Sikh organisations to mark 25 years of Operation Bluestar

May 24th, 2009 - 1:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Jaideep Sarin
Amritsar, March 24 (IANS) Sikh organisations, including some radical ones, are all set to evoke the painful memories of the Indian Army’s storming of the Golden Temple complex in June 1984 to evict heavily armed Sikh extremists.

The Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikh religion, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and Sikh radicals are already planning events at the temple complex, where the holiest of Sikh shrines Harmandar Sahib (popularly called Golden Temple) is located, here in the first week of June to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, the army’s codename for the operation.

Indian Army units had used heavy artillery against the terrorist militia, led by the separatist preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, holed up inside the shrine complex. Hundreds of people inside the shrine, including Bhindranwale and his armed supporters, and army and police personnel lost their lives in the battle.

The main function, on June 6, will be held at the Akal Takht. The building, which faces the Harmandar Sahib, was heavily damaged in Operation Bluestar.

Despite the passage of 25 years, Operation Bluestar remains etched in the minds of Sikhs as the darkest chapter in the recent history of the community.

Then prime minister Indira Gandhi, whose government in New Delhi gave the order for the army to use all means to flush out terrorists from the Golden Temple complex, was killed by her Sikh bodyguards at her residence on Oct 31, 1984 in a reprisal crime.

The army had faced stiff resistance from the terrorists inside the complex.

The SGPC, the mini-parliament of the Sikh religion that manages Sikh shrines in Punjab, will hold its main function at the Manji Sahib hall of the temple complex.

“We are making preparations for the event this time. We will add more events this year. The main function will be on June 6. We want the function to be held well and go off peacefully,” SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar told IANS.

Asked if radical leaders would be allowed to take centrestage and raise separatist slogans, as has happened before, Makkar said: “We have seen that such elements raise Khalistan slogans at the end of the function. Though our volunteers are there to prevent them, sometimes they manage to do this.”

Makkar said he did not have confirmation whether or not Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Akali Dal President and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal would attend the function.

Getting more hardline, the SGPC had recently brought out its annual calendar with the photograph of the Akal Takht being shown badly damaged in the June 1984 attack.

The use of the photograph by the generally moderate SGPC, which is dominated by Punjab’s ruling Akali Dal, was a clear sign that the organisation was looking at cosying up to radical elements in the community in the run-up to the recent parliamentary elections.

“We are trying to ensure that the SGPC involves all Sikh organisations in the events being held. Sikh bodies will be holding their individual events at the Golden Temple complex and other places in the first week of June,” radical Sikh body Dal Khalsa’s leader Kanwarpal Singh told IANS.

The Khalsa Action Committee (KAC), a committee of various radical organisations, recently held various events to make people aware of its version of what led to Operation Bluestar and how it left the Sikh community scarred.

Organisations like Dal Khalsa and Damdami Taksal are upset with the SGPC, saying it is doing nothing to set up a memorial to those who lost their lives inside the shrine complex during Operation Bluestar.

“The SGPC has already passed a resolution to have a memorial inside the Golden Temple complex. It only needs to implement that. But it is under pressure from the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party, alliance partner of the Akali Dal in Punjab) not to do it. We cannot make it outside as it will not justify the sacrifice of the martyrs. Inside the shrine complex, the SGPC has control,” Kanwarpal Singh said.

There are plans to bring out a directory of names of all those who were killed inside the shrine during Operation Bluestar. Many innocent civilians, who were stranded inside the shrine on June 2 when the army moved in, were also killed during the operation.

Every year, the first week of June is observed as ‘ghallughara” (genocide) week.

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.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at

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