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Sanjeev Srivastava

Use or report statistics or poll results carefully and in context.

Always indicate the source of statistics so that the audience can form a judgement about the status of the findings.

India's temple siege and checking statistics - by Sanjeev Srivastava, the BBC's Delhi Correspondent.

I was in Bombay, in 2002, when the BBC's Delhi bureau alerted me about armed separatists storming the Akshardham temple in Gujarat's capital city, Gandhinagar.

On the Indian Airlines flight I kept thinking: are there many casualties? Who are these separatists? How many hostages have they taken?


It was complete chaos at the Akshardham temple complex. Several thousand people - some of them relatives of pilgrims trapped inside - had gathered outside.

This unruly, angry lot broke into chants of bharat mata ki jai (long live India) every time a dead or injured pilgrim or policeman was brought out of the complex on a stretcher.

There were no government officials to brief the journalists on how many people were inside.

The first few minutes outside the temple were a nightmare. One could hear gun shots and grenades bursting.

No official sources

People said there were two armed separatists inside and that they had already killed about 15 people, including policemen. There was no senior official one could attribute the story to.

It was nearing 2015 GMT and the flagship news and current affairs programme of the Hindi Service – Aajkal - was drawing to a close and it was to be followed by Sairbeen, the Urdu Service's transmission. The BBC's Asian Network also wanted the latest update.

I had to get inside the temple complex to find out about what was going on, but how?

Soon, we (a group of journalists) managed to convince an ambulance carrying medical staff to take us through.

Reconstructing events

Once inside, I felt much more assured about reporting. With the help of the eyewitnesses, senior police officers and government officials, I was able to reconstruct the events of the past few hours.

Around midnight, a team of commandos arrived and we were asked to leave. A night long vigil outside the temple began. It ended at about 0700 GMT when a troupe of VVIP cavalcades stormed the temple.

The siege was over; the separatists had been overpowered.

Along with other BBC journalists, I tried to provide a background to the siege. In 2002, over 1,000 Muslims have been killed in Gujarat by Hindu extremists.

Including information about the religious violence was an editorial attempt to try to put things into perspective.

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