05/06: Operation Blue Star

June 5 this year marks the 23rd anniversary of Operation Blue Star, the code name for Indian Army's bloody assualt on the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines. Below is a picture of the Golden Temple in all its glory:

The Golden Temple

Sikhs call it a 9/11 of their own; and remember it as the worst trauma to confront their nation in all it's illustrious and dynamic history. The ruthless, no holds barred assault that kicked off at 7:00 pm on that fateful day of 1984 and raged on till 7 June, shook the foundations of the secular India. Its outcome was a writing on the wall; Sikh resistance centered in the temple was totally decimated but its fallout unleashed a cycle of revenge and hatred that has relentlessly haunted the collective conscience of India ever since.

Constituting sixty percent of the population in the state of PUnjab and two percent of the population overall, Sikhs have had a troubled relationship with the Center since Independence. A lingering sense of deprivation intensified in the seventies when Sikhs began to openly voice discontentment over the neglect of their political rights. Drafting of Anandpur Sahib Resolution in 1973 was articulation of the wrongs Sikhs demanded to be addressed. These were: Punjab's control of Chandigarh, demands for political autonomy, fair distribution of river waters, the plea for Sikhism to be constitutionally recognised as a distinct religion and the holy status for Amritsar being the site of the holiest Sikh shrine.

Spurred by these grievances the idea of a seperate Sikh state, Khalistan, was also quietly but strongly, gaining ground. In the late 1970s, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale tapped into Sikh discontent and organised a seperatist movement to fight the "Hindu conspiracy" against Sikhs.

It is interesting to know that Bhindranwale was a product of Indra Gandhi's own divisive politics to divide the Sikh community. To defeat Akali Dal in its non-violent political struggle for realising Sikh ambitions in Punjab, she started patronising, as a counterbalance, radical Sikh faction led by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. But the orthodox Sant from Dam Dami Taksal, a Sikh seminary, proved a man of his own free will. Attracting Sikh militants from all over, he advanced the demand for Khalistan; pushing moderate elements of Akali Dal onto the sidelines. In 1982, Bhindranwale moved his headquarters into the Golden Temple Complex and established a "Morcha" much to the chagrin of the Indian Government. Instead of finding a political solution to the demand of Khalistan by Sikh community Indira Gandhi decided to use the instrument of military assault to break the back of strident Sikh activism. Operation Blue Star was authorised to be launched on 5 June 1984.

Bhindranwale's Morcha proved a hard nut to crack. When infantry assaults by commandos of Parachute regiment and six infantry battalions failed to break the crust of Sikh resistance, Indian Army decided to bring in tanks to do the job. After midnight, on 6th June six Vijayanta tanks entered the temple complex crushing the delicate marble inlays of the compound and plowed their way towards the Akal Takht. As the casualities to the Indian Army mounted, orders were given for the tanks to start firing their large 105mm cannons equipped with high explosives squash-head shells into the Akal Takht. Over 80 shells were pumped into the sacred Gurdwara. It was only as the dawn on 7th June broke that the last remnants of the Sikh resistance began to be mopped up.

The cost of the assault in terms of physical damage to the historic monument and the human casualities were enormous. There has never been agreement on how many people were killed in and around the temple, and how many of the dead were innocent bystanders, rather than militants. Indian Army refused to let the Red Cross enter the complex and cremated the dead before the bodies could be identified or claimed by their families.

The devastation caused to the Akal Takht was devsatating. Many irreplaceable items of immense historical value like handwritten copies of the Adi Granth, the Sikh scripture, were lost in the fire that engulfed the Sikh Reference Library at the Akal Takht. Below is a picture of Akal Takht after Operation Blue Star (taken form Wikipedia):

Akal Takht damage after Blue Star

Bhindranwale supporters or not, Sikhs were shocked by the uncontrolled cruelty of the Operation and generated a backlash that rocked the secular foundations of the Indian State. Bhindranwale emerged as a Sikh saint and as a martyr to the cause of Khalistan; instantly turning into a folk hero. About 5000 Sikh soldiers, calling themselves "Dharmi Faujis" deserted the Indian Army. Prominent Sikh leaders and soldiers, who had been honoured by Indian government, returned their medals and certificates. Indra Gandhi paid for the indiscretion of violating the sanctity of the Golden Temple with her life when two of her most trusted Sikh bodyguards - Satwant Singh and Beant Singh - assassinated her on 31 Oct 1984. The anti Sikh violence that followed her assassination led to the killing of at least 3000 Sikhs by frantic Hindu mobs. Anti Sikh violence gave a boost to the demand for Khalistan and a full-fledged insurgency picked up inside Punjab extending to attacks on Indian assets in foreign lands. Air India's plane was blown up on June 23, 1985 which killed all its crew and 329 passengers. Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, who signed the Rajiv-Longowal Accord on 29 July 1985, was killed just three weeks later while praying inside a gurdwara. Gen A S Vaidya, who was Indian Army's Chief of Staff when Operation Blue Star was launched, was gunned down in Pune in August 1985. Chief Minister Beant Singh was blown up along with twelve others by a suicide bomber on July 31 1995 at Chandrigarh for letting down the Sikh Cause.

Indian State crushed the Sikh insurgency with a heavy hand. Human Rights groups estimate that nearly a quarter of a million Sikhs, mostly innocents, were killed on suspicion of sympathising with the Sikh militants.

Such atrocities have alienated the Sikh nation whose struggle for a seperate homeland has survived and continues to simmer. This is primarily because of the fact that communalisation of India due to rise in Hindu fundamentalism has prevented the initiation of a reconciliation process to address the Sikh grievances that lie at the bottom of their confrontational stance. Sikh demands for punishing those responsible for commiting human rights violations against the Sikh community have also not borne fruit. Unless justice is provided to the bruised Sikh community, the demons released by Operation Blue Star shall keep returning to haunt the Indian State for its ruthless and uncalled for aggression.

This article has been taken from The Nation dated 5th of June, 2006 and was originally written by A. Siddique.
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opration blue star:- goverment nu sikh comunity kade v maaf nahi karugi
28/08 16:52:35

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