A powerful explosion inside a public toilet in the main building of the district court complex in Punjab’s Ludhiana on Thursday killed an unidentified man and injured six others, including a lawyer. The possibility of the deceased being the perpetrator of the blast couldn’t be ruled out yet, police said.
CM Charanjit Singh Channi termed the 12.30pm blast “a bogey of terror” ahead of the assembly polls and instituted a high-level inquiry. State Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu linked it to “an attempt to scare a particular community for polarisation of votes”. The explosion, which occurred on the second floor of building no. 1, damaged the walls and the roof of the toilet, and shattered windows across the structure. Several parked cars were damaged by falling debris.
There were two women near a photocopier, and both were flung in the air when the blast occurred. My friend Kuldeep Singh Mand, who was there, fell down and was covered in debris. We pulled him out and ran as we feared the explosion could be the first of a series of blasts,” advocate Harjot Singh Harikay said.
But for a lawyers’ strike on Thursday that kept many people away, the toll and the number of injured people might have been higher. District bar association president Gurkirpal Singh Gill said the advocates were on strike to protest the transfer of Ludhiana’s 800 consumer forum cases to Nawanshahr and Kapurthala districts. JMIC Shweta Dass, whose court is close to the site of the blast, was on leave for the first half of the day, which ensured there were fewer people around Ludhiana police commissioner Gurpreet Singh Bhullar said investigators had found “vital clues” and hoped to crack the case soon. Bomb disposal squads combed through the court complex after the blast while police teams scanned CCTV footage to try and tie up the loose ends.
Police were tightlipped about how the explosives were detonated. Sources said high-intensity explosives might have been used. A National Security Guard team reached Ludhiana by evening to examine the blast site for forensic evidence along with experts from the state police, Bhullar said.
“The Punjab government will soon give a befitting reply to such anti-social forces out to traumatise people ahead of assembly elections,” CM Channi said after visiting the injured, three of them women. Sidhu also met the injured in hospital. “There isn’t a shadow of a doubt that a series of peace-disrupting activities has been planned by those with vested interests to create a law and order problem in Punjab,” he said later.
The Union home ministry sought a report from the Punjab government on the blast. Home minister Amit Shah spoke to CM Channi for an update. The Union home secretary, too, briefed him after getting some details. The FIR, filed by ASI Sukhpal Singh, states that “anti-national elements triggered the explosion to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere in Punjab”.