NEW DELHI: Four years after a terror strike at the Mahabodhi temple, the Centre is planning to provide an armed security cover of trained paramilitary commandos to the UNESCO World Heritage site in Bodh Gaya in Bihar, known as the cradle of Buddhism.
A series of blasts in and around the temple on July 7, 2013 had injured two monks, following which Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had sought an armed security cover for the temple complex and its adjoining temples, 115-km south of the state capital Patna.
Officials said after several rounds of high-level talks, the Union home ministry has decided to sanction a CISF security cover to the temple complex and a few more meetings would be held to finalise the plan.
They said the grounds for providing the armed cover have been analysed and the security establishment believes that the world famous temple site needs to be provided with a protection cover owing to its status of being a World Heritage site, thronged by lakh of domestic and international tourists and followers every year.
"The first demand for an armed security cover to the temple complex was made by the Bihar government in 2013, right after the blasts. However, various issues like the pattern of deployment and CISF being provided only to high threat perception utilities kept the decision hanging for the last four years," a senior officer said.
They said that the Central Industrial Security Force CISF), a force which has expertise in securing vital installations and buildings, had carried out a survey of the facility immediately after the blasts.
That CISF report will now be used and discussed before the security cover is accorded to the temple complex, they said.
"The final sanction for granting the security cover to the temple complex could come by this month-end from the home ministry. An estimated 150-200 commandos and personnel of the CISF have been projected in the security audit that will be required to guard the 4.8600-hectare complex," the senior officer said.
The officials said central security agencies, in their regular intelligence dossiers to the home ministry, have underlined that the temple complex is vulnerable from the point of view of possible sabotage and terror attacks and hence should have a good protection paraphernalia for the building and the visiting devotees.
While the temple trust will not be able to bear the estimated cost of Rs 20 crore per annum in lieu of the CISF deployment, the Bihar government may provide these funds in consultation with the Centre, they said.
Frequented by Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka, China, Japan and the whole of southeast Asian, the temple and the Bodhi Tree, under which Lord Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment, did not suffer any damage in the blasts that shook the holy town of Gaya in 2013.
As per the UNESCO, "the Mahabodhi temple complex is the first temple built by Emperor Asoka in the third century BC and the present temple dates from the 5th–6th centuries.
"It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing, from the late Gupta period and it is considered to have had significant influence in the development of brick architecture over the centuries."