Tuesday, June 3, 2014

THE SIKH TRAUMA OF 1984 - PART TWO - "OPERATION BLUESTAR"


1984 - OPERATION BLUESTAR (The Battle of Amritsar; The Bluestar Massacre)

In 1982, Sant Jarnail Singh ji Bhindranwale, leader of the Sikh liberation movement, and some of his followers, all openly armed, took up residence in a guest house in the Golden Temple Complex, a not unusual act, since gurudwaras all have accommodations for visitors. Sant ji and his men freely came and went and could have been arrested at any time, had the government chosen to do so.


Sant ji in chardi kala (4) on a train


They did not. Instead, they waited until the Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev, a major Sikh holy day in June 1984, when they knew the gurudwara would be packed and launched a full scale attack, which lasted from June 3-7, with some last Sikh fighters continuing until they were killed by June 10. 
The Last Singh killed i9n Bue Star



The Akal Takht, seat of Sikh temporal authority was burned and the Sikh Reference Library destroyed; many priceless and irreplaceable pieces of Sikh history were looted or destroyed.


I will not attempt to describe what it was like for those inside during these days. The army refused to let the civilians leave and thousands were trapped without food or water in the broiling heat of the Punjab summer. No one will ever know how many were killed. Official government figures say 136 Indian soldiers and around 200 Sikh militants, including Sant ji, were killed. 

Body of Sant Jarnail Singh ji Bhindranwale


The official figures claim that 492 Sikh civilians were killed, a laughable number, given the thousands held inside and not permitted to leave. A friend of mine whose uncle was a witness speaks of box after box after box of shoes loaded into trucks and hauled away. Since everyone removes their shoes before entering, that would have given a good approximation, so they destroyed the evidence. A reasonable estimate is between 7000-8000 innocent Sikhs were killed. (2) 

Imagine a Muslim army invading the Vatican, shooting up the Sistine Chapel, burning the Vatican library and killing all the visitors/pilgrims...on Easter Sunday.  This attack had much the same effect on the Sikh psyche as would such a military attack on the Vatican have on Roman Catholics. The shock and horror and deep pain of the Sikh people worldwide can barely be imagined.

Whatever the casualty figures, when the smoke cleared, about 200 largely untrained young Singhs and a few Kaurs had held off the fourth largest army in the world for about a week. 


I
Indian soldiers gloating in front of burnt out Akal Takht at the
Golden Temple Complex, June 1984

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