On 24th September 2002, there were two terrorists who attacked the Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple complex in Gandhinagar, Gujarat in India. They killed 33 people and injured more than 80 people. India’s National Security Guard intervened and ended the siege the following day. They also killed both the terrorists. Later six people were accused who was arrested by the Gujarat police. The Supreme Court acquitted all of these six persons in 2014.
Now how did all this start? Well, at approximately 4:45 pm on 24th September 2002, four terrorists were dropped off from a white ambassador car. They were aged between 20 to 25 and were carrying haversacks and jackets filled with automatic weapons and grenades. They were dropped off in front of Gate 3 of the Akshardham Temple Complex. As they attempted an entry, the volunteers stopped them for a security screening. However, the terrorists jumped over the 7-foot-high fence and fired their guns. In this way, they began their rampage through the complex.
A priest gave a statement that there was “a mother begging for the lives of her children- later identified as Priya and Bhailu Chauhan who were aged 3 and 4. The name of the woman was Sumitra. She was running with her little son and daughter when she was attacked from behind. A bullet hit her leg. The killer nodded to her pleas and turned the gun towards the children. Then, to her horror of the mother, he mowed the children down.”
As the terrorists rushed towards the central walkway firing and throwing hand grenades, the temple supervisor Khodsinh Jadhav was standing there witnessing all the killings. He along with the staff rushed to the 15-foot doors of the main temple and shut them off. So, the terrorists were unable to enter the main temple where 35 people were offering prayers. At exactly 4:48 pm, Vishwavihari Swami made an SOS call to Narendra Modi’s office and informed them about the terrorist attack. Within minutes, Gandhinagar’s district police chief and the State Commando force were dispatched to the scene.
The terrorists then entered the Exhibition Hall 1 by prying open the exit door. On entering the hall, they started firing at the audience, killing and injuring women, men, and children. By 5:15 pm Modi called the Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani in Delhi and asked for the Black cat commandos. Then the terrorists left the hall and hid in the parikrama which was the outer perimeter of the temple. On arriving, the police and commandos escorted the visitors to safety while the volunteers transported injured victims to hospitals. After that, they kept searching the premises for the two terrorists who were focused to retreat to another hiding spot.
At 7:30 pm, the terrorists open fired at the commandos. But no one was hurt. Since they cross fired, the terrorists found it difficult to escape. By this time, the security guards had guided 30 visitors from inside the main monument to safety. The terrorists then resorted to the bushes for hiding. The firing continued all night. At approximately 6:45 am, the 14-hour-long ordeal ended with the Black Cat Commandos finally shooting the terrorists. In the night, one state police officer and one commando lost their lives. Another commando, Surjan Singh Bhandari, died in May 2004 after being in a coma for two years. Thus ended this mortifying attack on the Akshardham temple.