Bodh Gaya blasts leave Delhi Buddhists stunned, shaken

Holy place:A monk performing rituals at a Buddhist temple in the Capital’s Majnu Ka Tila on Sunday.— Photo: R. V. Moorthy  

Why and to what end would anyone target the Mahabodhi temple, the most sacrosanct shrine of a religion that preaches non-violence and world peace, is a question that hundreds of Buddhists living in the Capital are asking.

Saddened by the attack that took place early Sunday morning, the Buddhist community in Delhi is hopeful that government agencies will find the culprits who attacked their holy place.

“We woke up to the sad news of explosions in the temple, which has a direct association with Lord Buddha. We condemn such a dastardly act and hope that the government will carry out a thorough probe to identify and book those involved in the conspiracy to destroy the shrine and terrorise followers,” said Tenzin Kunkyap, a resident of Majnu Ka Tila who has visited the temple twice. Tenzin’s neighbours said it was expected of all Buddhists to visit the temple every year. “People from different countries like Japan, China, Singapore, Korea and Thailand visit the temple mostly during winters when the weather is pleasant. We too have made several trips to Bodh Gaya besides Rajgir in Bihar, Sarnath and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh and Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh.”

Tenzin’s friend and a monk, Tashan, said he has visited the temple nine times. “It is during important religious events that there is heavy security presence in and around the temple. But, usually we see only a few guards manning the temple entrance. This is what I witnessed last year,” he added.

“For what purpose did they target the temple? All those who gather there for meditation and prayer are followers of Lord Buddha who spread the message of inner peace and harmony. Invaders had once ransacked and ravaged Nalanda University (in Bihar) from where teachers had once travelled far distances to propagate Lord Buddha’s teachings and now our holy places are being targeted,” said another resident of Majnu Ka Tila.

Wary of expressing their views on the terror attack, many locals said they did not want to say anything that might invite the wrath of government agencies. “We are all saddened. The temple was targeted a day after the Dalai Lama’s birthday, which we have been celebrating. But, we cannot pass any comment on whatever has happened nor are we in a position to say who was behind the attack,” said a Tibetan Buddhist.

Monitoring activities through high-resolution cameras installed in the locality, the Colony Residents’ Welfare Association president Karten Tsering said: “We firmly believe that the government will properly investigate the matter. To ensure safety and security, considering that a large number of foreigners stay here during their visit to India, we have got 20 cameras installed to cover the colony’s entrance and exit points. We also plan to increase the number of cameras.”

Condemning the terror attack, Buddhist Monuments Development Council chairman Arvind Alok said: “I returned from Bodh Gaya on Sunday. Both the State and Central governments have failed to protect the world famous Buddhist monument in spite of an intelligence report sent much in advance. Security at the temple must be stepped up and personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force or the Central Reserve Police Force should be deployed there.” Dr. Alok said despite security threats, only private security guards were deployed at the temple. “A judicial inquiry should be initiated to fix responsibility. The district collector of Gaya who is responsible for the security of the temple should be removed immediately. Also, the temple management should be taken over by the Central Government and brought under the direct supervision of the Central Cultural Minister,” said Dr. Alok, appealing to those aggrieved to lodge protests in a peaceful manner.