NEW DELHI - India set aside its differences with Pakistan and stood in solidarity with its neighbor as parliament and schoolchildren mourned the horrific massacre of 141 people, mostly school students, in the city of Peshawar.
Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, lawmakers in both houses of parliament as well as thousands of students in schools across the country bowed heads and observed two minutes of silence Wednesday morning in memory of the children killed in an army-run school in Peshawar.
The call for mourning in schools was given by Modi, who said the attack was a “senseless act of unspeakable brutality.”
The response was heartfelt.
In Mumbai, some students held candles for the young Pakistani victims. In a school in Baroda, they wore black bands across their mouths. Some carried placards “Stop Terror” and “Don’t kill children.”
And as they grieved for the tragic loss of young lives, the students expressed their determination to stand by a neighbor with whom India has a long-running rivalry.
Politics set aside
The attack has taken place at a time when relations between the two countries are at a low point. However, for the moment, politics has been set aside.
There has been an outpouring of sympathy - on social media, #IndiawithPakistan began trending on Twitter hours after the attack on Tuesday.
The lower house of parliament passed a resolution expressing its heartfelt condolences to Pakistan and the bereaved families and saying that barbaric terrorist attacks against innocent people, especially young children, should not be tolerated.
In parliament, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said that India transcends its border and differences to stand with Pakistan in its darkest hour.
Swaraj said the attack is a call to all people who believe in humanity to join hands and crush terrorism. She said India is ready to play its role in this with the rest of the world.
Calls to combat terrorism
Venkaiah Naidu, parliamentary affairs minister, also called on the world community to combat terrorism. However, he did allude to India’s long-standing accusations that militant groups based in Pakistan mount terror in India.
“Pakistan deserves our sympathy, support and condolence in this hour of sorrow. But at the same time, I hope they will also understand the need to put down the terrorism within their country and which is going out from their country,” Naidu said.
Meanwhile, India heightened security amid intelligence reports of a possible terror attack in the country. The Home Ministry also issued an advisory to all states to step up security at schools and other crowded places such as malls and rail stations.
Events this week – the hostage crisis in Sydney and the terror attack in Pakistan - have helped fuel an increase in terrorism concerns in India, a country that has had its own terrorism-related events in the past.