News / Asia

India Investigates Buddhist Site Attack

Anjana Pasricha
— In India, one man has been detained in connection with a series of low intensity blasts at a prominent Buddhist holy site. Intelligence agencies are investigating possible links between Sunday's attack and the ethnic conflict between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in neighboring Burma.
    
The arrest was made Monday after police searched for clues and analyzed security camera footage from the Bodh Gaya temple complex in Bihar state.

The complex, where Buddha is believed to have gained enlightenment, is one of Buddhism’s holiest sites.
  
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said ten blasts had taken place.

He said a total of 13 bombs had been planted at the site. He says two people were injured - a 50-year-old and a 30-year-old man.

The low intensity blasts did not cause much damage to the temple complex. However they have raised concerns because it is the first time a Buddhist holy site has been hit by what authorities have termed a terror attack.

  • A Buddhist monk is carried on a stretcher for treatment after he was injured in an explosion in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India, July 7, 2013.
  • An Indian security personnel walks next to bloody footprints inside the Mahabodhi temple complex, after a series of explosions at Bodh Gaya in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, July 7, 2013.
  • A bomb squad member defuses a suspected timer fitted device in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India, July 7, 2013.
  • A security officer inspects the site of an explosion on the campus of the Mahabodhi Temple, the Buddhist Great Awakening temple, in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India, July 7, 2013.

Officials say Indian intelligence agencies had warned of an attack in Bodh Gaya in retaliation for alleged atrocities on Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority in Burma, by the country’s Buddhist community.

However, the head of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, Ajay Sahni, says there is no evidence to link the blasts directly to radical Rohingya Muslim groups in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar. He says they are believed to have been carried out by terror groups which commonly operate in India and have been blamed for numerous other terror strikes.
  
“What has been done apparently is that groups that are linked to Pakistan’s terrorist network have made issue of the attacks against the Rohingyas in Myanmar and have been threatening that they would execute revenge against Buddhist targets. They are the same set of players, but it identifies a new set of targets. Till now Buddhist targets have not really been on their radar,” said Ajay Sahni.

Security is being tightened at Buddhist sites, most of which are located in the eastern states of Bihar, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh. Some of Buddhism’s most sacred pilgrim spots lie in India where Buddha began preaching 2,500 years ago, although the religion went on to become more popular in East Asian countries.

Bihar’s Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, vowed to tighten security at the temple site in Bodh Gaya. 

Kumar says it is a World Heritage Site and he has asked federal authorities for additional security teams to guard the complex.   
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Thousands of pilgrims from East Asian countries such as Japan and Thailand visit Buddhist sites in India, which has been trying to tap the potential of what it calls spiritual tourism.

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