It has been 19 years since the barbaric violence in the Akshardham temple of Ahmedabad left at least 30 innocent people dead and more than 80 injured. Well, it is quite interesting to know that how a terrorist attack that could have been another Kandahar turned out to be a turning point in the life of CM Narendra Modi.
Akshardham Temple Attack, 2002
On this very day, that is, 24 September 2002, the attack began at around 4:45 pm and continued till the morning of September 25, 2002. A white ambassador car dropped off four terrorists carrying haversacks and jackets filled with various weapons and grenades at Gate 3 of the Akshardham Temple Complex. While the two terrorists attempting to enter the temple were stopped by volunteers for screening, they opened fire at innocent pilgrims and visitors at the Akshardham Temple Complex, killing at least 30 and injuring more than 80 others during the seize. Later, the blood-thirsty duo was shot dead by the elite National Security Guards (NSG) commandos, also known as Black Cat Commandos, specially flown in from Delhi at the request of then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi.
However, the attack was nothing but an act of revenge for the 2002 Gujarat riots, for which the terrorists were made to go through special training in Pakistan. The terrorists had one more objective, that is, to destroy the Akshardham temple as same as Mughals did to Somnath Temple. But they did not succeed because temple supervisor Khodsinh Jadhav wheeled around and sped back the 200-ft-long walkway that led to the sanctum sanctorum and just about managed to bolt the huge 15-ft doors. That act saved 35 people who were offering prayers, as per the reports of The Indian Express.
Acid test for then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi
Both the central government, that is, NDA and the state government led by CM Modi in 2002 were on trial because of the respective reasons. Modi’s administration, which was already being criticised by the left media for his alleged involvement in the Godhra riots, was on trial. Moreover, this was also an acid test for the NDA government at the Centre, as it was the second dire situation after the infamous Kandahar plane hijack incident of 1999. Had he not taken any concrete steps at that time, Ahmedabad might have witnessed a worse fate than Kandahar.
Chief Minister Narendra Modi turned saviour
Against all odds, as soon as then Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi was told of the attack, he was all set to act against the terrorists. CM Modi called for the deployment of the NSG at the earliest, and Operation Vajra Shakti, the name inspired by the fearsome weapon of the Hindu god Indra, was on. At 10:10 pm, two buses of NSG commandos and one bus filled with NSG equipment arrived at Akshardham. During this time period, the guards fired in order to draw fire from the terrorists and consequently use up their ammunition. The officers situated themselves around the Akshardham Temple Complex.
At approximately 6:45 am, with the Black Cat Commandos shooting the two terrorists hiding in the bushes, the 14-hour-long ordeal came to an end. During this overnight pursuit for the attackers, one state police officer and one commando lost their lives. Another commando, Surjan Singh Bhandari, also died in May 2004, after struggling in hospital for two years. This is how, within 24 hours, the temple was reclaimed and the terrorists were neutralized, though it came at a heavy cost, with 30 dead in the initial attack, and at least 80 injured.
However, six people were arrested later, in connection with the case. Moreover, a special trial court convicted the six accused of being involved in the attack. While three of them were sentenced to death, the other three were sentenced to various prison terms.
Afterwards, the Gujarat High Court upheld the death sentence and prison terms awarded to the convicts. In a shocking turn in 2014, the Supreme Court acquitted all six persons in the case.
Turning point for Narendra Modi
Not only did CM Modi handle this crisis extremely well, but it also propelled him to a mammoth victory in the Assembly elections held that very year, despite election experts predicting otherwise. In a way, the Akshardham attack turned to be the emergence of Narendra Modi – the man who could bring his people out of any crisis, no matter what odds. It was after the attack only; national security became a huge concern for the Modi government.
In his 15 years tenure as Chief Minister and even afterwards when he took oath as Prime Minister of the country, national security has been his priority. Thus, as far as national security is concerned, it is PM Narendra Modi who can be trusted blindly.