GUWAHATI, June 24 � Even as almost seven lakh devotees have so far set foot at the Nilachal Hill for the Ambubachi Mela, one sadhu from Punjab not only caught the eyes of other pilgrims but also sent the police and security personnel at the Kamakhya Temple into a tizzy late yesterday evening.
Panchanand Giri Maharaj of Mansa Devi Panchkula, near Chandigarh, was noticed near the Kamakhya Temple along with three fully-armed PSOs of the Punjab Police. An Assam Police team found the sadhu around 11 pm last night and upon inquiry learned from him that he enjoys security from the Punjab Police.
However, no intimation about his visit to the Ambubachi Mela was sent to the Assam government by its Punjab counterpart, City Police Commissioner Mukesh Agarwala said today.
So Maharaj was informed that his PSOs cannot keep their weapons and instead his security will be taken care of by local police till the matter about his security threat status is verified. Two AK-47 rifles and one service revolver belonging to his PSOs were �closed� by the city police.
�There was a communication gap from the Punjab side. Our team is working to liaise with the Punjab Police regarding the issue. When we get confirmation about his security threat perceptions, we will accordingly make arrangements,� Agarwala said.
Meanwhile, around 1.5 lakh devotees thronged the Kamakhya Temple today, during the second day of Ambubachi Mela. Kamrup Metro Deputy Commissioner Dr M Angamuthu said till yesterday the total footfall had crossed five lakh. �By end of the Mela on June 26, we expect the total number of visitors to cross ten-lakh mark, which will be the biggest ever during Ambubachi Mela,� he said.
This time, around 350-400 pilgrims have come from abroad as well.
The Ambubachi Mela began at 12:51 am on June 23, which is called Prabriti. The time for opening of the temple (Nibriti time) is on June 26 at 1:15 pm. Angamuthu said special arrangements have been made for June 26 to ensure smooth conclusion of the Mela and opening of the temple.
He said some complaints have been received of drunken driving at the Kamakhya road and traffic department personnel with breath analyzers have been put on duty, along with four checkpoints manned by excise department personnel.
�Continuous cleaning of the Soubhagya Kunda is being done by the GMC under the supervision of the Pollution Control Board, Assam. The Chief Minister has also directed the tourism department to facilitate movement of pilgrims to other important places of pilgrimage like Umananda, Sukreswar, Basistha, etc.,� said the Deputy Commissioner.
He said devotees will be allowed to enter the Kamakhya Temple batch-wise on June 26 to ensure better crowd management. �As the number of devotees has exceeded those of last few years, we have scaled up arrangements for water supply, tents, number of volunteers and so on,� Angamuthu said.
Vendors from as far as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have come to display and sale their ware at the Mela this time. The tourism department has been directed to put footages of the Mela in YouTube and other social media sites.
With regard to security, City Police Commissioner Agarwala said a multi-layered structure has been put in place consisting of central forces, local police, plainclothes personnel and the River Police. Binoculars, night vision equipment and metal detectors are also being used. He said input has been received that local outfits from the Northeast may try to create mischief during the event.
Regarding arrest of a few ANLA cadres yesterday, Agarwala said the ULFA and ANLA have been helping each other for long and both use bases in South Garo Hills. �While no direct correlation has so far emerged that the ANLA activists were in the city to disrupt the Ambubachi Mela, some sort of outsourcing may happen wherein the ULFA may ask the ANLA to act on its behalf,� he said.