High alert in Punjab
Ludhiana, Dec 23 (PTI): A bomb went off in the district court complex here on Thursday, killing one person and injuring six others, prompting the Punjab government to declare a high alert in the state.
Police suspect that the man killed in the blast in the second-floor toilet was trying to assemble or plant the explosive device.
As forensic teams and specialised agencies were being summoned to the blast site, chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi expressed apprehension that the explosion might have been an attempt to create ‘anarchy’ in the poll-bound state.
The Union Home Ministry has sought a detailed report from the state government as early as possible. It also wanted to be informed about the findings of the initial investigations.
The blast wrecked a wall of the bathroom, leaving a pile of rubble. Windowpanes in adjoining rooms and windscreens of some cars parked below were smashed. There was panic in the busy court complex.
Local MLA Balwinder Singh Bains was in a lawyer’s chamber on the third floor when the explosion took place. Some people thought a cooking gas cylinder had burst, other said it was a ‘blast’, he told a TV channel.
Officials said the six people, including three women, injured in the explosion were out of danger.
CM Channi, accompanied by deputy chief minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu, visited a hospital in Ludhiana to meet the injured.
He also summoned a meeting later in the day in Chandigarh.
The blast comes days after the alleged sacrilege bids – at the Golden Temple in Amritsar and a gurdwara in Kapurthala – followed by the lynching of unidentified two men.
Over the past months, there have also been cases of drones being spotted near the Pakistan border, with authorities suspecting that they could have dropped arms or explosives.
Channi expressed fear that an attempt was being made to spread anarchy in Punjab ahead of the state assembly polls.
“Our police are capable of maintaining law and order,” he said.”But which agencies which are trying to disturb Punjab’s peace will become clear as investigations are on.”
Earlier, he told reporters in Chandigarh, “As elections near, some anti-national and anti-state forces are trying to commit such disgusting acts, and for this the government is alert and the people should also be alert,” he said.
He also suggested that the blast could be linked to action against ‘drug traffickers’, mentioning also the case against Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia.
Deputy CM Randhawa, who is also the state’s Home minister, said some ‘external forces’ could be trying to destabilise Punjab, and alluded to Pakistan.
Punjab has been put on high alert, he said.
Several advocates complained of lax security arrangements at the complex, and Randhawa said more metal detectors will be installed there.
Asked if it could be a human bomb or a fidayeen suicide attack, the minister said nothing can be ruled out. A DNA test will be conducted on the unidentified man found dead at the blast site, he added.
CCTV footage will also be examined, he said.
Ludhiana police commissioner Gurpreet Singh Bhullar said the area has been sealed and forensic teams will collect samples from the site.
Initial reports said two people were killed, but police later clarified that only one man had died.
Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu said the alleged sacrilege attempts and the blast were attempts to polarise “a particular community” in the state.
Former chief minister Amarinder Singh said he was saddened after hearing that two people had died. “PunjabPoliceInd must get to the bottom of this,” he tweeted.
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal expressed shock. “Pb govt must focus on law & order instead of political vendetta to ensure peace & communal harmony in State,” he said in a tweet.
The Aam Aadmi Party called it a ‘conspiracy’ and said the Channi government had ‘completely failed’ in maintaining law and order in the state.