n A brigade of the army — between 2,500 and 3,000 soldiers — has begun moving into “sensitive” areas of Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar ahead of tomorrow’s bandh called by the VHP.
Army sources in Delhi said “the unit is being deployed as a precautionary measure. We do not really apprehend large-scale violence.” The army’s 11 Infantry Division is headquartered in Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar. Since Operation Parakram, its units are in operational locations near the border. The sources did not say if the brigade that has begun moving is from that division.
The first units of the army that moved into Gujarat in the wake of the Godhra burnings and the pogrom that followed in February-March were not from the 11 Infantry Division but were flown in from reserves in Secunderabad and other locations, mainly in south India.
Units of the 11 Infantry Division that are more conversant with the locale were withdrawn from operational areas near Jodhpur and redeployed in Gujarat later. Since then, these units have again returned to the western front.
n Offering to cooperate with the Central government for a joint strategy against terrorism, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has said the country heaved a sigh of relief this morning when the militants, who had stormed the Swaminarayan temple here, were eliminated.
Sonia told reporters that the Congress bandh call given on Wednesday was to express solidarity with the devotees who had undergone the trauma. She expressed her party’s deep gratitude to the state police and central security forces for carrying out the operation successfully.
Referring to the party’s cooperation with the government to fight terrorism, Sonia said: “From the very beginning, we have offered support to every single step the government is taking to fight terrorism. We are all one on this,” she added. Asked about her message to the people of Gujarat, Sonia said peace should be maintained at any cost.
n Condemning the attack on the Swaminarayan temple in Gandhinagar and claiming it to be a direct fallout of the Gaurav Yatra by Narendra Modi, several prominent Muslim organisations in Mumbai have given a call for a day-long bandh to express solidarity with the victims.
Maulana Sayyed Akhtar Ali, general secretary of the Qaumi Majlis-e-Shoora, said all Muslim organisations strongly condemned the dastardly attack as “no religion permitted attack on innocent lives, especially women and children”.
“We have urged people to close down their establishments to express solidarity with the kin of the victims in yesterday’s attack. However, our call for a bandh has nothing to do with a similar call given by certain political parties,” he clarified. He blamed the inflammatory speeches by VHP president Ashok Singhal and the Gaurav Yatra.