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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 23:58 GMT 00:58 UK
India deploys troops after temple attack
Soldiers on patrol at a temple in Bhopal
Extra protection is being given to shrines across India
India has sent about 3,000 extra troops to the state of Gujarat where a militant Hindu group has called a strike in the wake of an attack on a temple.


We are in a high state of alert

K Nityanandam,
Gujarat Home Secretary

Correspondents say there are widespread fears that there could be a renewal of religious carnage following the massacre at the Hindu temple in Gandhinagar.

Indian leaders have begged for calm after two militants stormed the temple throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately, killing 31 people before they were shot dead.

But while Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was urging against reprisal attacks, the right-wing World Hindu Council called the nationwide strike to demand action be taken against Pakistan.

World Hindu Council protesters
Militants are demanding the government take action against Pakistan
Gujarat suffered India's worst religious bloodshed in a decade earlier this year when more than 1,000 Muslims were killed in retaliatory violence after a train carrying Hindus was attacked.

Indian authorities are taking concerted action to try to ensure that Thursday's nationwide strike call by the World Hindu Council - the Vishwa Hindu Parishad - does not degenerate into violence.

Gujarat's Home Secretary, K Nityanandam, said: "We are in a high state of alert.

"Security personnel will be deployed in all sensitive places in the state."

Reinforcements

An army brigade of about 3,000 troops has been flown into the state from border areas as reinforcements.


There can be no peace in India as long as Pakistan exists

BL Sharma, World Hindu Council
Police were keeping a particular watch on Gandhinagar, with protection arranged for government buildings and religious areas.

Though Indian leaders accused Pakistan of helping those behind the attack, the condemnation did not go far enough for the Hindu militants.

BL Sharma, of the World Hindu Council, said: "There can be no peace in India as long as Pakistan exists.

"We demand that the government end its inaction."

The council was accused of whipping up the violence in Gujarat earlier this year.


We fear that if even a small incident takes place, it can spread to the whole city

Jagdish Sindhi, grocer in Ahmedabad
Though the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party said it would postpone the next phase of its Gujarat Gaurav Yatra, or Pride of Gujarat, march to quell the tension, there was still fear among people.

Many shops and businesses in Gujarat's main city of Ahmedabad - which is near Gandhinagar - closed early on Wednesday before the planned strike.

A grocer, Jagdish Sindhi, told the Reuters news agency: "We fear that if even a small incident takes place tomorrow, it can spread to the whole city."

Muslims living in Gujarat have been warned by their community leaders to stay inside on Thursday during the strike.


Akshardham temple, Gandhinagar
Temple facts:
  • Owned by one of India's richest Hindu sects
  • Built 10 years ago by nearly 1,000 craftsmen
  • Made of 6,000 intricately carved blocks of pink sandstone
  • Visited by two million people every year


  • The 12-hour siege at Swaminarayan Temple in Gandhinagar ended when Indian commandos stormed the building and shot dead the two gunmen.

    Mr Vajpayee said: "This cycle of violence goes on and on - it has to be ended and peace should be maintained at all costs.

    "It is absolutely vital to quell terrorism."

    Various officials said it seemed clear that Pakistan was behind the attack after a reference to Gujarat made by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf at the United Nations earlier this month.

    But Pakistan rejected the accusations and condemned the temple attack.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Jill McGivering
    "It was a brutal end to a brutal siege"
    Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Jaffer
    "It is very regretful to hear these allegations"
    Gujarat Junior Home Minister K Nittanand
    "We haven't got a lead as yet"
    Gujarat conflict in-depth

    Key vote

    Tense state

    Background

    BBC WORLD SERVICE

    TALKING POINT
    See also:

    25 Sep 02 | South Asia
    25 Sep 02 | South Asia
    25 Sep 02 | South Asia
    17 Sep 02 | South Asia
    17 Sep 02 | South Asia
    30 Apr 02 | South Asia
    28 Feb 02 | South Asia
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