NSG Shield for Puri Jagannath Temple

BY: DEBABRATA MOHAPATRA

Sep 12, JAGANNATHA PURI, ORISSA The Manmohan Singh government has started a process of reviewing the threat perceptions in shrines across the country, with an NSG (National Security Guard) team making a reconnaissance of the world famous Jagannath Temple here on Friday.

According to sources, the Central Paramilitary force carrying a five-member team led by DIG Padmaraj Pandey conducted a survey of the security arrangements at Jagannath Temple. Even though five NSG cops camped in at Puri for the last three days, Pandey reached here to take stock of the situation on Friday. The survey was aimed at pinpointing the loopholes (if any) in the existing set-up and recommending measures for beefing up security in and around the temple.

Even though the NSG officials remained tightlipped about their findings here, they said it was part of reassessing the security measures in temples (in high risk categories) across the country.

Puri additional superintendent of police Rajat Kanti Mishra, when asked about his take on the sudden visit of NSG team said, "they came here on a recent visit. They surveyed the security arrangements here. But the officials even did not discuss anything with us whether there was any loophole in our system". The ASP also ruled on any threat to the temple here.

The NSG men had visited the 12th century Jagannath Temple after the terrorist attack on Akshardham Temple in September 2002 in Gandhinagar. Their second visit to the temple town followed the terrorist onslaught at the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science in December 2005.

Security arrangements at Jagannath Temple have undergone a series of changes, especially after the Gujrat incident. DSP, ASP and Jagannath Temple police were deployed in 2006 to look after the temple security. More than 150 armed and unarmed cops guard the shrine now, which is frequented by nearly thirty thousand devotees per day. Despite protests by priests, closed circuit television cameras were installed at temple entrance points.

And recently, the state government converted the Jagannath Temple outpost into a police station (Singhadwar PS), which now earns the distinction of owning the largest number of cops among all the police stations across the state. Nearly 264 police personnel are there in the Singhadwar PS. However, the police have been facing resistance from priests on the deployment of armed personnel inside the temple. "It will be going against the age-old tradition," priests said.


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