Gujarat, a western Indian state known for its religious intolerance and violence, was living yet another nightmare. On September 24th, an unidentified number of gunmen entered the premises of the sect, closely linked to the RSS and the Indian ruling Party, BJP, and began spraying the 600 or so worshippers and visitors packed into main hall with bullets and hand grenades. Several people died on the spot, others barricaded themselves in one of the rooms of the temple, behind a heavy door. Police officers moved in few minutes later, but were unable to disarm the militants. The standoff lasted until the following day.
A few feet away, another VHP member, Prakash C. Sevkani, was recalling nostalgically how he distributed swords during the riot. “Now the situation could explode at any moment. There is plenty of tension.”
Before elite commandos arrived from the capital Delhi, badly armed and badly trained police officers were trying, unsuccessfully, to liquidate the intruders. Several members of the police force were injured by shrapnel and evacuated to the hospital, amid loud cheers from the crowd. At that point, officials spoke of some four or five attackers inside the compound.
Movement For Revenge. This is a message addressed to the thousands of conscienceless enemies of the Muslims of India.
This oppression beyond tolerance has set ablaze hearts of Muslims with revenge and holy war. And few people have risen up for this revenge. When the blood of such Hindus and the blood of the police will flow, then the spirits of the martyred-killed in riots will rest in piece.
Come, come o Muslims of Gujarat, let’s rebuild our mosques working shoulder to shoulder and matching steps with the young men of the Tehriq-e-Qasas. Let’s avenge the martyrdom of Muslims. If we die let’s die with respect, if we live it should be life of respect. This is for the betterment of the worldly life and the life beyond that. May Allah provide us with true leadership and keep Tehriq-e-Qasas alive till every martyr’s death is avenged for. NOTE: Very soon we will take such actions that will prove that we are worthy heirs of those martyred in Gujarat. This is our gift to Advani and Modi. From now onward keep waiting. God willing. WRITER: True representatives of the Muslims of Gujarat.”
The murder of the Akshardham temple worshippers is the worst act of sectarian violence in Gujarat since the anti-Muslim riots left almost 1,500 people dead earlier this year. Over thirty civilians and police officers died, and many more are still in a serious condition in the Civil Hospitals of Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad. Women and children are among the victims.
The government was quick to point the finger at Muslim extremists and at Pakistan.
The behaviour of Indian politicians has been irresponsible. The two gunmen were not identified and the letter remains the only ‘proof’ linking the attackers to Muslim extremists. However, the letter does not mention Pakistan (or Kashmir). There is no doubt that the ruling BJP is following its own political agenda, seeking confrontation with its neighbouring country and trying to justify its ‘war on terrorism’.
The authorities reacted to the situation by deploying some three thousand troops in Gujarat in order to prevent incidents of violence and rioting similar to those that followed the February 27th attack on a train carrying Hindu nationalists. Those responsible for the attack were never identified, but most Hindus believe that Muslim extremists were to blame (although there is some speculation that extremists from the World Hindu Council (VHP) carried out the carnage themselves in order to fuel the conflict between Muslims and Hindus).
The local police force did very little to stop the violence and, in some instances, actively encouraged it.
Despite all the preventive actions, tension is growing. A general strike called by Hindu nationalists shut down services in many parts of the country. Extremists threw stones and stopped several trains in Mumbai. In the Gujarati city of Surat, Hindu mobs stabbed two Muslim men, one as he was getting out of an auto rickshaw, and the other as he emerged from his house.
One day after the temple attack, new refugees started to arrive in the Muslim neighbourhood of Vatva, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. They were leaving Naroda Patiya and other the areas that were devastated in the riots earlier this year.
In Vatva, a fifteen-year-old boy named Javed spoke about the nine members of his close and extended family who were killed during the riots in Ahmedabad. He lost his mother, father and brother. He saw some of the killing and never fully recovered from the shock. He blames the police for failing to protect his relatives.
“I worked on this scientific study, but from a human perspective I can give you one example of what happened. A barber lived right next to my house. He and his two family members were killed during the riots. He was a simple, good man, and now he is no more. Always when I am passing his house, I say to myself: “Here lived the barber, a Muslim, a gentle man who came from Uttar Pradesh searching for a better life. And they killed him.” “
Your city is like a burning courtyard Your city is like a broken bangle, I do not intend to come to your city, I do not wish to come to your city.
Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence and secularism remains one of the most powerful symbols of modern India. However, Ahmedabad, where Gandhi lived for many years, is rapidly gaining a worldwide reputation for intolerance, religious conflict and acts of terror against innocent men, women and children.
Before this incident, Gujarat had already become a symbol of terror, not unlike Bosnia and Ambon. If the cycle of violence doesn’t stop, it could destabilize the secular and democratic essence of the entire Indian nation.