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Stains wash off, stigma sticks
- Devotees flock outside gates as temple readies to reopen

Jammu, Nov. 26: The temple gates are shut, as they have been since the bloodbath on Sunday night. Inside, volunteers rush with buckets of water to wash away the stains of the terrorist attack before devotees are allowed in tomorrow.

Special prayers for purification will be offered at the temple in the morning. “There has to be proper cleansing of the shrine before it is opened for pilgrims,” explains Khem Raj Sharma, secretary of the Dharamarth Trust that manages the 150-year-old temple.

Scores of devotees lined up to see the damage, not satisfied with first-person accounts of survivors or media reports. “They only increased our appetite to see what had happened inside,” said Daisy Sharma, who has a shop in the nearby Raghunath Bazar. But the gates to the complex, spread over two acres in the heart of Jammu, remained tightly shut. Inside, the temple’s managers were taking stock.

“The floors can be repaired, but I don’t know how we can put the idol (of Hanuman) back to original shape,” Sharma said. “We have wiped the bloodstains but how can we undo this damage'” he wondered aloud as VIP visitors trooped in for an inspection.

One of the militants had lobbed grenades in the temple and fired upon the idol of Hanuman — the lord of power — to keep policemen at bay. The attack left the bruised and the marble floors broken.

The last time the temple was attacked — on March 30 — the idols had remained unscathed.

Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Governor Girish Chandra Saxena and defence minister George Fernandes have paid a visit. The stench of burnt human flesh greeted the visitors, who had to tread carefully to avoid stepping on the congealed blood on the floors.

Mufti said steps would be taken to prevent recurrence of terrorist attacks on places of worship, but justified his government’s policy of releasing political prisoners. This was not new, he said, pointing to the release of several militant leaders in the past.

Ajatshatru Singh, son of Karan Singh and one of the directors of the Dharamarth Trust, took the visitors around yesterday.

Pointing to the scars left by grenade explosions and the shower of bullets, he said: “I don’t know how my father would reconcile to this loss.”

Security forces were setting up new posts today and also working on the lighting at the shrine.

SSP Farooq Khan said on the day of the attack, the temple lights helped the militants while blinding the securitymen by their glare.

Securitymen will be equipped with AK-47 assault rifles, instead of SLRs. Armed police and CRPF personnel have taken position at strategic points and new security pickets have been added.

With security tight as it usually is after such an attack, all visitors are being frisked. “No, you are not a journalist,” a policeman brusquely told a woman who had failed to show her identity card. He refused to let her in despite pleas by the reporter’s colleagues.

Chief priest Vishal Shastry, said arms should be given to the temple’s own security staff and a defence committee be formed on the lines of village defence committees.

“Our security staff do not have any arms. They carry only a stick. If they are given arms, they can provide better security from inside. If they had arms, it wouldn’t have been possible for the militants to enter into the main temple,” he said.

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