July 08, 2013
A series of low intensity bombs detonated inside the Mahabodhi temple complex in Bodh Gaya, India early on Sunday morning, leaving one Burmese monk and one Nepalese monk injured. One of the most-visited pilgrimage sites for Buddhists, the complex stands next to an iteration of the Bodhi tree under which Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, is said to have attained enlightenment. Four explosions went off inside the temple complex, three by a nearby monastery, and another by a Buddha statue, according to India's Home Secretary. At least two other bombs were defused.
Although there were around 200 people in the temple complex when the bombs began exploding, no deaths and only two injuries have been reported. The temple complex and the Bodhi tree sustained minimal damage from the small blasts.
Reports are still scattered and diverge regarding the number of bombs detonated, damage done by the blasts, and most dramatically in regard to the criminal investigation. Voice of America reports that Indian intelligence agencies had been warned of an attack in Bodh Gaya in retaliation for atrocities committed against the Rohingya Muslims by the country's Buddhist majority.
Ajay Sahni, head of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, denied any evidence linking the blasts to Burma-based extremists, and was quick to blame Pakistan's terrorist network in exacting revenge on behalf of Burma's Muslims. Local reports, on the other hand, have quoted unnamed intelligence officials who say they suspect domestic Islamist militant group Indian Mujahideen, which has claimed responsibility for a number of lethal attacks beginning in 2007.
While it's too early to identify the perpetrators, the effects of the attack are surely already being felt in India and abroad. Of greatest concern is the situation in Burma, where tensions between Buddhists and Muslims—most of whom now live in a constant state of fear—routinely turn deadly. The bombings in Bodh Gaya, if they were committed by Islamists, will likely reinforce Buddhist-Muslim divisions in countries like Sri Lanka and Burma, where followers of the two faiths once cohabited peaceably.
"While allegations and rumors fly and politicians and media pundits step up the rhetoric," said Indian author Pankaj Mishra, "this is the time to reflect on the Buddha's view of suffering, and our innate capacity to harm, which emerged out of a profound reckoning with the increasingly impersonal violence of his own time."
Image: Part of the Bodh Gaya complex where a small bomb detonated (Stringer AFP/Getty Images)