Operation Bluestar: Eyes gone but soldier has no regrets

June 4th, 2009 - 3:45 pm ICT by IANS  

By Jaideep Sarin and Parminder Singh Bariana
Hoshiarpur (Punjab), June 4 (IANS) The last time the former soldier saw military action was when the army launched its assault on the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar 25 years ago to flush out armed militia as part of Operation Bluestar. Blinded after a burst of fire from inside the holiest of Sikh shrines hit him, Thakur Jagpal Singh shows no remorse.

Sitting in his modest house in Gheowal village in Punjab’s Talwara sub-division, 70 km from here, Singh, himself a Sikh, has no regrets about having participated in the assault on the Sikh shrine.

“We are soldiers. We can be sent anywhere for action. We have to follow orders,” Singh told IANS at his village home.

Recounting his last action in uniform, Singh, who belonged to the elite 1 Para commando battalion and was awarded the Kirti Chakra for his bravery, said that his unit was asked to enter the Golden Temple complex on the evening of June 5, 1984.

“We got orders to move around 10 p.m. We were told that there were 10-15 terrorists inside the complex. We expected the operation to be over soon and were told that we would have ‘kara prasad’ in the morning inside. But things turned out otherwise. We came under heavy fire from inside,” Singh, who was 27 years old then, recounted the events.

Singh’s commander, P.C. Katoch (who is now a Lt. Gen.), was injured in the firing. As Singh went ahead to help him, a burst of fire hit him on the face.

“I lay there for the next couple of hours and crawled up to the Darshani Deori. I could not see anything by then and had to be carried out. In hospital, I realized that I had become blind,” he said.

Having joined the army in 1976, Singh married in 1981 and had a small daughter when he went for Operation Bluestar.

After being discharged from service, Singh lives in his village with his family, including two more daughters and a son. While one daughter is married, the other children are studying.

“I only feel bad that the Punjab government discriminated against me in giving benefits and neglected me. I survive on my pension from the army. The state government should at least give a job to one of my children,” he said.

The former soldier insists that the army could not be held at fault for Operation Bluestar.

“That was not the fault of the army. It is the central and state governments that were at fault. We upheld the honour of our tri-colour (the Indian flag) by following orders.”

Singh pointed out that many Sikh soldiers were killed in the operation.

“Seventeen soldiers were killed from my battalion alone,” he said.

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