Varanasi Balst: The first explosion occurred at 18:20 at the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple packed with devotees near Banaras Hindu University. Hundreds of visitors flocked to the temple on this Tuesday.
On March 7, 2006, Varanasi was the site of a series of bomb blasts that had killed at least 28 people and wounded around 100. Hindus regard Varanasi as sacred, and it is one of the world’s oldest living cities also believed to be the city of Shiva.
The explosions happened almost simultaneously just after 18:00 IST. The first explosion occurred at 18:20 at the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple packed with devotees near Banaras Hindu University. Hundreds of visitors flocked to the temple on Tuesday, which is considered especially sacred day by the followers of Sri Hanuman. The explosive was planted in a container near a shrine entrance where women regularly sit. It killed ten people and wounded 40 others.
Another explosion occurred at the Varanasi Cantonment Railway Station. It took place near the travel office’s waiting room. Another bomb was reported inside the halted Shiv Ganga Express going to Delhi, but this was subsequently diffused. The Shiv Ganga Express was delayed by two hours, arriving in Delhi four hours late and importantly unharmed. Six explosives were apparently neutralised in different parts of the city, including a restaurant popular with tourists near the railway station.
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Shivraj Patil, the then Home Minister, had visited Varanasi Tuesday night, along with Sonia Gandhi, following the blasts.
Sonia was the first person to visit the Sankatmochan temple and spent a significant amount of time with the injured in the SSL Hospital.
She was visibly moved to tears by the condition of the victims and pledged to arrest and punish those guilty for the blasts as soon as possible. She told the state administration that the Centre will support it in keeping calm in the city.
A top Uttar Pradesh government official claimed that the explosives that shook the city were likely the work of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, one of whom was killed in an encounter with police near Lucknow few days before the blasts.
Mr. Sinha, Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh at the time, stated that explosives were made in Bihar. The bomb-making materials were obtained from Nepal and transported across the porous Indo-Nepal border.
Manmohan Singh, India’s Prime Minister at the time, denounced the bombings and urged calm. All-important temples in New Delhi were soon encircled by the police. The Cabinet Committee on Security of India convened in an emergency session. To protest the bombings, Varanasi shut down on Wednesday; stores and businesses were closed, and schools and institutions were closed.
Despite a flock of politicians of across parties coming to city, followed by blasts, life appeared to be going on as usual. While BJP and Shiv Sena members kept the stores closed, people could be seen moving around the streets, personifying the city’s indomitable character. A larger-than-usual crowd visited the Sankatmochan temple, one of the bomb sites.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh at the time, claimed that UP Police killed one of the suspected involved in the bombing, who turned out to be a resident of Madhya Pradesh, and was a member of the Lashkar-e Taiba, and police were on the lookout for him in relation to the 2005 Delhi blasts.
The Lashkar-e Kahar/Qahab, has claimed responsibility for the bombings. On Thursday morning, a spokesman for the organisation, Abdullah Jabbar alias Abu Feroz, contacted a local news agency in Srinagar to claim responsibility for the bombings and warned similar strikes in other towns of India unless the government stopped its “catch and kill” campaign in Jammu and Kashmir.