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'They made a kid say 'Vande Mataram', then shot him'

'They made a kid say 'Vande Mataram', then shot him'

Publication: Sify News
Date: September 25, 2002
URL: http://headlines.sify.com/1242news5.html?

Farmer Nareshbhai Bariyar ran for his life as two clean-shaven youths turned into cold-blooded killers at the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar, watching helplessly as his pregnant sister was cut down by machinegun fire.

Bariyar, 33, and five other family members were performing their devotions at the Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar on Tuesday afternoon when they heard a commotion.

"There were loud sounds like gunshots and I saw people running like wild cattle here and there, from one room of the complex to another shouting atankwadi agaye, atankwadi agaye (terrorists have come, terrorists have come)," Bariyar told AFP.

"I panicked at first and was unable to think what to do, when I saw two youngsters -- clean-shaven and carrying guns -- emerging from one of the rooms near the exhibition hall."

"They began firing indiscriminately. They had a kind of a devilish, mean, schizophrenic look in their eyes."

He said there was a stampede as around 100 devotees inside an exhibition hall near the main shrine rushed for safety, as the killers began lobbing grenades.

In a desperate bid to save himself, Bariyar jumped from the steps into the garden below and ran for cover behind a tree.

"The moment I started to run, they saw me and opened fire. I ran zig zag and the bullet missed me by inches before I landed on the ground and hid behind the tree," Bariyar said.

His pregnant sister, Varshaben Varesingh, was not as lucky. Seeing Bariyar running, she followed him but was struck by bullets in her back, right shoulder and right thigh.

"I saw her falling, with blood rushing out from her wounds. I knew there and then that either she would not make it or her baby would not," Bariyar said with tears rolling down his cheeks.

Doctors operated on Varshaben Wednesday morning but her baby died a few minutes after birth.

Bariyar said Varshaben's husband Madanbhai Varesingh, a Gujarat Electricity Board employee, was seriously injured after the attackers hurled a grenade at him.

"He is still unaware of his child's death. God only knows how we are going to tell him," said Bariyar.

After the initial indiscriminate firing, the two militants adopted a "pick and choose" kind of approach to shoot and kill people, said another witness Sulekha Bhubor.

"They did not leave even small kids. I saw with my own eyes one terrorist gunning down a five-six year old boy," she said.

"One stopped a crying kid who had lost contact with his companions and made him say 'Vande Mataram'. The poor kid said that and immediately was shot dead ruthlessly," said Bhubor.

She said the chaos and confusion increased even further when temple priests started pushing devotees into rooms to hide them from the attackers.

"People panicked and some of them broke down the door of a room and ran outside," she added.

Bariyar said the state police and commandos had entered the complex within minutes of the attack, but they themselves became easy targets for the militants.

"The police were out in the open and were easy targets, while the killers had enough scope to hide and shoot. Sometimes they were in the basement, or behind a pillar or in the bathroom," he added.

Several police guards and even members of the special task force that later spearheaded the rescue operation were injured in the shoot-out.

Bariyar and hundreds of other trapped devotees were later rescued by police after hours of gunbattles.

"Nothing like this had happened ever before in Gandhinagar. Even during the riots, Gandhinagar was completely safe. But now Gandhinagar has tasted blood. God only knows what happens next," said a tired and worried Bariyar.

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