Courage, faith and love survived Sunday's terrorist attack on the Raghunath temple in Jammu, with ordinary people displaying extraordinary valour and presence of mind.
Priest Jaigopal Shastri is a pale, weak man with grenade splinters in his legs. He needs support to cover the seven yards from his hospital bed to the toilet.
Shastri, who hails from a family of priests, was doing on Sunday evening what he has been doing for 25 year -- conducting prayers at the 160-year-old temple. "I was in the main temple in the centre of the complex with two more priests and some devotees, when we heard the first explosion. It has happened before. So we knew instantly what it was," he said.
Chaos followed. The terrorist had forced his way through the main checkpoint of the temple. "A policeman asked him to stop, but he pushed him and ran towards the main temple building. I ran after him, but he turned back holding a grenade in his hand," recalled Darshan Kumar, a temple guard.
A lean man with thick moustaches, Kumar was waiting for his shift to get over when the incident occurred. "Then he threw the grenade. I closed my eyes and left myself to God. Only God could save me," he added.
The blast killed a Central Reserve Police Force man and injured some, including
Kumar, who carried three splinters in his leg to the surgeon's table. "I will go back to guard the temple once I am fit. God saved me," he said.
As Kumar fell, the terrorist moved into the complex housing the main temple. That is where Shastri was huddled along with ten people. Security forces had reached the scene and a gunfight raged. Shastri and his companions got into the main temple and bolted the wooden door. "We were barely in when some women devotees knocked at the door. They wanted to hide. Panditji opened the door for them and they entered," said Raghubeer Singh, another guard.
The terrorist threw a grenade the moment Shastri opened the door. The explosion injured eight, including Shastri. "If the door had opened a little later, all those women would have died waiting outside," Singh added.
As the first grenade exploded inside the Raghunath temple, Assistant Commandant (CRPF) Y N Rai sat with his wife and one year old son at his official residence some kilometres away. "The Raghunath temple has been attacked," a phone call from his headquarters said.
Two hours later, Rai, a law graduate who joined the forces after failing to make it to the Indian Administrative Service, was crawling inside the Raghunath temple. "The terrorist was hiding behind a pillar, next to the main temple building. There was a curtain hiding him... I saw him and fired," Rai remembered.
He had not missed his target. The terrorist fell dead. But by that time, Rai said, "my in-laws had seen me on television going into the temple. They did not stop crying till I called them later in the night."
There was another battle the next morning. In a Shiv temple at Panjbaktar locality, not far from the Raghunath temple, another terrorist engaged the forces. The securitymen surrounded the terrorist, who had moved into a nearby residence. Rai went into an adjacent building and kept throwing grenades into the house. There was no response.
Sure that he had killed the guy, Rai went in, firing in different directions. But silence greeted him. He was about to leave when he realised something was not alright. "I turned around and fired," Rai said. But he was a little late; the terrorist had opened fire.
Both fell. Rai received three bullets but survived, and now his left arm is in a cast. The terrorist was not so lucky.
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