Intelligence and law enforcement agencies here are seeing Sunday’s blasts at the Mahabodhi temple complex at Bodh Gaya in Bihar as the first-of-its-kind terror incident in India where a Buddhist religious site was attacked with foreigners as primary targets. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has now alerted all States, particularly those where Buddhists visit in large numbers, to be on alert and increase deployment in sensitive places.

“There have been intelligence inputs that [some Islamist groups] were planning to target Buddhists and their religious sites with foreigners in mind … This follows the ongoing sectarian violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar,” a senior MHA official told reporters on Sunday. “After last year’s Pune blasts, some arrested Indian Mujahideen operatives had told the Delhi police that there were plans to target Buddhist shrines in Bodh Gaya to retaliate for atrocities being committed upon Muslims in Myanmar … This input was shared with the Bihar police. The nature of attack and explosives used in the attack [points] towards the Indian Mujahideen … It could be their handiwork,” he said.

“In recent months, the Centre and some States have also issued alerts over the circulation of videos and pictures on the Internet and through mobile phones of alleged atrocities committed on Rohingya Muslims to incite passions and tensions,” the official noted.

Immediately after the blasts at Bodh Gaya, an emergency meeting was convened in the MHA and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) team along with bomb experts from the National Security Guard (NSG) were despatched to carry out investigations. Describing it as a “terror attack,” Home Secretary Anil Goswami said all angles into the attacks were being probed.

Immediately, an advisory was sent to all States to beef up security in all sensitive locations, particularly Buddhist shrines, Tibetan settlements and other religious places, while major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune were put on high alert. The advisory has specifically asked States with sizeable Buddhist population or key Buddhist shrines to gear up their intelligence and security mechanisms.

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