Attack on Buddhist Shrine in India

Two people were injured in nine explosions at India’s holiest Buddhist shrine this week. (While of course I denounce the use of violence, particularly against civilians, and fervently hope for a speedy recovery for the victims, I have to say, from a tactical standpoint, this is a pretty shitty casualty to explosion ratio.)

Anyway, the shrine, called Bodh Gaya, is located in the northern state of Bihar and is supposedly the site where Buddha achieved nirvana. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.

Four blasts occurred inside the temple, three in a monastery, one at a statue of the Buddha and one at a bus stop nearby. No group has claimed responsibility yet for the attacks, but the BBC reports that a man has been detained in connection with the explosions. Police report that they are reviewing security footage that shows two men places explosives at the site. The Indian government sent out an alert to several other major cities warning them to secure major Buddhist sites.

Other reports say that four people, including at least one woman, were detained after the attack but have now been released. It is also possible that the four voluntarily went to speak with police after finding out that they appeared in the security surveillance.

Theories So Far

Like I said, no group has taken responsibility for the attacks, and as far as I can tell none of the people detained/interviewed afterwards has been able to shed light on the identity of the bombers. However, there are two main ideas about who might be responsible being tossed around.

The first is the Naxalites, or Naxals, a sort of catch-all phrase that refers to a number of Maoist-Communist groups in India. The name derives from the West Bengali village of Naxalbari, where the group originated. They have involved in a number of violent acts and confrontations in India, and were declared a terrorist organization.

For the most part, they have previously been most active in southern and eastern areas of India.

Recently, the government has been cracking down militarily on the Naxalite insurgency, so the theory is that the Naxalites may be trying to divert government resources away from their main camps and strongholds.

The other possibility is that this attack may be a sign of a link between Pakistani-based Islamist terrorist groups (such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the 2008 bombing of the Indian city Bombay/Mumbai), the Indian Mujahideen, and disaffected Rohingya Muslims in neighboring Burma.

There is a history of coordination between some Rohingya and Bangladeshi Islamist terrorist groups, but that has been on the decline for several years. However, as the ethnic/religious conflict in Burma continues, it may also be threatening to spill over into neighboring countries, with potentially disastrous consequences.


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