News & Updates
Both news media and general public can find important information
about updates, alerts and events that impact human rights in Sri Lanka

Striking at the very heart of Buddhists

2013 Jul 10

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Bihar Police launched a manhunt for two more suspects in connection with Sunday's serial bomb blasts in Bodh Gaya, the ancient site of Buddhist worship, following the release of CCTV footage yesterday (8) that indicated the involvement of at least two others in the terror attack.



The video footage released yesterday showed a man of about 30 years walking inside the Mahabodhi Temple and going up to the blast site, before making a quick exit. The video showed the smoke-choked devotees numbering well over a 100, standing inside the temple premises.



The CCTV footage was released by District Development Officer (DDO) Giridhar Dayal, SP (City), Chandan Kushwaha, and members of the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC). In the third footage of the blast at the nearby Taradevi Temple, thick smoke was shown billowing out after the explosion, and scores of people running away for safety.



Gathering circumstantial evidence


As India intensified security for the Buddhist site, monks opened the temple for worship on Monday evening. However, the Sri Lankan Government has requested citizens not to visit Bodh Gaya for another week, in a bid to assist the ongoing investigations and to avoid inconvenience to the pilgrims. A special five-member investigations team was flown to Gaya from Delhi, soon after the attack on Sunday, to gather circumstantial evidence and to launch an immediate probe. However, residents of Gaya told Ceylon Today that the inclement weather had already washed away much of the evidence.



Besides, in the District of Gaya, political parties took to the streets on Monday, conducting separate protests against what they termed 'the State Government's alleged failure to ensure the safety of the most revered place of worship of Buddhists. The Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) reportedly mobilized thousands of protesters, forcing shops and business establishments to close down.



While the Indian Government has downplayed the enormity of the incidents with statements averring that Sri Lankans not being the target of the bomb blasts, opposition political parties have converted the serial blasts into a political tool with which to condemn the State administration.



State Govt. faulted



Bihar's Nitish Kumar Government has been accused of failing in its duty to protect a site of international religious significance, with Senior BJP Leader, Sushil Kumar Modi, yesterday commencing a day-long fast in the State capital outside the Sri Krishna Memorial Hall, to protest against 'security lapses.'



Congress Leader Digvijay Singh, yesterday criticized the Bihar leadership for keeping the security of the Mahabodhi Temple in private hands, despite intelligence warnings as recent as June, on possible terror attacks. "If there were Intelligence Bureau inputs on possible terror attacks, then the State Government should not have left the security of a place as important as the Mahabodhi Temple in the hands of private people," he told reporters in New Delhi.

Singh has also accused the BJP for 'politicizing' the issue by calling for a Bihar protest against alleged security lapses, claiming that everyone should wait for National Investigation Agency (NIA) to conclude the probe.



"For god's sake, please let's get the investigation completed, and please do not communalize each act of terrorism... the BJP and the Sangha want to communalize politics in India again, in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections," the Congress Leader said.



However, Sri Lanka's main Opposition, the United National Party (UNP), too did not fail to try taking broadsides at the Colombo Government. At a media conference hosted by the Joint Opposition on Sunday, the UNP's Assistant Leader, Joseph Michael Perera, remarked the Bodh Gaya attack was a result of Sri Lanka's failure to honour commitments made to other countries, including India.



Perera had told Colombo-based journalists, the attack was a direct result of the Sri Lankan Government's failure to handle international affairs diplomatically, as a result of which Sri Lankan Buddhists had become the target of the international community.



Clergy and Lankans not targets



Meanwhile, responding to the serial blasts, Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had said he was 'intensely saddened' by the incidents and the Sri Lankan Government requested locals to avoid travelling to Bodh Gaya for another week, following the closure of the site except for investigators studying the blast, and monks who are associated with the performance of rituals.



"It is difficult to say how long the advisory will remain operative. It is a safety measure. People are not warned against travel to India but only to Bodh Gaya due to current situation," Deputy Minister of External Affairs, Neomal Perera explained.



Speaking to Ceylon Today, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in New Delhi, ruled out Buddhist monks and Sri Lankans being the target of the serial blasts. "Clearly that does not appear to be the intention. However, we advise Sri Lankans not to go on pilgrimage to the holy site until the investigations come to an end," he said. But in truth, it is easier said than done, a travel operator speaking on the basis of anonymity said. "Everyone wants to visit Bodh Gaya and that's the primary reason for Sri Lankan Buddhists to go on pilgrimage. The place of birth and passing away are important but the place of enlightenment and where the first sermon was delivered evoke so much religious zeal. Cancelling planned visits also bring other attendant issues," the travel operator added.



For Gaya, June to September is off-season. This is also the cited reason for the minimum of casualties due to the Sunday blasts. With hardly any passengers, commercial flights do not operate from the Gaya International Airport at present.



During the peak season which is October to March, four to five flights carry an average of about 1,500 passengers to and from the airport daily. The airport is connected with Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Bhutan, Singapore, Japan, Vietnam and Korea, besides operating domestic flights to various Indian destinations. With the tourists' season coming to an end in April, no commercial flights operate from Gaya.



Speaking to Ceylon Today, the Chief Priest of the Mahabodhi Vihara in Bodh Gaya, Dr. Dodamgoda Sri Revatha Thera said: "To the Buddhist world, Bodh Gaya has no parallel despite a number of places of religious worship scattered in North and Central India, as it is the place where Siddhartha Gautama achieved enlightenment. It is shocking and saddening that people resort to such horrible violence that injures religious sentiments and divides people."



The Chief Priest added, "These blasts struck at the very heart of Buddhists. Bodh Gaya is about our religion, the religious culture we all inherited and is the most sacred venue for all of us representing the Buddhist world. The barbarism of these acts will not be forgotten and will remain etched to the Buddhist psyche, forever.

Search News & Updates