Kavita Suri

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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

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It was an accident waiting to happen

Tear well up in his eyes, words fail him and he looks at the blood splattered all over the historic Raghunath temple complex .It is a gory site in the temple today. The Complex which normally has fragrance from the incense sticks filling in the air and flowers beautifying the entire complex, is stinking badly as the foul smell of the blood that was splattered all over the temple two days ago, refuses to go.

Pandit Vishal Shastri, the Adhistdata (head priest) of historic Raghunath temple who has been working in the temple for the past so many years had never thought that he would have to witness another 'black day' yet again in his life .Not because so many innocent lives were lost but also because for the second time in the 150-year old history of Raghunath temple, they had to close the doors of main temple of Lord Raghunath for the pilgrims and common public. 

Though the temple complex witnessed lot of rush today also like any other day but most of it comprised of the police  and paramilitary forces, irate mob and the journalists hunting for their news stories. 

Known as the "City of Temples" all over the country, Jammu has tens and thousands of temples but the best known is the Raghunath Temple which gives its name to the surrounding temple complex of 30 temples. As it consists of a cluster of temples which makes it the largest complex in the whole of the Northern India, Raghunath Temple is a famous landmark of Jammu city.

Standing in the heart of Jammu city with all its majesty and grandeur, the 150-year old historic temple of Lord Raghunath ji,popularly known Raghunath Mandir  attracts pilgrims from all over the country throughout the year. 

Work on the temple was started by Maharaja Gulab Singh, founder of the kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir in 1835  A.D and was completed by his son Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1860 A.D.The complex is the most splendid as there is hardly any deity which is not represented in the temple complex. The inner sanctums of the temples contain gigantic statues of gods and goddesses and numerous lingams. It contains representatives of almost the entire Hindu Pantheon, which makes it a rare sight to see.

The busy market of Jammu, Raghunath Bazar is also named after this temple complex while this temple is named after Lord Rama as he is the main deity of the temple. Besides, the Dogra dynasty is also believed to be the descendent of  Lord Rama
The Raghunath majestic temple had been under the threat of militants since the extension of arc of militancy to Jammu region. Umpteen times, threats had been given and messages intercepted by various security agencies to blow up the temple. Besides, several attempts had already been made by the anti-national elements to target the busy market of Jammu, Raghunath Bazar which is also named after this temple complex. However, it was perhaps sheer luck that prevented the militants to target this temple until eight months ago on 30 March when in one of the most daring fidayeen attacks in Jammu city, the terrorists executed first fidayeen attack on the historic Raghunath temple gunning down nine including three security personnel and injured 20 others. This time again, on Sunday evening, another fidayeen attack took place on the temple bringing it to international headlines once again.

On both the two occasions, chaos and confusion reigned supreme in and around the holy complex as fierce gun battles went on for hours with no one having any idea about the number of terrorists holed up inside the temple. Deafening explosions and exchange of fire appeared to have transformed the sprawling complex and the busy market around into a virtual battle ground. The chimes of temple bells was replaced by gun-shots. The flowers on the foot of Lord Ram everyday were soaked with blood. And an errie silence prevailed inside the temple.

The second dare devil fidayeen attack by the fidayeen squad in the high security zone of Raghunath Square area, just few yards away from chief minister Mufti Sayeed’s official residence and less than a kilometre from the district police headquarters and IGP’s office left 14 people dead including the two fidayeen and over 55 injured. Thakur Diwakar Singh, president of Dharmarth Trust said that there were at least 400 devotees inside the temple as it was Aarti time. On an average day, the temple is thronged by 200-2500 pilgrims. Initially, police and para-military personnel, assisted by local people, evicted over 75 devotees from the temple premises. Another 100 pilgrims fled to safety by using back side of the temple to reach Hari Market. 

A couple of years ago, the terrorists had exploded an IED just outside a bakery shop, situated a few metres from Raghunath Temple which had left many injured. However, there was no major causality. This explosion had taken place in the night. Prior to this, a grenade had been lobbed in main Raghunath Bazar. But for all these incidents which should have served as eye opener for various security agencies entrusted with the task of securing such important places, nothing of the sort happened.

For the 125 employees of the temple which is managed by Dharmarth Trust, a religious body that manages the affairs of the temple and was founded by Dogra ruler Maharaja Ghulab Singh in 1896, though there have been great security threats to the historic temple,they had never though it would really happen.

Pandit Shastri informed The Statesman that the police had the inputs regarding the possibility of a fidayeen attack on this historic temple. Elaborating about the security arrangements made in the temple which is managed by Dharmarth Trust (Dr Karan Singh is the sole trustee of the Trust), he said they had adopted security measures like metal detectors  but they were provided with only one santry who has to frisk thousands of people. He said that the government could have made proper security arrangements  besides setting up nakas in view of the security threats to this temple. The Dharmarth Trust has 13 sentries  and 112 employees to manage the temple. Most of them are ex-servicemen who have adequate training as how to use weapons and how to counter such type of situation but they were never provided weapons by the police.

The defence sources also said that they had already such inputs on any possible attacks against the religious places in J&K. A top security official on conditions of anonymity told this correspondent that the issue of militants increasingly taking shelter in places of religious importance like shrines and mosques in Kashmir and desecration or damaging of temples in Poonch, Rajouri area of Jammu had been discussed in various security meetings. But nothing was done by the state police to beef the security or to avoid the attacks. Even Raghunath temple was always considered a soft spot for fidayeen attack,he confirmed
adding that in view a spurt in the incidents in which the militants have increasingly been taking shelters in mosques and religious places in Kashmir,they were trying to maintain vigil around religious places in the state on their own.

"This was also done in view of the inputs that the ISI was planning to attack and misuse the religious places to engineer communal tensions," he said adding that during the past year, the terrorists have taken refuge in mosques thus creating a difficult situation for the security forces. On all the occasions, the forces have maintained their cool and the mosque is not destroyed in the cross fire. He also did not rule out the possibility of such attack on Mata Vaishno Devi shrine which is also under heavy security threats. A few months ago, five militants were killed by the security forces near Katra who were planning to a target the shrine.

What pains the Dharmarth Trust president, priests and the local people is the fact that not only the temple complex has suffered extensive damages in this second fidayeen attack but also inside the temple, 200-year old two large granite idols of Lord Hanuman and Maharishi Valmiki—the author of Ramayana—have been badly damaged after being hit by a volley of gun shots.

Dr Karan Singh, Dharmarth Trust’s sole trustee, his son Ajatshatru Singh and  Thakur Diwakar Singh have termed it a security failure. Singh alleged that there were no proper security arrangements but the SSP Jammu Mr Farooq Khan said that the suggestions put forth before the Dharmarth by them after the first fidayeen attack,were not implemented.

"We had asked them to get a big iron gate installed as the second line of defence and frisking but that was never implemented," he added. However Singh countered by saying that the security personnel who were deployed for the security of the temple complex were not even properly equipped with sophisticated weaponry. He said if the state police and other security agencies could not secure the temple, they could train their own priests for the security.

"We can have our own security and also think about equipping our priests with weapons. This is really unfortunate that the priests who generally take care of their gods, would have to secure their gods by carrying weapons. But why not? If surrendered militants can be given weapons, why not our priests for the well being of their gods and devotees," asked Mr Ajatshatru Singh, former minister and son of Dr Karan Singh.

After these two fidayeen attacks at the temple, Dharmarth Trust which manages at least 78 important temples in the state including the Shankaracharya temple and Kheer Bhawani in Kashmir, has asked the Union Minister of State for Home Mr I.D.Swami to make adequate arrangement for the security of these temples too.

"We have apprehensions about the security of these temples now and Mr Swami wants us to give a memorandum in this regards,"informed Mr Singh.

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