BARC director in soup over foreign scribes’ visit
Mumbai: The visit of two foreign journalists
to the high-security Bhabha Atomic research Centre (BARC) here
has raised the hackles of the security establishment.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has asked BARC director
Srikumar Banerjee to explain how the journalists were allowed
to photograph the facility during their visit. Was formal
permission granted for filming, the ministry has asked,
official sources said.
In his reply, Banerjee has reportedly said that formal
permission was neither sought nor granted but explained that
the journalists were allowed to take photographs only from the
outside and that they were accompanied at all times by BARC
Banerjee has explained that photographs of the building
are easily available on the Internet and that the scribes
clicked only the external view of the reactor building.
This explanation does not seem to have satisfied the
ministry, nor Banerjee's contention that the authorities
should not be overly sensitive about commonly available
photographs, the sources said.
Efforts to seek reaction from Banerjee did not succeed
as he refused to comment on the issue.
Government security agencies have been concerned over the
vulnerability of BARC after it was listed as a possible target
of the Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba.
US terror accused David Headley had admitted during
interrogation that he had carried out reconnaissance of the
BARC facility and handed over its Global Positioning System
co-ordinates to his handlers in Pakistan.
49-year-old Headley, who has been under arrest in the US
since October last year, had travelled to Chembur and Trombay
several times and filmed the exit and entry points of BARC
besides the movement of employees, the sources said.
He is reported to have hired a boat from the Gateway of
India and videographed the atomic research centre from the sea
side. The Mumbai 26/11 attackers had also arrived by sea and
landed near the Gateway of India.
Headley is being prosecuted by the FBI on several
charges, including for being part of the conspiracy in the
26/11 Mumbai attacks. Investigators including officials from
the National Investigation Agency, who are probing the role of
Headley and his Pakistani-Canadian accomplice Tahawwur Rana in
India, suspect that during his boat ride, Headley may have
surveyed the mangroves along the coastline.
The security around the nuclear installation and the
mangroves has now been tightened, the sources said.