April 24, 2014

U: Under terror threat::Rath Yatra & Nabakalebar Festivals at Puri, Odisha

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Terrorists have the aim of inflicting maximum damage using minimum equipment. The more the people gathered at a place, the better the target becomes to inflict maximum human casualties. Any great festival, congregation becomes a natural target.


It's indeed unfortunate that our world-famous annual Rath Yatra this year (almost 10 Lakh people congregate at single place- Bada Danda of Puri) and Nabakalebar Festival (to be held in 2015 and expected to be attended by a whopping 50 Lakh Jagannath devotees as the Lord will take on a new body)
are under immediate security threat from IM (Indian Mujahideen) Terrorists.

Not just this...reports have trickled in about a foreigner flying a drone over Lord Jagannath's 12th Century Shrine, who was simply let off. So what's the big deal? On Google maps one can still see the entire area and roads, isn't it? Still, a drone can have far higher zooming capacity and is far more dangerous. Maybe it can drop a bomb or unleash pathogens or do a highly zoomed-in survey to plant a bomb in future or be destructive in n number of unimaginable ways.


The incident is a very serious security issue and jabs at the heart of every Bhakt (devotee) of the Greatest of the Great Lord Jagannath. After finding David Headley's (an American's) deep involvement in Mumbai Terror Attack which shook the very foundation of India's foremost financial centre, rippling across the globe as one of the most ghastly incident EVER of urban terrorism, any foreigner involved in such incidents has to be caught, put in jail, interrogated for weeks till all his background is out in the open.

Alongwith seizing of the drone, whether it has sent live recording via internet to any suspected terror organisation has to be found out. He has to be punished as per law if he feigns ignorance about laws here, even if he claims he is tourist or whatever. We devotees are not even allowed to take mobile phones lest it be used for filming/possibe blasts...even a polythene with ANY even most harmless stuff inside is not allowed! And look at what Temple Security and police is doing.....watching on while a drone films/zooms into our temple and adjoining areas? It needed to be brought down then and there with whatever weapons available with temple guards! Even if they didn't have the wherewithal for this, please at least DO NOT LET THE FOREIGNER CAUGHT GET AWAY WITHOUT DEEP INVESTIGATION! And worse still, what if that drone had a tactical missile which it could launch in the few minutes of flight? Oh my blood creeps even at the thought. 

Therefore, in view of such latest technology being used as well as IM Terror threat looming large, some urgent steps needed to be taken in areas in and around Puri as per my understanding are:

  • Put clear boards outside the temple, at hotels where foreigners stay etc. and also mention clearly on website of SJTA that NO FILMING USING ANY TECHNOLOGY WHATSOEVER IS ALLOWED (alongwith jail term or punishment to be meted out to violators)
  • Training hoteliers and staff to be vigilant and ask for ID-Cards is a good step by SJTA to start with. Still, such terrorists may stay anywhere- flats/slums/ashrams/nearby villages or even on the roadside. Thus, PUBLIC SENSITISATION is most essential so that suspected individuals can be brought immediately to notice of police and even rewards can be announced for general public who give any information on suspected terrorists.
  • The terror threat gives further cause to implement the step of NO CLIMBING ONTO HOLY CHARIOTS ...so easy for a bomber to blow up there...worse is that lakhs of people will die in ensuing stampede if such a ghastly incident occurs... :(
  • I understand that manual checking each and every person for strapped bombs is indeed difficult in the sea of people, still USE OF TECHNOLOGY for the same could be done. When I had visited Gateway of India in end 2012, they had a series of metal scanners through which queues of waiting people had to pass and that was the only entrance. Of course the scale of people is totally uncomparable with Rath Yatra, yet I can imagine that only single entrance be made for stretch between Jagannath and Mausima Temple, with a series of scanners lined up, manned by police. Logistics can be better planned so that incoming and outgoing streams of people can be managed. Also, metal scanners/X-ray machines at hotels, resthouses, airports, railway stations etc. be compulsorily set up for both incoming and outgoing people.
  • Infact, drones can be employed successfully by SJTA and State Police for surveillance and security. This has already been done in Gujarat in 2013. It is very high time that the original pious Home of Lord Jagannath i.e. Puri, Odisha be protected by the State using such innovative technology: http://deshgujarat.com/2013/07/10/gujarat-police-uses-netra-uav-to-keep-watch-over-rath-yatra/
  • The Netra drone (in link above), can be further worked upon so that it can scan for metals/explosives strapped to human bodies through infrared sensors or other technology. This could infact eliminate the need of scanners in series which I've talked about in a previous point making things so much simpler. Even the idea that such drones will be used in surveillance can deter terror elements.

  • Sea route is also a possibility for affecting terror attacks..so sprucing up of Coast Guard is very essential..right thru 480 km long coast of Odisha. This is very important as we also have the Wheeler Island off the coast of Balasore- our strategic testing point for latest defence equipment. Again ample use of technology is needed here with strongest communication links.

It is imperative that security be beefed up at the earliest using above methods and possibly more (Readers may please give in more suggestions in the comments section and we can publish this widely so that authorities take needed action) !

I read a comment on twitter:

Well to this only the following thoughts come to my mind-

Far from insanity- this is what the Lord sincerely wants us mortals to do! Else lakhs of mortals will die like flies....and no one will believe in the Lord.....

Indeed the Lord resides in each one of us....when each of us is protected, the Lord smiles in Heaven and ensures our protection... :)
Remember...?! God helps those who help themselves?!



  1. This is too bad. Was not aware. Pray nothing untoward things happen..

    1. Ya Jayanta. More than prayers, quick & efficient on-ground action is the need of the hour...

  2. Interesting to someone like me, who knows very little - if anything -- about such events. Yet pretty sad. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading your blog.

  3. Really sad that the Lord's abode is under threat.
    You have really presented valid points & suggestions for security.
    Hope the authorities & public - both are under high-alert & cooperate to ensure nothing untoward happens.
    Do wish there were no terrorist groups in the world. Can never comprehend what they get out of such inhuman thoughts &'activities. No religion advocates such killing.
    Lord Jagannath is the living God- the Lord of the Universe. He is watching everything...
    God helps those who help themselves.

    My point-
    Create awareness amongst the public- massive advertisements/info sharing through all mediums.
    Advanced security on the lines of what you have suggested will help greatly.
    May strict measures be followed.
    Kudos for your Post.

    1. Thanks a lot Anita. Yes ur point is very important- mass awareness using media/toll free line to report incidents is required.

  4. this is the really bad happening .. you presented some valid points !

    1. Thanks Ankur for your comment! Yes it's quite bad with DG himself confirming that in Jan 2 terrorists have stayed in BBSR & surveyed Puri, BBSR for blasts... :(

  5. Agree with your concerns. In such large gatherings of the scale of Ratha Yatra and Nabakalebara, even a small rumour can create stampedes. If the threat is real, then Govt must take all possible precautions.
    @saumyaism .

    1. Very true @Saumyaism. Plz do share the post so all can be aware...

  6. Good Amrita that you did write a blog on this. When the crowd is so huge, frisking physically or through technology alone can't be a deterrence to such attacks.A strong and proactive intelligence alert and a multi-layered security system would prove to be helpful. And the present police/security force needs to be trained to tackle such attacks. Jay Jagannath.

    1. Very aptly put Nihar! Proactive intelligence alert & multi-layered security system r gr8 points! I guess govt & administration wd already be taking care of that...coz in India the top-level work goes well...

      It's d ground implementation going bad...the lowest police guarding the temple wd nt even b aware of what a drone is & wd watch like it's a sci-fi movie...dat's d bad thing. Along with top class intelligence, training needs to be spruced up, counter-attack systems kept ready all times, ample help of technology has 2 b taken coz we can't stay with 19th century tools to fight latest tech-enabled attacks....!

  7. Excellent write up..very pertinent points made there...what worries me more than the threat itself is the appalling insensitivity n lack of seriousness on the part of the DGP here. When asked about the IM men doing a recce of the Jagannath temple, he admitted that that report was right but then went on to say that they hadn't come here to plan out n attack.

    Yea. IM men in puri were probably holidaying. This kind of attitude must be protested against.

    As for the threat, this was one of my worst fears..specially after 26.11.. n now its seems a scary possibility. Can only pray to Lord Jagannath to save His devotees on that fateful day. He saved Puri from 2 natural disasters. .hope He saves Puri from an impending attack too..

    1. Thanks so much Shashwat. Indeed it ws always my fear that Rath Yatra will b attacked- & now 2 terrorists hav surveyed also- Not holidayed! Truly appalling sch statemnts by top brass. Thing is even media doesn't report properly. For instance, the drone thing was there in Odia newspapers but not in English ones! I tried searching so mch that I could insert a link here...but no! Such commercial, cheap, selected reporting these English papers do!

      Yes it's indeed sad that all, including admin & police end up saying- "God only saves"! For that the last part of my post is aimed- God only helps those who helps themselves!

  8. chittaranjan karApril 25, 2014 3:53 PM

    Very nice. The things you expect from adminstration\police is probally impossible when we see the Khaki man with a lathi in hand. We are living in a place where the top brains of adminstration thinks Prabhu Jagannath will save anyway. So, it's our responsibility to watch our sorroundings and aware other people to do the same. You are saying 50 Lakh people to reach Puri for Navakalebar in 2015. It is really scarry to think the situation. Is our govt well prepared to face any terrorist attack?
    I will spread your blog in all social media platforms. Thanks.

    1. Thanks so much Chittaranjan. U have put it very rightly - lathis in hand...as if we r still in 18th or 19th century! Our state admin & police mst get in use of technology, take help of Central & other state police (they went to Mahakumbh and figured out security...still lapses like Allahabad station bridge collapse & stampede exist..even these hav 2 b learnt from..innocuous looking ppl can tamper with bridges as well) & InterPol this time around..(hope they are taking steps for multi-level security as Nihar writes above)...enough of living with threats...now we need concrete action!

  9. @ Amrita

    World famous festival odisha.


    1. Thanks a lot Jessica! Yes indeed this is a world famous festival with its roots in Odisha! :)


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