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UTTAR PRADESH

Bomb blasts rock Varanasi, 20 killed

Wednesday 8 March 2006

Over 50 injured; Sankat Mochan temple temple, railway station targeted: security stepped up nation-wide

Varanasi: Three bomb explosions rocked this holy city on Tuesday claiming 20 lives and injuring over 50.

Immediately after the blasts, the police were put on high alert in several parts of the country and security was stepped up at places of worship, vital installations and government buildings.

The first blast took place inside the Sankat Mochan temple adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath temple. The bomb went off when the temple was teeming with devotees during the evening ``aarti.’’

Minutes later, at 6.25 p.m., another bomb went off in the holding area of platform number one of the Varanasi Cantonment railway station.

The third blast occurred in a crowded coach of the Shiv Ganga Express minutes before it was to set off for New Delhi. The compartment was packed with people going on vacation ahead of the Holi festival.

CRPF to be deployed

A report from New Delhi said the Centre placed for deployment 200 CRPF personnel in Varanasi and another 300 elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh. Security at temples and vital installations in the State, Delhi and Mumbai was stepped-up.

The Union Home Ministry reviewed the security situation and alerted all States to be extra vigilant.

Kalam appeals for calm

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam condemned the blasts and appealed for calm and peace.

A Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesman said the President condoled the loss of lives in the blasts and conveyed his sympathies to the families. He also wished the injured a speedy recovery.

``The President is sure that the State Government is taking all possible steps to help the victims and to maintain peace there,’’ he said.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi said the incidents were ``mindless acts of terrorism’’ and expressed her deep concern and anguish at the loss of lives. Soft policies: BJP

The BJP alleged that ``soft’’ policies of the UPA Government towards terrorism and the ``minority appeasement politics’’ of the Samajwadi Party Government in Uttar Pradesh were responsible for the blasts.

Spokesman Prakash Javadekar said party president Rajnath Singh was leaving for Varanasi to study the situation.

The RSS termed the blasts ``shocking and disturbing’’ and accused both the Central and State Governments of being ``incapable’’ of dealing with the menace of terrorism.

``It is a shocking and disturbing incident. Hindu auspicious occasions and sacred places such as Ayodhya and Varanasi have of late been becoming targets of terrorists.

``Both the Central and Uttar Pradesh Governments have proved to be totally incapable in containing this menace of terrorism which is spreading like wildfire all over the country,’’ RSS national executive member Ram Madhav told PTI over phone from Hyderabad.

War against nation: VHP

The VHP described the blasts as a ``war against Indian nation,’’ and announced a bandh in the holy city in protest against the incident.

``The VHP condemns the Jehadi terrorist attack. It is a war against the Indian nation. We should together fight this Jehadi terrorism,’’ general secretary Praveen Togadia said in a statement from Valsad in Gujarat.

He also announced a ``Varanasi Bandh’’ in protest against the blasts.

Ex-gratia

A red alert has been sounded in Uttar Pradesh. Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav announced ex-gratia relief for the victims and appealed to the people to maintain peace and order.

In a statement issued in Lucknow, Mr. Yadav said the culprits would not be spared.

``Stern action will be initiated against all those found involved in the incident.’’

He announced an ex gratia of Rs. five lakh to those killed in the blasts, Rs. one lakh to those seriously injured and Rs. 50,000 to those with minor injuries.

Patrolling has been intensified throughout the State, especially in those areas where communal clashes had taken place last Friday last. - PTI, UNI, AFP

See online : The Hindu

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