Akalis seek to evoke memories of Operation Bluestar before election

March 22nd, 2009 - 12:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Jaideep Sarin
Amritsar, March 22 (IANS) Twenty five years after Operation Bluestar - the Indian Army’s storming of the Golden Temple complex in June 1984 to flush out heavily armed Sikh extremists, attempts are being made to evoke its painful memories to cash in on Sikh sentiments in the parliamentary elections.

The generally moderate Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the mini-parliament of Sikh religion that manages Sikh shrines including the Golden Temple, has brought out its annual calendar with the photograph of the scarred Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikh religion, badly destroyed in the June 1984 attack.

Indian Army units had to use heavy artillery against the terrorist militia, led by the separatist preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, holed up inside the shrine complex where the holiest of Sikh shrines, the Harmandar Sahib, is located. Hundreds of people inside the shrine and army and police personnel lost their lives in the attack.

The use of the photograph by the SGPC, which is dominated by Punjab’s ruling Akali Dal, is a clear sign that the organisation is looking at pandering to radical elements in the community in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections to Punjab’s 13 Lok Sabha seats on May 7 and 13.

“The Khalsa Action Committee, including the Dal Khalsa and Damdami Taksal, are jointly holding various events to make people aware about the misconceptions about what led to Operation Bluestar and how it left the Sikh community scarred. The events include seminars, conferences and the main event here on June 6 to mark 25 years of the operation,” Dal Khalsa’s senior leader Kanwarpal Singh told IANS.

Both the Dal Khalsa and Damdami Taksal are radical Sikh organisations and have been demanding an independent Sikh homeland called ‘Khalistan’.

But the radical Sikh bodies are upset with the SGPC for not doing anything to set up a memorial for those who lost their lives inside the shrine complex during Operation Bluestar.

“The SGPC is under pressure from the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party, alliance partner of the Akali Dal in Punjab). The SGPC only needs to implement its own resolution for building the memorial. We cannot make it outside as it will not justify the sacrifice of the martyrs. Inside the shrine complex, the SGPC has control. We will expose them if they don’t do it this time also,” Kanwarpal Singh said.

Dal Khalsa leaders also plan to bring out a directory of names of all those who were killed inside the shrine during Operation Bluestar.

“Our focus will again be on the anniversary after May 16 (counting of poll results) till the main event on June 6,” a Damdami Taksal leader said.

Even 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. With 2009 being the 25th anniversary of the event, the Sikh bodies are attaching more importance to it this time.

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