast sites, that too on a Thursday when devotees throng there in huge numbers, points to a deep-rooted conspiracy. Terrorists might have changed their plan to plant a bomb or bombs in the temple or close to it in a bid to maximise casualties, as there was heavy police deployment in view of Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anurag Sharma’s visit to the shrine, the sources noted.

Intelligence reports say the highly objectionable speeches by Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi near Hyderabad, for which he was arrested, and then by senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia have vitiated the atmosphere in the city. Recent weeks have seen a strong communal undercurrent building up with local religious leaders trying to polarise society. Any small incident could lead to serious law and order problems, and hence the Sai Baba temple might have been the possible target, the sources said.

Though MHA officials are tight-lipped on who could be behind the blasts, the sources said prima facie these appeared to be the handiwork of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), while the plan might have been executed by the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Notably, Hyderabad has been a hub of IM activities. “LeT has been a worrying factor for us. They provide technical expertise and material related to bomb manufacturing to IM members, besides funding their operations from overseas,” a senior official said.

But the Union government is not naming who could be behind the blasts. It is treading cautiously. For, the Centre, after initially blaming Pakistan-based terror groups for the blasts at the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad and at the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, had to concede that the incidents could be the handiwork of some Hindu fundamentalists.

According to Minister of State for Home RPN Singh: “Whatever evidence the investigative agencies have collected [in the Hyderabad incident] has been sent for forensic examination. There are leads … we are looking into it.”

Refusing to say anything more, he said: “At the moment we cannot share the details…but the perpetrators of this barbaric act will be caught and the strictest punishment will be given.”

The MHA sources said the probe would be handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) once all the initial probe and other groundwork were completed by the Hyderabad police. “Currently, the NIA, the Intelligence Bureau and National Security Guard officials are assisting the State police in the investigation … but soon the NIA will take full charge as initial leads suggest that the terrorists behind it have multistate footprints, and the NIA has the powers and expertise to deal with such cases. But the Hyderabad police will always be kept in the loop,” a senior official said.