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Blast rocks Shah Rukh Khan's Lanka show

By Mayank Shekhar, Mid-Day, December 13, 2004

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- A hand-held bomb detonated at Temptation 2004, a musical show led by Shah Rukh Khan, at Colombo?s Race Course open-air theatre on Saturday night. The show was put together by Rediffusion, an event management company partly owned by former cricketer Ravi Shastri.

<< Elite security guards carry the injured away from the site of an explosion during 'Temptation 2004', a musical event in Colombo, Sri Lanka, late Saturday, Dec. 11, 2004. AP

While all the actors, including Khan, and the show?s troupe, escaped absolutely unhurt; according to agency reports, two people (a press photographer and a hotel employee) were killed in the attack, 19 injured and five critically so.

The only Indian national hurt in the blast was Shastri?s wife Ritu, who was there to help out with the show?s organisation. Others on the show were Saif Ali Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Preity Zinta, Celina Jaitley and Zayed Khan.

The bomb, planted in between the first two rows of the most expensive (Rs 10,000) seats, ripped through the stands just as Shah Rukh was concluding his penultimate act, dancing with Chopra.

Said Chopra, ?We were doing the last ?item? of a romantic medley, the song Lehja lehja, which Shah Rukh was performing with all three girls (Preity Zinta and Celina Jaitley). Right before the grand finale, when all the girls were supposed to join Shah Rukh, a blast went off, which we initially mistook for fireworks.?

The concert had earlier courted controversy in the city owing to the date on which it was held.

December 11 marked the first death anniversary of prominent Buddhist monk Gangodawila Soma Thero. Buddhist clerics and their supporters had initially tried to disrupt the show through peaceful protests outside the venue.

The show had in fact begun with a condolence message for Monk Thero read out by Khan, followed by a two-minute silence.

According to agency reports, police had clashed with protestors earlier in the evening and arrested over a dozen men who attacked cars and fans that were walking to the venue of the concert held amid tight security.

Fans were searched at four points before being allowed into the venue, which had earlier been searched by anti-terrorism agents as well as police sniffer dogs.

While no militant outfit has claimed responsibility for the blast yet, Buddhist clerics, through the all-clergy National Heritage Party (NHP) have condemned the attack and blamed the Sri Lankan government for not taking adequate security precautions.

The government meanwhile has instituted an inquiry commission to probe the blast.

Who was Monk Thero?

Famous Buddhist monk, late Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thero, had fought against ?unethical and immoral? conversions of Buddhists in Sri Lanka through allurements by mostly US-based ?Christian fundamentalists?.

Monk Thero died last year in St. Petersburg, Russia while being hosted by a ?Christian fundamentalist institution? called International University of Fundamental Studies, headed by a Sri Lanka born pastor Rev. Shanthi Pushpakumara Jayasekera.

Majority of Buddhist monks believe there was a conspiracy behind the seer?s sudden death over which Sri Lankan government had commissioned a detailed inquiry.

The monk?s conversion cause has elicited numerous peaceful protests, marches and fasts unto deaths among the Buddhist community in Sri Lanka in the past year.

The Shah Rukh Khan concert in Colombo was held on the first death anniversary of Monk Thero. The show had hence led to protests by the Buddhists in the city and outside the concert venue.

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We were doing the last item of a romantic medley, which Shah Rukh was performing with all three girls (Preity Zinta and Celina Jaitley). Right before the grand finale, when all the girls were supposed to join Shah Rukh, a blast went off, which I mistook for fireworks.

Then I saw two people lying on the floor in the first row, who I thought were drunken people. Then the music suddenly stopped and we were rushed off to various cars and told about the bomb blast. 
-  Priyanka Chopra

We had scripted and directed the show and were backstage when the blast happened.

The controversy over the date of the concert had been cleared much before it commenced. Clearly, the question of the first death anniversary of Monk Thero and the grenade attack seem completely unrelated.
- Ali Morani

I was backstage and thought the sound that came was part of the pyro (techniques) from the show. Suddenly there was confusion and chaos, we were taken to Shah Rukh?s room and were escorted immediately to the airport.

Though no one has taken responsibility for the blasts so far, I am reasonably definite it wasn?t the work of the Buddhists. I haven?t ever heard of a Buddhist terrorist outfit.
- Saif Ali Khan



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