Barely a couple of days after an Islamic State supporter group uploaded a threat of suicide attack on the Taj Mahal, Agra was rocked by three suspicious terrorist incidents on Friday night and Saturday morning.
On Friday night, a Delhi bound train was hit by a large rock which had been placed on the track near Bhandai railway station. The rock was thrown off the track and broke into several pieces although railway officials who arrived at the scene for inquiry confirmed that it was big enough to derail a train. The Andaman Express was to pass the spot in a short while and it could have been a major disaster if the train had derailed at high speed.
Government Railway Police Agra Cantonment Railway Station in charge Manikant Sharma said that a letter was found near the spot which contained a threat to the North-Central Railway track passing through Agra, allegedly from an ISI operative.
NO CASUALTY REPORTED
The incident was still being investigated when two low-intensity bomb blasts shattered the morning silence near Agra Cantonment Railway today. The blasts took place in a low-security area around the Agra Cantonment railway station, with one taking place in a garbage dump where it exploded under the Municipal Corporation tractor near Platform no 5 of the station and another on the roof of the house of Ashok, who lives in Sarai Khwaja area. No casualties have been reported. Upon being interrogated by the police, the tractor driver Deepak said that the blast took place under the tractor.
Inspector General of Police Agra Zone Sujit Pandey told India Today that another letter containing similar threats like the letter recovered near Bhandai Railway station has been recovered from the site of the blast in Sarai Khwaja and it indicates a clear danger to the city's security. He said that the police is investigating these blasts from all angles and the security has been tightened with bomb disposal squads and dog squads being deployed at the Taj Mahal.
Objecting to the police theory of a terrorist threat to the Taj Mahal and other Agra localities, Muslim leader Haji Jameeluddin said that the entire chain of events appears to be suspicious and not targeted towards causing injuries to anyone. These three incidents to try and derail a train and orchestrate two low-intensity blasts near the Agra Cantonment Railway Station may not actually be terrorist attacks at all and could merely be pranks by some miscreants aimed at creating panic and maligning the name of Muslims by linking these blasts to the ISI.
SECURITY APPARATUS FOOL-PROOF
However, the local tourism industry was quick to react on the incidents and termed them highly detrimental to the already waning tourism business of Agra.
Talking to India Today, Vishal Sharma, secretary, Agra Tourist Welfare Chamber, said that the Taj Mahal is an international icon of tourism in India and it is quite natural that terror organisations issue threats to this monument from time to time to gain publicity and create panic. Such incidents taking place in the city may appear small at the first glance as there were no casualties, but overall they have a cumulative effect on the mindset of tourists who suddenly begin to perceive Agra as an unsafe destination and this hurts the tourism business.
He said that besides cracking these cases, the local police and administration should also employ confidence building measures to assure the tourists that Agra is a highly safe destination and that the Taj Mahal is completely secure under a three-tier security cover. He said that the Taj Mahotsav begins today and these blasts will definitely affect the flow of tourists through this important city event, which will in turn, affect the revenue earned by the tourism industry of Agra.
District Magistrate Agra Gaurav Dayal issued an appeal to the citizens of Agra to report any suspicious activities around the railway stations, monuments and places of public interest in the city. He assured that the city's security apparatus is functioning in a fool-proof manner and the perpetrators of the blasts will be caught soon.