AHMEDABAD: Today, when a small incident can spark communal riots in the counrty, Pramukh Swami, the top spiritual leader of Swaminarayan sect who passed away Saturday at the age of 95 had set an example how to maintain peace during such crisis. This example is now considered an international case study on crisis response in a peaceful manner. It was an example set by a spiritual leader on the social responsibility of religious leaders through peaceful response during a critical situation to maintain peace in the society.On 24th September, 2002 two militants armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades attacked Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar. After initial response by local police NSG was called in to fight the terrorist and control the situation. The operation called ‘Thunderbolt’ began at 4:45 pm 24 September and lasted till 6:45 am next day. Total 38 people, including the two armed militants, were killed in this terror attack.
The state was still trying to come back to normalcy after witnessing one of the worst communal riots a few months ago. There was fear that this incident may ignite a communal flare in the state. However, no such things happened and it was all due to Pramukh Swami’s guidance to Akshardham management.
Brigadier Raj Seetapathy, the NSG commando in charge of the rescue mission ‘Operation Thunderbolt’ always asserts that Akshardham has become a case study in all his presentations on crisis and future response in the event of a terrorist attack. “The Akshardham episode is a benchmark and clockwork achievement,” Seetapathy had said in one of his speeches. Brigadier has presented this case studies at various centres including Sardar Patel Police academy Hyderabad and Army Training sessions.
After the operation was over and NSG jawans were securing the premises Pramukh Swami was allowed in the premises. What he saw was cruelty caused by humans to fellow humans. After seeing all that blood splattered walls and floors was Pramukh Swami was deeply pained but remained calm and composed. While the jawans were removing the dead bodies of the terror attack Swami prayed for all the victims. When the bullet ridden bodies of the two gunmen were being removed Pramukh Swami even prayed for them standing beside the bullet ridden corpses. Thinking that Pramukh Swami was mistakenly praying for the terrorists, a disciple informed him that those were the dead bodies of the attack perpetrators. Swamiji told him that he was aware of that and since the souls have left these bodies, he must pray for their souls also in order to send a message to the society that such cruelty must not be repeated ever.
Seetapathy recalling this incident had once said “Today, years after the Akshardham attack when I think in retrospect I feel that things could have got worse. In our meetings to face terrorist attacks, a new word has been coined ‘Akshardham Response;. How to challenge an attack with calm and peace. What Pramukh Swami did is unbelievable. He pieced society backed together.” Brigadier had said that the attack was unfortunate, but Akshardham has been able to send the right message to the world that it is not vulnerable to the fascist forces and that it wants peace.
“The Akshardham tragedy has instilled a fresh sense of confidence that Gujarat need not burn at every spark that is ignited. What I observed during and after operation was calm and serene atmosphere. I have faced many violent encounters in my professional life but Akshardham Response was a great learning both operational and philosophical point of view. Volunteers and devotees were so disciplined that they did not curse any community, no shouting or abusing to anybody. It could have flared otherwise he recollects.
When 36 innocent people were shot dead mercilessly and thousands were scarred with terror. Experts were expecting wide spread riots as an instinctive reaction like Post Godhara in Gujarat. It was one of the most magnanimous and exemplary act of restraint and responsibility by Pramukh Swami and thus averted a national human tragedy. This sense of social responsibility for nonviolence, equanimity, tolerance and peace is a perfect Akshardham Response which gives a message that don’t follow the trap of terrorist.
Similarly, In the International conference on Bhakti held at Heidelberg in Germany Prof. J. M. Dave presented his paper on Akshardham Response, a senior German scholar had remarked, “So far as our values are concerned this sect of Swaminarayan (BAPS) followers set forth a timeless example-the response to the Akshardham attack will become a precedent for all future terrorist attack on religious places. Many countries that could not respond with calm and equanimity like Akshardham have continued to suffer to this day. The Akshardham response will have to be emulated to sustain peace and order in the world.”
New York Senator Michael Balboni had praised this unprecedented step saying, “I am very involved with the issue of terrorism. That is the work I do as a chairman of Homeland Security for the state and added that it is one thing that I have learned to talk about peace and acceptance. It is another to do the work of God and when the temple was attacked Swamiji took the strong position-the hard position – of bringing peace, nonviolence; of stopping the cycle. That is the greatest gift and the greatest lessons that anyone can give this world.