Buddhist Monks, Students Condemn Temple Blasts in India

By Zarni Mann 8 July 2013

Buddhist monks and students from Burma and other neighboring countries held protests on Monday in Bodh Gaya, India, condemning bomb blasts at three Buddhist holy sites in eastern India.

The Magadh University students, from Burma, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam, staged a protest at their university campus a day after several bomb blasts rocked Bodh Gaya and two other locations in the Indian state of Bihar.

“We condemn the attack because this is threatening the peace in the area. We are saddened by this violence, which attempted to destroy the holy monuments of our religion,” said a monk from Sri Lanka who studies at Magadh University in Bodh Gaya.

Across town, about 100 Buddhist monks from Bangladesh and some locals marched on Monday morning outside of the Mahabodhi Temple, the scene of the biggest attack, urging the Indian government to investigate the bombings and punish those responsible.

A Burmese monk and a Tibetan pilgrim were reportedly injured in serial bomb blasts at the Mahabodhi Temple compound, a sacred site where the Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment, at around 5:30am on Sunday. Two other Buddhist sites were also hit by explosions on Sunday, and other undetonated bombs were discovered at different places around Bodh Gaya.

The Burmese monk, U Wilathatka, sustained injuries to his face, shoulders and arms, and is currently hospitalized at Anugrah Narayan Magadh Medical College & Hospital.

“His eyes were swelling and doctors said he will need to have an operation for his skin, especially on the face. … We worry that he might have lost vision and hearing,” said U Nandarsiriya, a fellow Buddhist monk from Burma.

According to U Nandarsiriya, the local Public Administration Committee of Bodh Gaya has issued a directive warning residents not to go outside at night while the Indian army has taken over security at the Mahabodhi Temple.

“We were warned not to go outside at night. Our university compound is being guarded by the policemen as well. We do not feel worried about our security since security personnel control the area,” U Nandarsiriya said.

In the wake of the explosions, speculation has swirled that the bombings may have been linked to recent religious conflicts in Burma. Indian police had reportedly warned officials earlier that an attack might be carried out in retaliation for Buddhist-led violence in Burma that has targeted minority Muslims over the past year.

U Nandarsiriya said Burmese monks living in Bodh Gaya dismissed the notion.

“For us, we do not believe this is related to the problems in our country,” he said. “If it was so, the culprit would have targeted only the area where most of the Burmese monks live. And they would target Burmese pilgrims. Since the blast took place in the early morning when only a few pilgrims were there, I think this was only to destroy the landmarks and sites of Buddhism.”

“Some months ago, security was tightened in the area because they received notice that extremists would bomb or attack the area. But later, the security was loosened. We think that Sunday’s blast is an incident related to that,” he added.

Meanwhile, Burmese government officials are communicating with their Indian counterparts concerning the safety and security of Burmese nationals in neighboring India.

“The communication with the Indian government and the responsible state government is still in process for the safety of Buddhist monks, Burmese citizens who are living in India and for the security of the holy places,” said Ye Htut, spokesman for the President’s Office in Burma.

He said the government is working to help the injured monk by cooperating with the Burmese Embassy in New Delhi while the Ministry of Religious Affairs is attempting to contact the family of U Wilathatka.

“We are cooperating with the responsible country to find out the situation. We need to prevent things like this from happening. The culprit needs to be arrested as well. But we need no negative reactions or revenge because of this incident,” Ye Htut said.

Additional reporting by The Irrawaddy reporter Lin Thant.