Operation Blue Star: News reports

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Akal Takht building after Operation Blue Star

Operation Blue Star was the codename for the attack on the Akal Takhat and the Golden Temple complex during the period June 1 to 6, 1984. The Indian army invaded the Harmandir Sahib complex on the orders of the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. At the time of the operation, close to 100,000 army troops had been deployed throughout Punjab. A group of Sikhs, led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale (the charismatic leader of the Damdami Taksal) had, after being expelled from one of the Niwas (guest houses) moved into the Akal Takhat.

This events has been in the news ever since. Below are some of the important news articles concerning this event:

Unveiling the Truth of Operation Bluestar

by Dilpreet Singh of worldsikhnews.com 18 June, 2008

FREMONT: Though 24 years have gone by, Sikhs have not forgotten the ignominy hurled at them by the Indian state in the name of Operation Bluestar. Far and wide, Sikhs assemble in Gurdwaras during this week and revisit the truth of the events which has brutally affected the psyche of the Sikhs. Far from Punjab, reiterating the spirit of not to forget, the Executive director of the Sikh Research Institute, Harinder Singh painstakingsly scrutinized the details of the tragic event and narrated that the Indian state did not want to merely arrest some individuals but to break the backbone of the Sikhs. That it was unable to do is a reflection of the commitment and determination of the Sikhs who fought valiantly and laid down their lives.

He said that the propaganda of the government was nothing but a bunch of lies and he dispelled the entire falsehood of the Indian propaganda machinery by resorting to facts and figures in a well prepared and executed presentation at the Gurdwara Fremont here.

Harinder Singh’s opening remarks were quiet telling. He pointed out that the operation was to subvert and suppress a peaceful Sikh-led civil disobedience movement. Of the 38 wanted “terrorists,” 22 were out of the country and the Darbar Sahib was attacked on one the busiest days of the year, the martydom day of Guru Arjan Sahib. A total of nine infantry divisions were utilized, between 70,000 to 150,000 troops, and both chemical poisoning and tanks were used to arrest 38 people? It is unheard of to need any sort of infantry or tanks to arrest anyone. Similarly suspicious is that Punjab was cordoned for five days, meaning no one could enter or leave the state and electricity was turned off.

Harinder Singh also nailed the lie being perpetuated worldwide that it was an off-the-cuff operation. He explained in depth how meticulous preparations by the Indian government were carried out at Chakrata, near Dehradun for 18 months and also that the government had set up what it euphemistically called, the Third Agency to spread misinformation enabling the government to garner the majority Hindu vote.

The fact that the Akal Takht, the Sikh reference library, and 37 other shrines were attacked or burned down only makes one question the government’s true intentions. Operation Blue star’s aftermath was fishy as well; in fact, casualty numbers were reported to be less than 493 by the government whereas the Citizens for Democracy reported 8,000 deaths. According to the Christian Science Monitor, medical workers were threatened to be killed by soldiers if they were found giving any sort of assistance to Sikhs. Harinder identified many officers within the army who found themselves in dissent with the operation and either retired early, returned their medals, or criticized it publicly.

Harinder Singh emphasized the need to observe the commemoration every year and paid tributes to Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale.

Harinder Singh provided solid evidence from independent sources, avoiding propaganda totally. Operation Bluestar was ultimately, according to Harinder, not a singular event but rather the culmination of a rehearsed and calculated process to suppress Sikh religion and confidence. Joyce Pettigrew has stated that the army’s intentions were to “attack their [Sikhs] heart, to strike a blow at their spirit, and self confidence.” Nevertheless, Harinder urged the Sikh community, especially in Diaspora, to attempt to understand the dynamics between the Sikh population and the Indian state. He suggested that it was imperative to channelize Sikh anger and one such way was to build a monument to Sikh martyrs and continue our struggle for justice.

Killers of Humanity

The Sikh Times May 28, 2009 By Amrit Badesha

If we forget to stand up and recognise our own past, who will tell us where we have come from?

June 2009 will witness the 25th anniversary of Operation Blue-Star, where hundreds of innocent people lost their lives, the Golden Temple was destroyed and when Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale became a martyr.

The Operation was a military attack ordered by then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, to flush out extremists believed to be using the temple as a military command post.

Tanks and armoured vehicles stormed the Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple) while a mass of religious pilgrims were present during the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjun Dev Ji.

Punjab was isolated before the attack, phones lines and electricity was cut off and journalists were moved out from the region.

As though in a blackout, Punjab was completely at the mercy of its own government, which had knowingly planned the shameful attack on its own people

With no warning given to the pilgrims, the operation went ahead and the army charged in with their military strength.

The pre-mediated attack used excessive force, damaging the Akal Takhat, the political throne for Sikhs and killing not only the militant’s in the Gurdwara complex but also the innocent worshipers.

The Shrine became a battlefield as the Gurdwara was surrounded by a bloody Sarovar and the marble floors were stained red.

An unprecedented political disaster, the attack led to the assassination of Indira Gandhi, who was shot by her two Sikh bodyguards on 31 October 1984.

The 1984 anti-Sikh riots were triggered by the assassination of Gandhi and thousands of Sikhs were killed across Delhi.

Gurdwaras across the city were targeted, Sikhs were slaughtered and their homes were burnt.

Corrupt police officers like Gobind Ram launched ‘Operation Shudi Karan,’ where they raped and murdered Sikh women.

Inquiries into the riots were launched, after witnesses said some Indian ministers had incited the attacks and were to blame. However ‘lack of evidence’ prevented action from being taken against them.

As the BBC reported in 2005, some Indian politicians from the Congress party incited the anti-Sikh riots and the most prominent name amongst them, Jagdish Tytler.

The congress minister is accused of inciting the attacks against Sikhs but has escaped many investigations, leading to him being cleared of any misconduct.

April 2009 saw Tytler receive a ‘clean chit’ from India's federal Central Bureau of Investigation regarding his role in the riots

The Bharatiya Janata Party and Sikh groups were outraged by this and the BJP accused the CBI for working with the current congress party government in clearing Tytlers name.

Sajjan Kumar another congress leader was also acquitted of being involved in the anti-Sikh riots, despite many witnesses speaking out against him.

Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Why has there been no justice for the thousands of victims in the 1984 Sikh massacre?

Indira Gandhi launched an attack on the Golden Temple to get rid of the so called extremists but the government was aware of the religious festival taking place at the time.

Why was the plan coordinated at this date, as the Gurdwara was crowded with people?

Published reports highlighted the inefficiency of the Indian police, as they failed to intervene and help Sikhs who were being murdered by angry mobs.

When referring to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and Operation Blue-Star, it gets reported that, ‘Sikhs are still bitter.’

It should be reported, Sikhs are still awaiting justice and an apology.

Apna kal yaad rakho.

As the anniversary approaches, we need to remember 1984 so we can pay our respects to the innocent men, women and children who died.

If we forget to stand up and recognise our own past, who will tell us where we have come from?

We don’t need to become revolutionaries when learning about our history; we just need to spare some time to remember those who lost their lives, so we could live ours.

The Sikh Times -box1b.jpg

Sikh organisations to mark 25 years of Operation Bluestar

The Times of India 24 May 2009

AMRITSAR: Sikh organisations, including some radical ones, are all set to evoke the painful memories of the Indian Army's storming of the Golden Temple complex in June 1984 to evict heavily armed Sikh extremists.

The Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikh religion, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and Sikh radicals are already planning events at the temple complex, where the holiest of Sikh shrines Harmandar Sahib (popularly called Golden Temple) is located, here in the first week of June to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, the army's codename for the operation.

Indian Army units had used heavy artillery against the terrorist militia, led by the separatist preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, holed up inside the shrine complex. Hundreds of people inside the shrine, including Bhindranwale and his armed supporters, and army and police personnel lost their lives in the battle.

The main function, on June 6, will be held at the Akal Takht. The building, which faces the Harmandar Sahib, was heavily damaged in Operation Bluestar.

Despite the passage of 25 years, Operation Bluestar remains etched in the minds of Sikhs as the darkest chapter in the recent history of the community.

Then prime minister Indira Gandhi, whose government in New Delhi gave the order for the army to use all means to flush out terrorists from the Golden Temple complex, was killed by her Sikh bodyguards at her residence on Oct 31, 1984 in a reprisal crime.

The army had faced stiff resistance from the terrorists inside the complex.

The SGPC, the mini-parliament of the Sikh religion that manages Sikh shrines in Punjab, will hold its main function at the Manji Sahib hall of the temple complex.

"We are making preparations for the event this time. We will add more events this year. The main function will be on June 6. We want the function to be held well and go off peacefully," SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said.

Asked if radical leaders would be allowed to take centrestage and raise separatist slogans, as has happened before, Makkar said: "We have seen that such elements raise Khalistan slogans at the end of the function. Though our volunteers are there to prevent them, sometimes they manage to do this."

Makkar said he did not have confirmation whether or not Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Akali Dal President and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal would attend the function.

Getting more hardline, the SGPC had recently brought out its annual calendar with the photograph of the Akal Takht being shown badly damaged in the June 1984 attack.

The use of the photograph by the generally moderate SGPC, which is dominated by Punjab's ruling Akali Dal, was a clear sign that the organisation was looking at cosying up to radical elements in the community in the run-up to the recent parliamentary elections.

"We are trying to ensure that the SGPC involves all Sikh organisations in the events being held. Sikh bodies will be holding their individual events at the Golden Temple complex and other places in the first week of June," radical Sikh body Dal Khalsa's leader Kanwarpal Singh said.

The Khalsa Action Committee (KAC), a committee of various radical organisations, recently held various events to make people aware of its version of what led to Operation Bluestar and how it left the Sikh community scarred.

Organisations like Dal Khalsa and Damdami Taksal are upset with the SGPC, saying it is doing nothing to set up a memorial to those who lost their lives inside the shrine complex during Operation Bluestar.

"The SGPC has already passed a resolution to have a memorial inside the Golden Temple complex. It only needs to implement that. But it is under pressure from the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party, alliance partner of the Akali Dal in Punjab) not to do it. We cannot make it outside as it will not justify the sacrifice of the martyrs. Inside the shrine complex, the SGPC has control," Kanwarpal Singh said.

There are plans to bring out a directory of names of all those who were killed inside the shrine during Operation Bluestar. Many innocent civilians, who were stranded inside the shrine on June 2 when the army moved in, were also killed during the operation.

Every year, the first week of June is observed as 'ghallughara" (genocide) week.

Though terrorism in Punjab (1981-1995) ended many years ago, the anniversary of the Golden Temple attack is observed by radical Sikh organisations every year.

1984: Troops raid Golden Temple in Amritsar

BBC report on 6 June 1984

1984: Troops raid Golden Temple in Amritsar Nearly 300 people have been killed as Indian troops stormed the Golden Temple in Amritsar, held by Sikh militants.

The army's attack was resisted with heavy firepower, and weapons captured included machine guns, anti-tank missiles and rocket launchers.

Reports say 250 dissidents and 48 Indian troops died in the battle, which has raged for two days. Up to 450 Sikhs were captured.

The storming of the temple, or Operation Bluestar, followed weeks of growing tension between the government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Sikhs in the northern state of Punjab, who believe they are being discriminated against by the Hindu majority.

Gandhi first moved forces in to surround the temple in early March, after a long occupation by Sikh extremists led by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

The religious risks of storming the shrine led to a tense stand-off and it appears security forces were hoping the militants would surrender, making a direct attack unnecessary.

In April the government agreed to amend the constitution to enshrine the independence of the Sikh religion.

But while the move was welcomed by the moderate Sikh party Akali Dal, the radical elements in control of the temple were unimpressed.

Speculation of an attack on the Sikh shrine increased following the government's decision on 3 June to impose a 36-hour curfew across Punjab.

Forces have now cleared the outer buildings of the complex but a group of heavily-armed Sikhs - including Bhindranwale - are believed to remain in hiding in the basement of a second building, close to the Golden Temple.

The government said at midnight that all active resistance had stopped, adding that the army's next task would be to "eliminate completely terrorists from the state".

In Context

Sikh leader Bhindranwale was found dead in the temple complex.

By 12 June it was reported that more than 1,000 people had died - 800 militants and 200 troops.

Government ministers later admitted they had underestimated the strength of Sikh feeling about the attack.

Prime Minister Gandhi said: "The necessity now is to heal the wounds inflicted on the hearts of the people."

But the storming of the Sikhs' holiest religious shrine started a chain of events and retaliations which led eventually to the prime minister herself being assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards, on 31 October.

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