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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
Eyewitness: Gujarat's nightmare
A relative of one of the temple victims
People of all faiths visit the temple complex

People of all faiths - tourists and worshippers - used to travel to the Swaminarayan temple's sprawling 23-acre complex in the Gujarat state capital, Gandhinagar.

Security forces as the temple in Gandhinagar
Troops now patrol in the footsteps of pilgrims
Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Christians could all be found at the temple, perhaps because it may be the only one in India to house scriptures of all major world religions in a hall of harmony.

But on Tuesday evening, that customary harmony was shattered by the sound of shots, explosions and screams as two militants invaded the temple and murdered indiscriminately.

Even the aftermath was chilling.

The following morning sandals, slippers and shoes of the dead littered the area - fresh blood was everywhere.

Broken glasses, earrings, shreds of clothing and even scraps of flesh remained as testament to the bloody events of the night before.

Map showing Gujarat state and Gandhinagar
The scale of the carnage was such that India's political leaders moved swiftly to stress the need for religious harmony.

There were the almost obligatory allegations that Pakistan encouraged anti-Indian forces, but the focus was elsewhere for the leaders who visited the temple - Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, his deputy Lal Krishnan Advani and opposition leader Sonia Gandhi.

They stressed that there must be no revenge attacks against Indian Muslims, apparently fearful of a fresh outbreak of religious violence in the state.

The right-wing World Hindu Council has called for a strike in Gujarat on Thursday and that is making Muslims nervous.

Extra security forces - including a brigade of 3,000 soldiers - have been deployed.

Tragedy

It is the latest test for the people of Gujarat, who have been battered by natural disasters and human violence over the last couple of years.

Tragedy upon tragedy has been heaped upon the nearly 40 million people who live there, each seeming to leave a deeper scar than the last.

Floods in 2000 were followed the next year by a devastating earthquake and a drought.

And earlier this year religious violence erupted on a scale not witnessed in Gujarat since independence, with more than 1,000 Muslims killed after a deadly attack on a train carrying Hindus.

And now all are watching anxiously to see if the state can manage to avoid a resurgence of that communal hatred.


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
17 Sep 02 | South Asia
17 Sep 02 | South Asia
28 Feb 02 | South Asia
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