Spiritual gurus soft targets as no clear policy to secure them

Spiritual gurus soft targets as no clear policy to secure them
Team DNA
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 2:11 IST

New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore: What kind of security are spiritual leaders provided? The question has assumed significance a day after a gunman shot at the convoy of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar near Bangalore on Sunday.

Tragedy at Mangalore AirportWhile the Art of Living founder has forgiven the gunman and invited him to his ashram, and the Karnataka police are playing down the incident as not a ‘targeted attack’, the issue of protection of religious and spiritual leaders, who move around freely among thousands of devotees and thus remain soft targets for miscreants, has come across as a concern for many.

Sources in the Union home ministry said there are no guidelines or norms to provide security to religious leaders. “The security is related to developments and is provided by the state governments as and when needed,” they said, adding that such attacks are generally the fallout of internal rivalries involving followers.

Buttressing the ministry’s point of view, a Delhi police source said the force had no trend of providing personal security either to such persons or to their establishments. “We do not provide security to any religious leader. Arrangements are made if the religious heads or their sects organise functions.”

The case with the Mumbai police, who have decided to re-examine the security cover to visiting religious leaders after the Bangalore incident, is similar. Currently, they have provision for Z plus security to two religious leaders — Nirankari Baba Hardev Singh and Sathya Sai Baba. As for the others, the police examine the scheduled places of visit and assess the threat perception.

“Each time a religious leader visits the city, we examine the level of security to be provided,” said Naval Bajaj, additional commissioner of police (Protection).

“Depending on whether the leader has recently been in controversy and the number of followers, we draw up a security cover that needs to be provided,” he added.

However, post the Pune bakery blast in February, the central security agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, have been keeping a watch over spiritual centres across India. “The intelligence input gathered after the incident has created an additional burden on the security agencies towards providing security for seers and religious and spiritual centres,” observed an officer in the agency.

However, fool-proof security to spiritual gurus is not an easy task. In Karnataka, over 500 police personnel provide security to seers. But the proliferating number of swamijis and seers from each community makes it an onerous task.

Besides, spiritual leaders like to mingle with their devotees and brook no involvement of the police in gatherings. The alleged bid on Sri Sri at his Kanakapura ashram has exposed this vulnerability. He has Z-category security, say senior police officers.

DNA India Reference

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