On 29 and 30 September, Swamishri blessed the victims of the Akshardham terrorist attack during his visit to the Civil Hospitals in Amdavad and Gandhinagar
Civil Hospital, Amdavad
"Surjan Singh Bhandari! Look, Pramukh Swami Maharaj has come to see you. Your left leg is now a lot better, so raise it..." instructed Dr Mahendra Parikh, a neurosurgeon, treating Surjan Singh Bhandari. Surjan Singh Bhandari was lying in his bed with a vacant gaze. And then to everyone's amazement and joy he raised his right and left legs. Swamishri happily blessed Surjan Singh by touching his head, heart and feet. "Surjan, how many fingers do you have?" And Surjan responded by raising his hand and moving his fingers.
In a brave encounter with the terrorists, Surjan Singh was shot in the head. All his friends of the National Security Guard were worried because of his critical state. Expert doctors at the Civil Hospital were striving day and night to save him; but the case was difficult. The only additional ingredient required to medical treatment was divine blessings. When Pramukh Swami Maharaj learnt of the tragedy and the injured victims in Sarangpur, he began praying for their recovery. On Sunday 29 September 2002, Swamishri travelled from Sarangpur and arrived at 10.45 a.m. at the renowned Civil Hospital in Amdavad. He first met and blessed Surjan Singh who was in the Neuro-ICU ward. When Swamishri arrived and blessed Surjan Singh; his response inspired hope and optimism in all. While chanting the Swaminarayan mahamantra, Swamishri showered sacred petals on Surjan Singh Bhandari. Then Swamishri started talking to him, "Look, Thakorji (murti of Shri Harikrishna Maharaj) is here. You will get better. We are all praying for you." Then Swamishri devotionally resumed the mantra-chant- ing, "Swaminarayan... Swaminarayan... Swaminarayan..." And the divine touch of Swamishri and the resonance of his prayers charged Surjan Singh Bhandari. Then Swamishri appreciatively addressed the doctors, "Doctor Saheb! Congratulations for taking great care of him. You will be blessed with immense merits and God will profusely shower His grace upon you. Your services are really amazing..."
Despite his ailing health, Swamishri began the rounds to console the victims. Before arriving in Amdavad, Swamishri had instructed the volunteers, "Be mindful that not a single victim is left out. I want to meet each one of them, no matter how much time it takes..."
After a while, at the request of his attendant sadhu, Swamishri sat in a wheelchair and went from ward to ward blessing and sympathising with the victims. At every bed he enquired, "What is your name?... What is the name of your native village?... How were you hurt?... How do you feel now?... I am praying for you, and you will get well... Swaminarayan... Swaminarayan... Be strong and hopeful... Remember God and He will grace you... God (Thakorji) is here, so you will get well... God bless you..."
Swamishri's profound compassion and care for each victim relieved them of their pain, fears and concerns. He went to each one of the victims: children, seniors, youth, middle aged, Sikh, Marathi, Rajasthani and Kathiawadi. He listened to each and everyone's story of what and how it had all happened. Sometimes, when the wheelchair was a little distance away from the victim's bed, Swamishri would say, "Take it nearer... Take it by the bed..." And he would then get engaged in attentively listening to the victim's narration.
Some described, "Swami, my clothes were soaked in blood. I survived because of your grace..." Swamishri would bless them by placing his hand on them.
Pareshkumar of village Jithudi said, "My two friends and I visit Akshardham every 20-22 days. We love going there. This time we were there by the games, sitting on a bench. The terrorists were only five feet away from us. First we thought it was firecrackers. But then we realised the fact. When we tried to face them, they threw a grenade and aimed their guns on us. We quickly ran behind a wall to save ourselves and during that time I got shot in the leg. Still we were all saved..."
Swamishri replied, "Forgive us for the pain you are going through... God has saved you... Here, have darshan of God. (Swamishri told the attendant sadhu to bring Thakorji nearer to the patient so that he could touch His feet.) You will get well... and there will be peace in your life... Do not lose hope, you have been saved..."
Swamishri's apology, despite there being no fault on his part, touched the youth. He replied emotionally, "There is no need for you to apologise and offer regrets. What has happened was due to my fate. There is no need for me to feel unhappy at what has happened!" As the youth spoke, Swamishri showered holy petals on him and chanted the Swaminarayan mahamantra.
Swamishri's visit to every victim, from Hitesh Dhariya, a volunteer at Akshardham, to Gurumit-singh, a Sikh, relieved them of the trauma and fears of the devastating calamity.
Swamishri also met each and every injured policeman and commando who had bravely fought the terrorists. After patiently hearing their accounts, he appreciated their services and blessed them. When Swamishri came by the bed of State Reserve Police Commando Yogendrasinh Rajput the doctor explained, "He was hit by a bullet that snapped the main artery supplying blood to the brain. The bullet came out from the other side. Till yesterday he was on a ventilator. Now he is able to breathe naturally." The accompanying State Minister for Health, Ashokbhai Bhatt, explained about the commando's progress in health, "Swamishri, the orange colour code attached to this commando will be removed and he will be given a green one. Every victim has been categorised with a colour code displayed on his bed. Black means the person is dead, red denotes a case of emergency, then we have yellow; orange means the patient is still under treatment and green means that he is well."
Swamishri was pleased to know that commando Yogendra- sinh was now well. Swamishri blessed him once again by placing his hand on him.
Thereafter, Swamishri came to Dashrathsinh Satpute, a hit commander of the NSG or Black Cat Commandos, and blessed him by gently touching his bandaged arm. "How were you hit here?" Swamishri enquired. Dashrathsinh explained, "I am a hit commander and my unit was slowly advancing towards the terrorists. We were going by the wall till we reached its corner. I stood there because after the corner was a dark open basement area. Behind me were my other hit commando companions. Then I informed my commander, Brigadier Seetapathy, that there was a dark basement area. He told me to go into the basement area with my unit and search it thoroughly. So I raised this hand to signal to my companions to come with me. Instantly there was a volley of fire from the terrorists and I got hit in my arm." At this point of Dashrathsinh's narration, Ashokbhai Bhatt (Health Minister of Gujarat) said, "Swami, this commando and another two injured were brought to the Civil Hospital in Gandhinagar. At that time I saw their spirit. They told the doctors to tie a bandage immediately because they wished to return. We allowed the other two to return, but we couldn't let him go back." Swamishri appreciated the spirit of Dashrathsinh by blessing him with the touch of his hand on his head.
Dashrathsinh's eyes became wet with tears. Swamishri consoled him, "You will be well soon. You were very brave in your duty and you protected many people. You will get the blessings of thousands of people. I have been praying to God to make you well, that you return back to your services and there be peace in your life..."
Dashrathsinh responded with a sigh and said, "Swamiji, I am not pained at what has happened to me. I grieve for the death of Subedar Saheb and for the critical condition of commando Surjan Singh..." And so saying, more tears rolled down his face. Swamishri wiped his tears. Everyone was speechless and overwhelmed emotionally. Only the sound of Swamishri's consoling words could be heard, "You have all done a great service. You all fought staking your lives. You have done a noble service to our country. Many were saved because of you... God has appreciated your great services. And Surjan Singh will be cured... God is here and everything will be fine... Swaminarayan... Swaminarayan... Swaminarayan... I have prayed and God will make you all well."
Just as the spirit of the commandos can never be forgotten, similarly we cannot fail to omit the fortitude of 65-year-old Satubha Jhala - a security volunteer at Akshardham. Satubha challenged one of the terrorists as they were ambling their way on the main pathway to the monument. Before Swamishri came to him, Satubha, with a heavily bandaged arm, raised himself enthusiastically to a sitting posture. When Swamishri arrived he narrated how he had responded. "Bapa! I did not retreat till I was shot by them. When I saw one of them, I got hold of him and shouted, 'Where are you going?' Bapa, you saved me. I have been serving in Akshardham for many years. And once I get well, I'm coming back to serve in Akshardham..."
Swamishri saluted his audacity, saying, "After all, he is a kshatriya." Thereafter, Swamishri's loving hand blessing Satubha amply reflected his appreciation for his services.
Swamishri's personal visit on 29 and 30 September to the Civil Hospitals in Amdavad and Gandhinagar, respectively, pacified and infused hope in the victims. He also expressed his personal recognition and appreciation to the doctors, hospital staff and officials who were working day and night for the recovery of the victims.
Blessing bereaved family members
On Sunday 29-9-02, Swamishri offered prayers for the deceased during the memorial meeting in Akshardham. Thereafter, Swamishri met the bereaved relatives in the Akshardham monument before the divine murti of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
The Hathi family from Amdavad with their two sons, Maulik and Mihir, came with photos of their grandmother and grandfather who died in the attack.
"Who is this?" Swamishri asked. And the boy broke down in tears, "This is my grandfather. The evil men..." Swamishri lovingly blessed the children and said, "Your grandfather has gone to God's abode. He is with God. Now both of you grow up quickly and serve your mother and father. I have also prayed for them." Then consoling the other members of the Hathi family, Swamishri advised, "Whatever has happened is very painful. Avoid any further grief by not remembering what has happened before these children. Your parents have been blessed with God's abode and their souls will be granted peace. All of you from henceforth come to the weekly spiritual congregation for satsang. I have prayed for peace in your lives." As the male relatives met Swamishri they felt at peace by his blessings and words.
Next, relatives of the deceased Hemandrabhai came to Swamishri. His brother-in-law, K.K. Patel, said, "This is Hemandrabhai's friend. Till the previous day, Hemandrabhai had been trying to convince him to give up his habit of drinking alcohol. Since it was his last wish, we would like you to..." and the relative became choked with emotion. Swamishri repeated the last wish of Hemandrabhai and said, "Hemendrabhai is in God's abode. His death has caused grief. Now fulfill his wish by pledging never to drink alcohol again. This will be your tribute to him. Then Swamishri consoled Jignesh, the son of Hemendrabhai, with inspiring words, "Now don't worry. God is your father! Whenever you are in difficulty inform the sadhus or me. Progress in Satsang and keep praying every day."
Swamishri's sympathy for the parents and relatives of the deceased state commando, Arjunsinh Gameti, revived their spirits. The father of Arjunsinh, was quiet and still stunned by what had happened. He spoke in a frenzied tone, "I have lost my son!" Swamishri was moved by the old man's grief and sympathised, "Do not think otherwise. God will judge everyone. Your other son will look after you and God will also help you. There is no cause to worry anymore. Your son was in the service of our country and in serving God he is now in God's abode. Engage yourself in bhajan, worship and prayers to God. I shall pray that God grants you strength." And with these soothing words the old man was blessed with the divine touch of Swamishri's hand.
When members of a Sikh family came out after receiving Swamishri's blessings, they all felt relieved and satisfied.
Swamishri's personal attendance to the bereaved relatives and the giant memorial assembly infused a feeling of relief and peace.
October - November 2002