| Monks welcome a representative of the minority community to the temple. (PTI)
Gandhinagar, Sept. 29: The walls still showed the scars of the bullets that ricocheted off them five days ago, but the message that came from within did not speak of the wound as Narendra Modi has been doing from a rath.
An appeal for calm flowed from the Swaminarayan temple as the complex opened its doors to the public for the first time since the Tuesday massacre.
Among those who heard the message holding candles were chief minister Modi, a host of other politicians, representatives of the minority communities and relatives of the victims of the massacre. Initial estimates put the turnout at 25,000.
As a mass aarti lit up the carnage site, thousands thronged the sprawling lawns of the temple to join the largest-ever condolence-prayer meeting in the state.
The tone of the meeting was set by the head of the Swaminarayan sect, Pramukh Swami Shastrinarayan Swarupdas, who said there is “conflict among religions only because we have failed to understand our own religions”.
Apparently upset by some politicians’ inflammatory statements and cries for revenge, the monk said: “We should leave it to God. He would do the justice. We need not do any thing. We should only pray — pray for peace.”
Modi, part of the rapt audience, could do little but repeat the overriding theme when he stepped out of the temple complex later.
Busy rescheduling the next leg of the controversial Gaurav Yatra, he said on his way out: “The diyas lighted today to pay tributes to the slain soldiers and civilians would spread new light and rekindle the spirit of brotherhood among the people.
“Like everything in life, even this unfortunate incident will teach us many lessons and the new spirit spread this evening would give the Gujarat government and the people renewed strength to live in peace and brotherhood.”
As Modi spoke, reports came in of a fresh outbreak of clashes in Vadodara. Police had to burst teargas shells to disperse two groups stoning each other during a wedding.
In his 18-minute condolence message, the head of the Swaminarayan sect said everyone should be allowed to follow his own religion. He called upon the people to practise sadachar that can lead to peace and social harmony.
“The time has come to shed all differences and people should imbibe the true spirit of the religious teachings and spiritual values. God lives in every soul and, therefore, violence can serve no purpose,” he added.
The monk took the victims’ relatives inside the temple. The temple authorities have decided to give financial assistance to the family members of those killed in the militant strike.
The family of the slain NSG commando will get Rs 3 lakh, two state commandos Rs 2 lakh each and 29 devotees and visitors Rs 1 lakh each. The injured will be given Rs 25,000 each.
The shadow of the gun hovered over the gathering with commandos taking up position across the 23-acre complex. The temple will be opened for regular visitors from October 1.
The temple authorities have held a series of meetings in the last couple of days and, in association with state police, are working on a plan that will address future security concerns.
In Ahmedabad, police announced that 16 teams would fan across the country to piece together the “missing links” of the attack conspiracy. The teams would also try to trace suspected “local” supporters of the militants who carried out the strike.
State police chief K. Chakravarthy said that no stone would be left unturned to find those who helped the militants.
The decision to set up the teams comes a day after the police chief claimed that the two militants were “rank strangers’’ who took help from some “locals”.
A highly placed source had disclosed yesterday that one of the militants was heard speaking Gujarati. The police teams are expected to focus on this undeclared “local angle”, sources said.
The sources said photographs of the slain militants would be sent to all district police chiefs in the country to ascertain their antecedents.
“We will have to find out if anyone had seen them before in any part of the country,’’ an officer said.