Hours before Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani set out on the second leg of his ‘Jan Chetna Yatra' from here on Friday, explosive material, weighing about six kg, stuffed into a six-foot-long PVC pipe and connected to a 12-volt battery, was found under a causeway at Alampatti near Tirumangalam in Madurai district.
The PVC pipe was packed with explosive material identified by police as ‘Power Gel 90' meant for industrial use. It was found in four packets stuffed into one section of the pipe. The other section was empty.
M. Selvaraj (47) of Alampatti, who noticed a long wire on the Kounda riverbed early in the morning, informed the local councillor, who, in turn, alerted the police. A Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad, which was combing the yatra route in a nearby place, rushed to Alampatti and took possession of the explosive. The PVC pipe, with 12 cm diameter, was in two sections, and closed with lids on both ends. A wire was connected to a detonator for a distance of about 50 metres. The 12-volt battery, used in two-wheelers, was found under a Palmyra tree at a distance. The wire was found concealed under heaps of grass and a sari.
The explosive was defused at a place away from the causeway and removed to an undisclosed place for analysis. ‘Power gel' is referred to as a “power-sensitive, high explosive” used for blasting rocks. The BJP leader, who arrived here on Thursday, addressed a public meeting and visited Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. He was to leave for Kerala through Tirumangalam, Alampatti, Srivilliputtur, Rajapalayam, Puliankulam, Kadayanallur, Tenkasi and Shencottah. Mr. Advani's convoy was diverted through Virudhunagar and Sivakasi to reach Rajapalayam.
The narrow causeway on the highway cannot be negotiated by vehicles from both ends. Even in normal times, vehicles stop at one end to give way for those coming in the opposite direction. Speeding vehicles automatically slow down as they approach the causeway. Police officials said foot patrol had been posted all along the route. But the detection of the ‘pipe bomb' came as a rude shock for them. This is the first time that explosive material had been planted on the route of a VIP in south Tamil Nadu, a police officer said.
Inspector General of Police (South Zone) Rajesh Das said preliminary probe suggested that it might be material used for industrial purpose. The investigation had just commenced. “We will know who was behind the incident as the probe progresses,” he said.
Prior to the visit of Mr. Advani, some Muslim outfits and Tamil organisations had pasted posters in the city and suburban areas. They condemned the BJP leader and the party for “double standards” on issues such as Ayodhya, Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant and corruption.
The BJP State propaganda secretary Sasiraman said such acts of planting explosives or bombs would not deter or stop the party from achieving its political goal. “We will not be cowed down by such threats… It is for the custodians of law to ensure that such incidents are prevented and culprits booked,” he added.
Inspector-General and Commissioner of Police (Madurai City) P. Kannappan, on instruction from the State government, led Mr. Advani's convoy up to Shencottah, a police source said. On February 14 1998, powerful serial blasts in Coimbatore killed 58 persons and injured 212. It was targeted at Mr. Advani, who was to address a public meeting ahead of the general elections then.