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Operation Blue Star – an ugly scar
Posted by: Bhopinder Singh (IP Logged)
Date: June 05, 2008 06:58PM

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Operation Blue Star – an ugly scar

Friday, June 06, 2008
Sayed G B Shah Bokhari

In the year 2000, while on a visit to the Sikhs' holiest shrine the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, I was informed by the caretakers that it was almost the reconstruct of what existed of the Harimandar Sahib in 1984, before the Indian troops stormed it on June 5, 1984. It may be recalled that the Golden Temple was first established by Guru Arjun , in the 17th century and his martyrdom on June 5 is celebrated with great religious fervour by the Sikhs.

Today marks the 24th anniversary of the wrapping up of Operation Blue Star, the name given to the Indian army's offensive into Golden Temple, aimed at the epicentre of the armed movement for Sikh autonomy. The military operation was ordered by the then prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, to flush out Sikh militants who were holed up inside the Harimandar Sahib. The launching of the operation was defended by her Congress government on the ground that law and order was a big problem and affecting life in Indian Punjab.

From the very beginning there was intense opposition to launching of a military action against the Golden Temple. However, it was the obstinacy of Ms Gandhi that made the assault possible. And she had to pay for it with her life later because she was assassinated by her own two Sikh body guards in October of that same year. The plan to storm Golden Temple in June 1984 was conceived by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She asked Lt-Gen S K Sinha, then vice-chief of army staff, and who was waiting in the wings to become the army chief, to prepare the attack plan on the Golden Temple. She was advised against any such move. Instead of heeding the general's sane advice Sinha was superseded and General Arun Vaidya was appointed army chief, who carried out the ill-advised wishes of the prime minister. Later in 1986, General Vaidya was assassinated by Sikh youths.

Major-General Kuldip Singh Brar, himself a Sikh, was in command of the troops that stormed Golden Temple on the night of June 5. Under his command were placed six infantry battalions and a detachment of commandos. In order to involve Sikh military officers in the operation, four of the six senior commanders of this force were from that community.

Operation Blue Star commenced on June 3 with the imposition of 36-hour curfew over the entire state of Punjab. The Golden Temple was stormed by the Indian Army on the night of June 5. During the army operation a large number of unsuspecting pilgrims, including elderly men, women and children, were inside the Temple. Consequently, there was a heavy death toll of unarmed civilians. On the morning of June 7, the army was in control of the Temple. In addition to the operation at the Darbar Sahib, 43 other gurdwaras all over Punjab were simultaneously attacked by the Indian army to flush out perceived radical Sikh elements. Soon after getting wind of the ill designs of the Congress government at Delhi against the Sikh community, the latter, in self-defence, made hasty preparations in the premises of the Golden Temple.

The Sikh defenders within the Harimandar Sahib were led by Jarnail Singh Bhindaranwala and former Major General Shabeg Singh (who had been decorated with the Mahavir Chakra – India's second highest military decoration), who had earlier tendered resignation from the army as a protest against the inhuman treatment of the Sikh community by the Indira Gandhi government. Both were killed during the military operation.

In hindsight, it can be said that the launching of operation Blue Star was the biggest blunder that the Congress government under Ms Gandhi's charge. It was not only a military failure, for it caused avoidable casualties of innocent civilians; it triggered a devastating political disaster that shook India's stability. The army action could not bring normalcy. The paramilitary police that eventually replaced the army had to raid the Golden Temple several times to contain the so-called radical Sikhs. In May 1986 the army had to be called in again. In June 1990 in an effort to stop militant activity, the area surrounding the temple was evacuated, thus uprooting the innocent old dwellers from the abodes of their forefathers.

The Indian army used force backed by tanks and artillery guns that was unwarranted in tackling an internal security operation. Artillery guns were used in the congested inner limits of Amritsar that was devastating for the Sikhs living around the Temple because of their religious and emotional attachments. The choice of time of the operation was specifically selected to inflict maximum casualties, demoralize and bring the Sikh community in complete submission. June 5 was the day of martyrdom of Guru Arjun who was the founder of the Golden Temple and the place would have been thronged by Sikhs from all over the world. These innocent visitors thus became the fodder for the Indian guns. Officially the record says 83 soldiers died while 249 suffered serious wounds. A total of 492 militants including civilians died inside the Golden Temple while 433 persons were segregated as separatists among the 1592 Sikhs who were arrested. Against this official Government of India figures, independent historians says that around 800 Indian army soldiers were killed while 10,000 Sikhs died and that the artillery and tank fire resulted in a major part of the Temple being razed.

The military operation triggered uproar among Sikhs all over the globe. Sikh soldiers rebelled and deserted their units all over India as a mark of protest. Reportedly, pitched battles were fought to bring the mutineers under control. In nine states 5,000 Sikh soldiers rebelled: all the Sikh units throughout India were placed under constant surveillance by non-Sikh units. Some generals and civil and military officials resigned from service and those awarded medals returned them to the government. Hundreds of Sikhs protested before the Indian embassies around the world.

As revenge for her role in this, Ms Gandhi was killed by two of her trusted Sikh guards. The prime minister's killing, in turn, triggered massive anti-Sikh riots organized by Congress leaders such as Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and H K L Bhagat. Large-scale killing of Sikhs particularly in New Delhi led to a clear division between the Sikhs and Congress-led Indian government. It is difficult to understand why a political leader of the stature of Indira Gandhi chose military option to suppress the genuine demands of the Sikh community?

The major demand of Sikhs that were aired many times before the Congress government were: demand for political autonomy, fair distribution of river water, constitutional recognition as a distinct religion and that Amritsar being accorded the status of a holy city because this is where the Darbar Sahib, the holiest shrine of Sikhs, is situated. They also accused New Delhi for unfairly siphoning off Punjab's prosperity to spend the poorer states.

Unfortunately, instead of satisfying Sikh grievances, Ms Gandhi and her Congress party kept on blaming Pakistan for stoking trouble in Indian Punjab. She claimed that even America was involved, alleging that the CIA had masterminded a plan for funnelling weapons through Pakistan to Bhindaranwala. Suffice it to say, the ugly scar left on India's polity by Operation Blue Star is unlikely to wash away any time soon.

Operation Blue Star was conducted from June 3 to June 6, 1984.

The writer is a retired colonel of the Pakistan army based in Peshawar. Email: sismaelshah@hotmail.com


Re: Operation Blue Star – an ugly scar
Posted by: Khalsaspirit (IP Logged)
Date: May 07, 2009 05:56PM

Waheguru ji ka khalsa
Waheguru ji ki fateh

Khalsa jio,

As the days are approaching towards 25 years of this Ghalugahara (an ugly scar on face of Gov. of India) we tried to put together some pieces related to this black history of Indian sub continent in the form of a video footage. What tribute we moorakhs can give to those shaheeds, this one is not even close what they deserve.


Because of file size when streaming online the video smoothness might not be perfect but once downloaded and played should be ok. Hope sangat will forgive for us any mistake and error.

Guru Mehar Karay

Waheguru ji ka khalsa
Waheguru ji ki fateh


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