Yogi orders construction of walls around holy spots post ISI strike warning

Lucknow: Amid Intelligence warning that an ISI-trained group in the garb of Hindu seers might strike prominent religious sites in Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister
Yogi Adityanath has called for construction of boundary walls around the holy spots.

The priest-turned-politician also asked the officials concerned to ensure laying of 4-lane road connecting famous temples for the convenience of visitors.

Adityanath, the Hindu hardline leader who took over as chief minister of the most populous state over a month ago, gave the directive at a presentation of Religious Endowment Department here late Wednesday night.

Assistant Superintendent of Police (Security), Mathura, Siddharth Verma said they had received information that terrorists dressed as ‘sadhus’ could enter the state to carry out attacks.

The pilgrim town of Mathura is a sensitive area as it is situated along the state’s border with Rajasthan and Haryana, prompting police to instal metal detectors, X-ray machines and CCTV cameras at vantage places, as well as carry out surprise checks at night shelters, guest houses and hotels.

“Checking is being done daily and undercover police personnel are keeping a watch at public areas after reports that a group of 20-25 men dressed as seers are planning to attack important places, especially pilgrim centres, in Uttar Pradesh,” Verma said.

The group, allegedly trained by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has been directed to target Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan, and the Taj Mahal in Agra, he said.

“All district police chiefs and Railway superintendents of police have been informed about the threat. We are coordinating with other agencies to thwart such attempts,” UP anti-terror squad Inspector General Asim Arun said.

Central Intelligence agencies have been sharing inputs with the UP Police since February about increased activity of terrorists in the state.

According to the latest alert, the ISI is planning to launch attacks in the northern state under the code name ‘Operation Krishna India’.

“The agency (ISI) has reportedly trained the group for months to familiarise them with Hindu religious practices.

Members of the module are planning to enter UP through the Nepal border in the guise of seers,” the reports said.

In February, Intelligence agencies in the state were tipped off about four dozen terrorists sneaking into UP through the porous border with Nepal.

Uttar Pradesh shares a 599.3 km open border with Nepal touching seven districts – Pilibhit, Lakhimpur Kheri, Bahraich, Sravasti, Balrampur, Sidhharthnagar and Maharajganj.

“As per the Intelligence inputs, the group has also been trained by Pakistan’s ISI in Hindu religious practices, and might try to blend with the local populace before carrying out deadly strikes at prominent religious sites and other sensitive spots,” police said.

The Intelligence agencies had picked up intercepts through electronic surveillance in which youths were heard discussing the deaths of banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) men in Telangana as well as IS suspect Saifullah in Lucknow.

A Khurasan module was busted after Saifullah’s death last month. Recently, some self-radicalised youths were also arrested by the UP Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).

In 2016, eight suspected members of SIMI had tried to evade the police by adornig saffron robes in Madhya Pradesh. The men were later killed in a police encounter.