A bomb went off in Ludhiana's district court complex on Thursday, killing one person and injuring six others, prompting the Punjab government to declare a high alert in the state.
Shortly after the blast, forensic teams and specialised agencies descended on the scene to examine the site.
The Union Home Ministry has sought a detailed report from the state government as early as possible. It also wanted to be informed about the findings of the initial investigations.
Here’s what we know so far of the explosion:
The blast wrecked a wall of the bathroom, leaving a pile of rubble. Windowpanes in adjoining rooms and windscreens of some cars parked below were smashed.
Police suspect that the man killed in the blast in the second-floor toilet was trying to assemble or plant the explosive device.
According to local MLA Balwinder Singh Bains, who was on the third floor of the court premises when the blast took place, some people thought a cooking gas cylinder had burst, while some said it was a blast.
Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who is also the state's home minister said that a DNA test will be conducted on the unidentified man found dead at the blast site.
Ludhiana Police Commissioner Gurpreet Singh Bhullar said the area has been sealed and forensic teams will collect samples from the site.
According to an IndiaToday report, the forensic team and the Bomb Detection & Disposal Squad has quoted that a “fairly good quantity of high-grade explosives had been used” in the Ludhiana court blast on Thursday.
Speaking on the deceased man, who was found on the second-floor toilet, a source was cited as saying that he was aged between 30 and 35 and the only distinguishing feature that could be spotted was a tattoo.
Babbar Khalsa behind Ludhiana court blast?
Even as investigations are on, News18 has reported that international terrorist organisation Babbar Khalsa is responsible for the blast.
The report citing top intelligence sources said that the outfit’s chief Wadhawa Singh executed the attack with the help of local gangster Harvinder Singh (aka Rinda Singh).
Intelligence agencies suggest that the group might carry out more such attacks in Punjab in the run-up to the Assembly elections, scheduled to take place early next year.
What leaders said
Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi said as the Assembly polls are drawing near, some anti-national forces are trying to spread anarchy in the state.
"Our police are capable of maintaining law and order," he said. "But which agencies which are trying to disturb Punjab's peace will become clear as investigations are on."
Visited the #LudhianaBlast site & met injured patients in all 3 hospitals with Dy CM @Sukhjinder_INC. Have announced free treatment for all injured persons in the blast. I reiterate that we would not let any person disturb the hard earned peace and communal harmony of the state pic.twitter.com/HpKwfhtxKo
— Charanjit S Channi (@CHARANJITCHANNI) December 23, 2021
Earlier, he told reporters in Chandigarh, "As elections near, some anti-national and anti-state forces are trying to commit such disgusting acts, and for this the government is alert and the people should also be alert."
Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu also condemned the blast, saying "innocent people losing lives to vote bank politics and polarisation".
"I condemn this cowardly act. Innocent people losing lives to vote bank politics and polarisation !! The politics of Hope and Unity must replace the politics of Fear and Division. Divisive force will be defeated by the indomitable spirit of Punjabiyat given to us by Great Gurus," Sidhu said in a tweet.
I condemn this cowardly act … Innocent people losing lives to vote bank politics and polarisation !! The politics of Hope and Unity must replace the politics of Fear and Division. Divisive force will be defeated by the indomitable spirit of Punjabiyat given to us by Great Gurus pic.twitter.com/whAqO6DcBS
— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) December 23, 2021
He further said the blast in Ludhiana "left no shadow of doubt that a series of peace-disrupting activities have been planned by vested interests to create law and order problem in Punjab".
Senior Congress leader Sunil Jakhar said people of Punjab needed to be assured of the state government's ability to maintain peace and law and order.
"People of Punjab can see through the evil designs behind today's bomb blast coming soon after attempts at desecrations. But they need to be assured of the commitment and ability of the govt to maintain peace & harmony. The CM can't afford to be seen floundering on this account," said Jakhar in a tweet.
Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh condemned the blast and reiterated his concerns over the challenges to the state's peace and security.
Disturbing news of a blast at Ludhiana court complex. Saddened to know about the demise of 2 individuals, Praying for the recovery of those injured. @PunjabPoliceInd must get to the bottom of this.
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) December 23, 2021
He said that he hoped the Punjab Police and other security agencies will closely coordinate with each other in investigating the blast, and regretted the 'diversionary' tactics by the Punjab government, particularly Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi.
"It is not only unfortunate but highly irresponsible on part of the chief minister to jump to conclusions by trying to construct a link between the blasts, the sacrilege incidents and the FIR against an Akali leader without any investigations," Amarinder said.
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal expressed shock over the blast. He, however, alleged, "Police are being used to settle political vendetta. I want to say that the DGP has to maintain law and order, which they are not doing," said Badal.
Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in a tweet said, "First sacrilege, now blast. Some people want to disturb the peace of Punjab. Three crore people of Punjab will not allow their plans to succeed."
Punjab witnesses violence
The Ludhiana court blast comes days after the alleged sacrilege attempts at the Golden Temple in Amritsar and a gurdwara in Kapurthala followed by the lynching of unidentified two men.
On Saturday, a man was lynched after an alleged attempt to commit sacrilege into the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple. A youth was beaten to death by the enraged crowds at the Golden Temple after he jumped in front of the Guru Granth Sahib in the sanctum sanctorum during the recital of evening prayers on Saturday evening.
He scaled the railings, picked up the sword and disrupted the religious services, before he was beaten by the sewadars.
This was followed by a man beaten to death over an alleged sacrilege attempt in Punjab's Kapurthala. Residents of Nijampur village caught the man from a gurdwara in the wee hours of Sunday.
They alleged that he was seen "disrespecting" the Nishan Sahib (Sikh flag).
With inputs from agencies