Defence experts term Operation Woodrose video as propaganda
New Delhi, July 09: Defence experts have termed the fresh release of Operation Woodrose video on the Internet as a propagandist attempt by forces inimical to India to fuel Khalistan movement in Punjab.
'Sikhs For Justice' on July 7 released a 5: 46-minute video on YouTube alleging that Indian Army killed more than 15000 Amritdhari Sikh youth between June 1984 to September 1984 under Operation Woodrose in Punjab and appealed to the International community to take note of it.
An Amritdhari is one who has received baptismal vows of the Khalsa initiated by Tenth Sikh Guru Shri Guru Gobind Singh and adheres to the rules established by him for a baptised Khalsa to follow.
At the time of filing this report, 152 people commented on the video and most of them supported Khalistan and referendum 2020.
The website of referendum 2020 describes it as a movement to liberate Punjab"currently occupied by India".
To understand the subject, one needs to revisit history.
Operation Blue Star and Operation Woodrose
The Indian Army on June 1, 1984 on the orders of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi launched Operation Blue Star and attacked Shri Harmandir Sahib, the Holiest shrine of the Sikhs located at Amritsar, Punjab to flush out Sikh militants, led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who had taken control of the Gurudwara since 1982.
The Operation Blue Star was hastily planned and executed as is evident from the fact that the Major General (Later Lt. Gen) KS Brar, the General Officer commanding of the formation that was given responsibility to conduct the operation, had recently got married and was ready to proceed on his honeymoon when he was called upon by his superiors to cancel his leave and conduct the operation.
It is notable that the 15 Infantry Division that was located in Amritsar was not tasked to carry out the operation, the task was given to the Meerut based 9 Infantry Division. Fear of retaliation from Pakistan would have been the reason behind this decision.
After sanitising the area over two days the Indian troops went in and met with tremendous firepower with machine guns and automatic weapons. The hastily planned Operation Blue Star went into difficulties and got extended to almost a week. A lot of casualties, military, civilian and of course the militants were taken before the Holy place (by then badly damaged) was cleared
The Operation Blue Star had been sub-divided into two parts:- (a) Operation Metal, whose objective was to clear the Gurudwara complex of militants. (b) Operation Shop, whose objective was to raid extremist hideouts throughout Punjab and mop up the remainder militants in the countryside.
Alongside Operation Blue Star, Operation Woodrose was conducted by operational divisions deployed on the International Border with Pakistan to strengthen the defense posture by replacing the Border Security Force (BSF) pickets with regular troops. This was done to dissuade Pakistan from indulging in any misadventure. The deployment stayed for a few months till September.
What do Defence Experts Say?
Defence experts say that over the years a propagandist misinformation campaign has been created to say that Operation Woodrose was carried out in the months after Operation Blue Star to "prevent break out of widespread public protest." The allegation that the Army, by virtue of special power given to it, took about 100,000 youth into custody in four to six weeks after launch of the operation and thousands of these (15000) young men, mostly innocent "disappeared" is false and baseless.
Major General (retd.) DK Mehta says that propaganda is being created in the name of Operation Woodrose.
"As alleged that over 15000 Sikh Youth were killed by the Indian Army is nonsense. Had so many people killed, it would have become international human rights issue. This is a propaganda planned in Pakistan, which has realised that it has become difficult to implement its nefarious designs in Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, Islamabad has once again set eyes on Punjab," says Maj Gen Mehta.
He also says that a lot of money is coming from Canada also to fuel Khalistan movement and its defence minister Harjit Sajjan is known Khalistan supporter.
Noted defence expert Col. (retd.) Jaibans Singh also says that "Operation Woodrose' video is a part of a misinformation campaign to defame Indian Army.
"Operation Blue Star is well documented and has elicited considerable criticism in the political as well as in military domain. However, the depiction of Operation Woodrose as a brutal pogrom carried out by the Indian Army is totally wrong and propagandist in nature," says Col Jaibans.
He says that it is a fact that for a few days after the attack on Shri Harmandir Sahib the army carried out mopping operations under Operation Shop.
"Premises of Gurudwaras across the state and other suspect areas were searched. Weapons found were handed over to the police and state government authorities. These were considerable in number. Within a few days the Army formation (9 Division) finished its task and went back to its permanent location. Operation Woodrose was then carried out by the holding formations along the International Border," says Col. Jaibans.
Lt. Col (retd.) Jasbir Sarai, a Chandigarh based expert on security affairs, says that there are several pointers to the fact that the carnage, as alleged, did not take place.
"The Indian Army has not carried out such barbaric acts even while fighting peak insurgency in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir, where the intensity has been far greater and long sustaining than in Punjab. Such acts go against its ethos and training and no power can compel the force to indulge in them," asserts the defence expert.
He wonders that the army that was taken by surprise in the conduct of Operation Blue Star, how would it, in such a short time, create facility and infrastructure to detain 100,000 people and also torture them?
"There was media censorship during Operation Blue Star but it was removed immediately afterwards, in fact, foreign media turned a key eye on the happenings in Punjab. Under the circumstances, such carnage could not have gone unnoticed," asserts Lt. Col Sarai..
It's notable that no bodies of the alleged 15-20, 000 dead were found, It's alleged that they have disappeared . But, the question is where? The contention that they crossed over is not plausible since the army, post Operation Blue Star, effectively sealed the border.
All Ranks of the Indian Army (Officers, JCOs, Other Ranks) posted in Punjab after Operation Blue Star, including the Sikh troops, deny any such atrocity having been committed by the army.
The defence experts tell One India that all allegations of extra judicial atrocity by Army personnel in Punjab under Operation Woodrose or otherwise are propagandist attempts by forces inimical to India to break the fabric of the nation by attacking the close bond that exists between the soldiers and the people, especially in Punjab.
The Operation Woodrose video is a poorly produced and edited documentary. It gives no credit of the publishers nor does it name the anchors. The shots of Army operation are generalist in nature and could have been taken from any file. There is no specific shot of the army rounding up boys or taking them to detention centres. No victim comes in frame to give a statement.
A sharp increase in Khalistani activities has been noticed in recent times, possibly due to 35th anniversary of Operation Blue Star and the ongoing talks to open the Kartarpur corridor.
A Times Now has story has quoted a secret intelligence report, which says that Pakistan is likely to use Kartarpur Corridor to foment unrest in Punjab and revive Khalistan movement.