Two killed in Goa blast, Hindu group blamed


Panaji: Two activists of a Hindu group were killed in Goa when explosives being ferried in their scooter went off in a traffic jam, police said Saturday. The group called the blasts “unfortunate”.

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Elsewhere in the state, a favourite haunt of foreign tourists, three other bombs were detected before they could explode.

Police sources said they believed bombs were meant for a Hindu gathering which the Hindu group, Sanatan Saunstha, bitterly opposes.

The explosion in the scooter took place at about 9.30 Friday night near the Grace Church in Margao, about 35 km from Panaji, when the scooter was on a busy road.

Although the police called it a low intensity blast, the scooter caught fire following the explosion and got burnt.

Both men riding the scooter, Malgondi Patil and Yogesh Naik, were badly injured and collapsed. Patil died in a hospital at midnight. Naik succumbed to his injuries at 9.30 a.m. Saturday.

Police said the pair was carrying five gelatin sticks. Authorities said the explosives were meant to go off elsewhere but exploded prematurely as the scooter got delayed on Margao’s roads.

Police said the scooter belonged to Nishad Bakhle, an alleged member of Sanathan Saunstha, a rightwing Hindu group headquartered in the temple town of Ramnathi.

Superintendent of Police Vishram Borkar said that a second blast was averted in Sancoale, near the port town of Vasco, when alert occupants of a truck threw out a bag when they heard a clock ticking inside.

“The zipped bag contained a timer device and a few sticks of gelatine. They were diffused by our bomb disposal squad late at night,” Borkar said.

The truck was carrying nearly 40 people and was headed for a ‘narakasura’ competition where thousands were gathered to see several giant effigies set on fire as part of a popular Diwali tradition in Goa.

The Sanatan Saunstha, formed a quarter century ago, opposes the ‘narakasura’ festival. The right-wing group’s motto is: “Evil should be destroyed.”

Goa Home Minister Ravi Naik said police searched the Saunstha headquarters at Ramnathi.

“There is every possibility of political interference. I have asked police to do their job as an independent authority,” Naik said.

Superintendent of Police Bosco George told reporters in Ponda: “We have found some suspicious articles, including some watches, which were similar to the timer devices found in Sancoale.”

He said nearly 100 people were being questioned.

Sanatan Saunstha called the blast “unfortunate” and said it would “fully cooperate with the police”.

“The Sanatan Saunstha condemns the Margao blast, which is an unfortunate incident,” a statement in Marathi said Saturday.

“Sanatan Saunstha is aimed at religious education. Our ashram neither shelters nor supports any illegal activity. We will provide full cooperation to the police in their investigations,” it said.