Hyderabad tightens security for Hindu festival

July 27th, 2008 - 9:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, July 27 (IANS) The ‘Bonalu’ festival began here Sunday as the police made elaborate security arrangements against the backdrop of serial blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad. The back-to-back synchronised bomb blasts hit the Indian cities of Ahmedabad and Bangalore Friday and Saturday. The attacks together claimed the lives of at least 45 people and left over 150 injured.

The local festival began in the old city amid massive security around temples and other sensitive places.

The two-day annual festivities started with devotees offering special ‘puja’ in Mahankali temple in Lal Darwaza area. The communally sensitive area has virtually turned into a fortress with a large number of policemen deployed to prevent any untoward incident.

Several political leaders, including Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development D. Purandareswari, Congress MP Madhu Yashki Goud, BJP leader Bandaru Dattatreya, Nava Telangana Praja Party president T. Devender Goud and Telugu film actor Pavan Kalyan participated in the festival.

Police Commissioner Prasad Rao reviewed the security arrangements for the Bonalu procession to be taken out Monday.

A red alert has already been sounded across the state following the terror attacks in Bangalore and Ahmedabad. With the central intelligence agencies warning of more attacks, the police in Hyderabad and other major towns in the state are on a high alert.

Since this city was rocked by three bomb blasts last year, the police were not taking any chances. Security has been beefed up at all public places, historical monuments, places of worship, shopping malls and cinema theatres.

Policemen were seen checking vehicles and frisking people at several places across the city, especially in the old city. Anti-sabotage teams and bomb disposal teams were conducting checks at temples, the route of the main procession and public places.

The police have also advised people to alert them if they find unclaimed objects or persons moving in suspicious circumstances.

In addition to the city police, personnel of paramilitary Rapid Action Force (RAF) were deployed as part of the security arrangements for the procession.

Police officers said the personnel would also be deployed on roof tops to keep an eye on the procession, which passes through various areas including historic Makkah Masjid and Charminar.

The city was rocked by a bomb blast during Friday prayers in Makkah Masjid May 18 last year. Nine people were killed in the blast while subsequent police firing on protesters near the mosque claimed five more lives.

The city was again rattled by twin blasts at a public park near the state secretariat and at a famous eatery August 25, killing 43 people.

The police blamed Bangladesh-based Harkatul Jihad-e-Islami (HUJI) and other terror groups supported by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for the terror strikes. Though the police picked up dozens of suspects, no person directly involved in the blasts has been arrested.

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