Chapter-4: Support from the People of Sarajevo

April 20, 1996

By Indradyumna Swami

The whole city is talking about the attack. The news spread like wildfire because the people have been experiencing only their first few months of peace. The leading newspaper in Sarajevo, Vecernfe Novosti, published this front-page headline this morning: “Bloody Beginning to the Festival of India.”

The article described the attack in detail and sympathized with us. It mentioned how the parade to promote our festival was violently and brutally attacked by thirty men and how we had fought back “like lions.” The reporter went on to say it was shameful that foreign blood was being spilled on Snipers’ Alley, a name given by citizens to the street we were chanting on, where many had been killed by Serbian snipers.

There were favorable articles in other local newspapers, and I later learned the news had gone international with reports in England, Switzerland, France, Australia, and India.

Other local newspapers, however, were not so favorable. Several Islamic publications accused us of provoking the attacks and threatened that further action would be taken.

This evening we held the Festival of India in a large hall in Sarajevo. The police provided thirty armed guards who stood at every entrance. The citizens of Sarajevo, many of whom wanted to express their sympathy, came in droves. More than 1,500 people attended the festival, including ambassadors from several countries and members of IFOR, the UN, and the Red Cross.

The stage program went smoothly, although the Ramayana was patchy because Thakura Bhaktivinoda, who plays Lord Rama wasn’t there, and a local devotee had to play his part.