The world watched in shock as the harrowing and tragic events unfolded
at Akshardham, a unique cultural complex dedicated to world peace
and harmony. On the ill-fated day of September 24th, 2002, this
holy place of pilgrimage that represented the universal message
of hope and peace to people all over the world was attacked by terrorists.
What started at 4:50pm in the evening ended in an extremely terrifying
and heinous carnage. The series of events that took place on that
day are described as they happened:
- A white car carried two terrorists
to the outskirts of the Akshardham area's Gate 3 at 4:45pm. The
terrorists took out their sleeping bags and jackets full of automatic
weapons and grenades to arm themselves as the car sped away.
- The terrorists tried to enter the
complex through the main Gate 3, but the volunteer security guards
stopped them for a security check. Terrorists then jumped the
fence and rushed to the main walkway of Akshardham, opening fire
on the innocent tourists and pilgrims browsing at a nearby book
- Both the terrorists charged towards
the main stone monument, while throwing hand grenades. In the
mean time, the organization's volunteers communicated with the
volunteers working in the main monument through the intercom.
The main monument was thus locked shut from inside. The terrorists
failed to infiltrate the main monument by mere seconds.
- With their attempts to damage the
main monument foiled, the terrorists switched their targets and
dashed towards the exhibition halls. The volunteers had closed
the doors of the multimedia theater from the inside. The terrorists
instead sneaked through the EXIT door in to the Exhibition Hall
1. After getting inside, they went on a maddening shooting rampage
targeting the exhibition audience inside the hall consisting of
innocent men, women, and children, killing or wounding many.
- The terror unleashed by the two
mad men ceased once the militants got out of the EXIT door again
to climb up the roof top and hid there.
- All this had merely taken 5-10
minutes, but that was enough time for the police security guards
and commando units to show up at the premise. The police and commandos
escorted hundreds of visitors from around the complex to safety
and helped transport the injured to the nearby hospitals.
- The commandos and security forces
started their vigorous search for the two terrorists, knowing
they could be anywhere on the 23-acre campus. While the terrorists
were busy retreating to another hide out, the security forces
took advantage of the momentary cease fire by successfully transfering
the remaining 80 to 100 visitors from Exhibition Hall 1 to a secure
area outside the complex.
- As the security forces brought
out the visitors secured behind the closed doors of the main monument,
the terrorists opened fire at the commandos. Fortunately, no one
was hit. The commandos surrounded the area and continued the cross
fire making it impossible for the terrorists to escape.
- In the mean time, Deputy Prime
Minister Mr. Advani ordered India's top notch National Security
Guard, the Black Cat commandos, to be airlifted from Delhi and
join the hunt for the terrorist at Akshardham. At around 11:30pm,
the hunt intensified as the special Black Cats took their positions
within Akshardham complex and formulated their attack strategies
after assessing the situation under the leadership of Brigadier
- Also in the meantime, India's President
Mr. Abdul Kalam placed a personal call to Pramukh Swami Maharaj,
the leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and the inspirer of Akshardham,
to express his condolences. Deputy PM Mr. Advani assured Pramukh
Swami that he will do everything possible to overpower the two
terrorists. India's Prime Minister Mr. Vajpai also communicated
- The shoot out and the hunt continued
sporadically through the night. The terrorists became desperate
at the daybreak. The firing reached a feverish pitch. At around
6:45am, the Black Cat commandos ended the 14 hour long ordeal
by shooting the two terrorists hiding in the bushes.
- In the mean time, doctors and medical
staff at the local hospitals kept on performing the grueling tasks
to save lives of those who were gravely injured. BAPS volunteers
and members donated blood to help save precious lives. The final
casualty count reached 33, with 70 wounded.
As the horrifying events unfurled,
many national and international dignitaries, government officials,
organizations, and media have reached out to express their deepest
condolences for this tragedy. Several national leaders, irrespective
of their political alignments or differences, paid a visit to Akshardham
Complex. Some of them were the Prime Minister of India Mr. Vajpayee,
the Deputy PM Mr. Advani, Governor of Gujarat Mr. Sundersinh Bhandari,
Chief Minister of Gujarat Mr. Narendra Modi, and Congress Party
Leader Sonia Gandhi.
Akshardham carnage is a yet another
international tragedy where the terrorists have taken lives of innocent
men, women, and children in a senseless act of violence. Their act
of cowardice is even more acutely felt since it was perpetrated
in the midst of the very place that serves as an inspiring source
of peace, harmony, and tolerance.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj has offered his
deepest sympathy and prayers for the unfortunate victims and their
grieving relatives. He has also prayed for the quick recovery of
those who are injured. His ardent wish was that such tragedies never
afflict any community or nation anywhere in the world. Finally,
he has appealed to the citizens of India to maintain peace and harmony
in the wake of this national tragedy.
The Akshardham Complex is a 23-acre site that is dedicated to peace,
harmony and social understanding. Using modern technology, the traditional
values that are the foundation of the Indian culture are conveyed
through marvelous multimedia presentations, sculptures and gardens.
The Complex is also home to priceless Indian literature. Created
by volunteers and dedicated to Lord Swaminarayan, Akshardham is
a powerful experience that attracts over 2 million visitors annually,
including such dignitaries as former President Bill Clinton, His
Holiness Dalai Lama, Indian Ambassador to the United States Abid
Hussain, Prince Philip of the United Kingdom and the former president
of Poland, Lech Walesa.
For more information on Akshardham, visit its website at www.akshardham.com.
BAPS is a worldwide socio-spiritual organization in consultative
status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
dedicated to peace and harmony. BAPS strives to provide spiritual,
cultural and social care for society as a whole and is known for
its strict observance of ahimsa, the Hindu code of nonviolence.
BAPS conducts humanitarian work through a worldwide network consisting
of over 8,100 centers, including 4,070 children's centers. Some
examples of BAPS' work include natural disaster relief, water conservation
and reforestation. Most recently, BAPS was instrumental in the recovery,
relief and rehabilitation efforts of the state of Gujarat after
the devastating earthquake in January 2001. In North America, over
50,000 families carry out the vision of BAPS.
For more information on BAPS, visit its website at www.swaminarayan.org.