"The ultras are taking advantage of the Central government's weakness"

A day after the bomb blast at Varanasi's Sheetla Ghat, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati — in a move aimed at giving a clean chit to the State intelligence and security agencies — said on Wednesday that “no specific actionable intelligence input had been received [from the Centre] regarding the bomb blast”.

“A fax was received by the State government on February 25, 2010, pertaining to the possibility of a terror attack on the Dasashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi during the Dussehra festival. This certainly cannot be taken as a specific actionable intelligence input,” she said.

The Chief Minister said general alerts were sounded pertaining to the anniversaries of the 26/11 attacks and the Babri Masjid demolition, but these could not be taken as “specific actionable intelligence inputs.”

Ms. Mayawati accused the Centre of lacking the will to contain terrorism, which, she said, had assumed the form of a “national problem”. “The ultras are taking advantage of the Central government's weakness,” she said, adding that until the country's borders are secure, terrorism cannot be eliminated.

On alleged security failure by the State agencies being the reason for the Indian Mujahideen (IM) planting an explosive device at Sheetla Ghat, Ms. Mayawati said that as per normal practice the ghats were sanitised on Tuesday by the police by 5 p.m. before the Ganga aarti began at 6 p.m. Since the aarti drew large crowds, it was not possible to stop everyone from entering the ghat. After the ghat was sanitised, the responsibility was handed over to the priests.

“No lapses were committed by the police,” Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh said at a press conference on behalf of Ms. Mayawati. He added that the police were present when the Ganga aarti was being performed, but not in the midst of the ritual.

However, how the IM operatives managed to plant the explosive device despite police presence was left unexplained. Mr. Singh said probe was under way.

Ms. Mayawati's reaction came within hours of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram's visit to Varanasi.

After visiting the Sheetla Ghat and the Sir Sunderlal Hospital in Banaras Hindu University (BHU), where he met the injured, Mr. Chidambaram told journalists that a specific advisory had been sent to the State Government in February 2010 about ultras planning to attack the ghat. He added that the first responsibility of providing security lay with the State.

Mr. Singh said Ms. Mayawati wrote to the Prime Minister on Wednesday demanding 125 companies of Central para-military forces.

Keywords: Varanasi blast

More In: National | News