BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  World: South Asia
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Sunday, 31 March, 2002, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Hindu hardliners call strike in Kashmir
Pool of blood outside the Raghunath temple in Jammu
Two of the attackers were shot dead by police
Hindu hardliners in Indian-administered Kashmir are enforcing a 48-hour strike in Jammu to protest against a militant attack on a temple that killed 10 on Saturday.

Activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that leads India's coalition government, joined supporters of other hardline Hindu groups on the streets of Jammu to enforce the strike.

Groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajraing Dal and Shiv Sena have patrols out on city streets ensuring shops and other business establishments remain shut.

Security forces are patrolling Jammu's Muslim- majority districts to protect their residents from possible Hindu backlash to Saturday's attack on the 150-year old Raghunath temple.

Two suspected militants and four temple guards died in the attack, as well as four civilians who were caught in the crossfire.

Twenty others were wounded. Reports say five are in a critical condition.

No group has yet admitted responsibility for the apparent attempt to seize the temple, but police are blaming Muslim militants.

The three attackers drove up to the site of the temple, in the Residency Road area, at 1030 local time (0500GMT) when the area was crowded with people. They threw grenades and opened fire with automatic weapons.

We are keeping a special vigil in Muslim areas because of the general strike called by these organisations

Indian police spokesman
One ran inside the temple, while another continued to fire from outside.

Four armed guards returned fire and, in the one-hour gun battle which ensued, shot dead two of the attackers. The third escaped in a jeep.

The BBC's Satish Jacob says this is the first major incident to have occurred in the mainly Hindu city of Jammu.

Hindu fears

"We were on patrol duty when a militant fired on us as we alighted from our vehicle," police officer Nirmal Prakash Singh told Reuters news agency.

"Then he threw two grenades at us. One of the grenades did not explode. After this, we started firing back," he said.

Raghunath temple in Jammu
Thousands of Hindus visit the temple to the God-king Ram every month
The attack is said to have sparked panic in the city and the atmosphere is reported to be tense.

Hindus are reported to be fleeing Jammu amid fears that the attack could provoke sectarian violence.

"We are not taking any chances. We are setting up special checkpoints and we are bringing in police reinforcements to face any eventuality," one official told the AFP news agency.

Rise in violence

A local journalist has told the BBC that the Pakistan-based group, Lashkar e Tayyaba, is suspected of being behind the attack.

Police sources say there has been a sharp rise in the number of separatist attacks recently.

It is believed that, with a recent improvement in the weather, the separatists may have started crossing from Pakistan into Indian-controlled Kashmir in large numbers.

At least 20 people, including five security personnel and nine militants, have been killed since Thursday.

In one incident on Friday, militants attacked a lorry carrying a group of paramilitary border security force, killing five people.

And at least two soldiers were killed in an early morning attack at a security force camp.

A number of Islamic militant groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India since 1989.

The BBC's Satish Jacob
"No group has claimed responsibility"
Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asia stories