Massive security for Hyderabad’s Ganesh procession


Hyderabad : With memories of last month’s twin bomb blasts still fresh, the city has made unprecedented security arrangements for Tuesday’s Ganesh idols procession that will see over 30,000 idols being taken through the city for immersion.

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Exactly a month after the blasts at a park and an eatery killed 44 people and injured 54 others, the city is on high alert for the ‘Ganesh nimajjanam’ or the annual immersion procession, which brings the city to a grinding halt.

With the police yet to make a breakthrough in the investigations into the Aug 25 blasts and the earlier May 18 blast at the Mecca Masjid, the Ganesh festival is being celebrated amid intelligence warnings of more terror attacks.

The failure of the police to trace a 10-kg consignment of RDX brought into the city by terrorists, as some suspects revealed during interrogation, has only added to apprehensions of the security agencies.

More than 15,000 policemen and personnel of paramilitary Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been deployed for the immersion procession, which passes through the communally sensitive old city.

About a million people will attend the festivities. More than 30,000 idols of Lord Ganesha from different parts of Hyderabad, its twin city Secunderabad and their outskirts, will join the procession for immersion into the Hussain Sagar Lake, which separates the twin cities. The 25 km-long route of the immersion procession passes through the Mecca Masjid and Charminar areas, the landmarks of Hyderabad.

Hyderabad police commissioner Balwinder Singh said all necessary arrangements have been made to maintain peace and appealed to the people to cooperate with the police. “We hope that the procession will pass off peacefully,” said the police chief.

Every year, the police make tight security arrangements for the procession as the event has witnessed communal riots in the past. However, no disturbances were reported in the last decade.

This year, the threat posed by terrorists is keeping the police on their toes.

The city never faced a situation like it has done during the last four months.

What has added to the worries of police is the fact that the Ganesh festivities and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan are clashing after a gap of 27 years.

In view of the increased threat perception, about 10,000 additional police force has been drafted from various districts. Watchtowers, equipped with latest gadgets, have been erected so that policemen can keep tight vigil on the event.

Ever since the twin blasts, the city has turned into a fortress with large-scale checking of vehicles and frisking of people. Security cover is provided to all major places of worship, public places and vital installations.

Police have intensified patrolling in communally sensitive areas to instil confidence among people ahead of the procession. Hundreds of police teams, bomb disposal squads, dog squads are conducting checks along the procession route.

Finding tough the task of keeping an eye on the massive procession, the police have appealed to the people with video cameras to record the festivities and promised to pay for video cassettes and CDs in case of any significant recording. This will be in addition to the 1,000 cameras hired by the police. A helicopter will also hover over the procession to monitor its movement.

Additional security arrangements will be made at Hussain Sagar Lake, where massive cranes have been deployed for immersing the idols. It was at Lumbini Park on the banks of this lake that a blast killed 11 people on Aug 25. Minutes later, another blast at Gokul Chat, a popular eatery killed 33 people the same day.

A month after the blast, the police have yet to achieve a breakthrough. Twenty-five people have been arrested on suspicion of links with terror groups but police have not been able to track down those who planted the bombs or those who hatched the conspiracy.

The police believe that the blasts were the handiwork of Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-jehad-e-Islami (HUJI) but are yet to make a single arrest in the blasts case.