Punjab is observing 32nd anniversary of Operation Blue Star today (Monday, June 6). Let us know some facts about it.
Between June 3 to June 8, 1984, Indian military had conducted an operation, that came to be known as Operation Bluestar. It was launched on the orders of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi to eliminate Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers who had sought cover in the Amritsar Harmandir Sahib Complex.
The sentiments of Sikhs were hurt when a miitary operation was held at the holy shrine Golden Temple in Amritsar.
What Major General Kuldip Singh Brar said:
According to Brar, the announcement on the formation of Khalistan was about to take place in few days and that is why it was important to launch that operation and execute it sucessfully.
What led to Operation Bluestar?
The root of problems began in 1970 when differences cropped up in Akali politics due to their demands in Punjab.
In 1973 and in 1978, Akali Dal had passed Anandpur Sahib Resolution.
What were the demands of Akalis?
- Chandigarh should be the capital of Punjab only.
- Areas where Punjabi language is spoken should be made part of Punjab.
- On the issue of rivers, the Supreme Court's advise should be sought.
- Punjab should have the access to the basic structure of generating electricity from water.
- Army recruitment should be on the basis of merit and certain restrictions on Sikhs in army should be withdrawn.
- Akhil Bharatiya Gurdwara should be made a law.
On April 13, 1978, communal clashes took place between Akali and Nirankari workers in which 13 workers of Akalis and two Nirankaris were killed including Nirankari Gurbachan Singh.
Who was Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale?
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, leader of the Damdami Taksal, took an active part in those clashes.
Bhindranwale was an extremist and he started blaming Congress-led Central government on the issue. He started giving speeches on controversial political issues and on religious matters.
Some believed that he was spreading hatred and agitation among public, while his supporters maiantained that he was only talking for the welfare of Sikh religion.
An era of violence in Punjab
In Sept 1981, Punjab Kesari group editor Lala Jagat Narayan was murdered. Communal clashes broke out in Amritsar, Faridkot, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar and Tarn Taran, in which many lives were lost.
During this period, various allegations of communal activities were levelled against Bhindranwale but police cited lack of evidence against him.
In Sept 1981, Bhindranwale surrendered himself in front of Mehta Chowk Gurdwara. It led to clashes between the crowd present there and police, in which eleven persons lost their lives.
On Aug 20, 1982, members of Sikh Students Federation had hijacked an Indian Airlines flight. Hijacker Manjit Singh had allegedly surrendered but he was shot dead by the police, when he came out of the plane.
Then, few politicians from Akali Dal also started speaking in favour of Bhindranwale, who had a massive support base.
Subsequently, Bhindranwale was released in October 1981. In 1982, he started addressing people from the Guru Nank Niwas of Golden Temple Parisar but later he reached out to masses from Akal Takht.
1982- Nahar Roko Morcha (Canal agitation)
In July 1982, Akali Dal launched an agitation against the linking of Satluj-Yamuna rivers. At the same time, Bhindranwale had launched a campaign for the release of All India Sikh Students Federation chief Amrik Singh.
Then Akalis merged their campaign with that of Bhindranwale's campaign and started surrendering themselves to police, as a mark of protest.
On April 23, 1983, Punjab Police DIG A S Atwal, was shot dead in broad-day light at Harmandir Sahib complex.
Few months later, some gunmen barged into a Punjab roadways bus near Jalandhar and killed Hindus for the first time. Then Indira Gandhi-led Congress government suspended Darbara Singh led-Punjab Congress governemnt, following which President rule was imposed.
Events that led to Operation Bluestar
By 1984, 298 people were killed in communal violence before the launch of three months of Operation Bluestar.
Before the onset of Operation Bluestar, Indira Gandhi had held talks with Akalis three times, according to reports. The last talks took place on April 5, 1982. Indira Gandhi had reportedly ordered armed forces to kill Bhindranwale.
In Haryana, protests erupted against Sikhs in Feb 1984. On June 1, 1984, firings were exchanged between security forces and Golden temple members.
On June 2, buses and rain services were suspended to and from Punjab. Even phone and electricity connections were cut off and media censorship was enforced.
By June 3, Indian military had entered inside the premises of the Golden Temple following which a 36-hour curfew was imposed in evening. The holy shrine had turned into a graveyard. Bhindranwale and his armed Khalistan supporters had taken refuge inside the Golden Temple.
The confrontation between military and sikhs began on June 4, under the command of General Kuldip Singh Brar.
On June 5, tanks, artillery, helicopters, armored vehicles and tear gas were also deployed to take control of the situation. Sikh Reference Library was also burnt in the violence.
After lot of blood-shed, centuries-old Akal Takht structure was destroyed completely. Due to mayhem, no religious discourse took place on June 6, 7 and 8, for the first time in its history.
Bhindranwale fell to bullets on June 6, 1984 and on June 7, the Indian army gained control over Golden Temple complex.
According to the Indian government's white letter, 83 soldiers were martyred and 249 were injured. 493 Sikhs were killed and 86 were injured. 1,592 people were arrested. But all these numbers are still under dispute till today.
According to sikhs, over thousand sikhs lost their lives during Operation Bluestar. Following the mutiny, many Sikhs resigned from armed and civil administrative office and several returned awards and honours they had received from the Indian government.
Four months later, the differences between Congress and Sikhs further deteriorated when two of her bodyguards- Satwant Singh and Beant Singh assasinated the then prime minister Indira Gandhi on Octber 31, 1984.
After Indira Gandhi's assasination, anti-Sikh riots took place in 1984 in which around 3,000 people lost their lives, most of them were sikhs.