Tension mounted in this communally sensitive city on Monday as it turned into a fortress ahead of Wednesday’s massive Rath Yatra of deity Jagannath, the slow-moving religious procession taken out annually through narrow lanes and bylanes of Old Ahmedabad that includes explosive localities which have witnessed bloody Hindu-Muslim clashes in the past.
Apart from 20,000 policemen, hundreds of gun-totting jawans of Rapid Action Force, the Border Security Force, the Central Reserve Police Force and the Central Industrial Security Force took positions at strategic points to prevent anti-social elements from playing any mischief during the 10-hour march as some one million devotees will throng the streets.
For the first time, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will monitor the progress of the marchers, including 2,000 saffron-robed sadhus, 200 trucks laden with ‘prasad’, music bands, gymnasts and caparisoned elephants who will follow the three decorated teakwood chariots carrying deities dressed up in priceless jewellery.
Gujarat Director-General of Police Amitabh Pathak told Khaleej Times that apart from CCTV surveillance across the city, UAVs would conduct aerial patrolling, monitor the snail-paced procession and click digital photographs to ensure peaceful passage of the yatra even as an alert has been sounded in the city after the blasts in Bihar.
Eight teams of Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad will also be available. Two DIGP-rank officers, 19 superintendents of police, 46 deputy superintendents of police, 160 police inspectors, 100 police sub-inspectors, 1,400 head constables and constables, two platoons of women police constables and 25 SRP companies will be deployed from outside the city in addition to the city police.
Mahendra Jha, trustee of the Jagannath temple in Muslim-dominated Jamalpur from where the procession will begin at 7am on Wednesday, said the entire route of the procession has been insured for Rs15 million to protect the yatra from possible rampage. – KahleejNews