Remembering Operation Blue Star
DR Gurnam Signh, a profes sor in the Coventry Univer sity, United Kingdom draws parallels between Operation Blue Star and Normandy Landing (Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord) in his column, “30 Years after Operation Blue Star, Where Do Sikh Go from Here”. Both operations took place on June 6 and both have heavy troops participation. More over both were implemented in two stages and were against the culture and races. Dr Gurnam Singh describes that, on June 6, 1984, the Indian Army right in their sacred shrine attacked Sikhs. In his wordings, “6th June 1984 “we witnessed the enactment of another military operation, and like D-Day, the operation involved some 150,000 troops, but with one significant difference; on this occasion, the fight was not to defeat fascism, but the Indian Army invading a holy place and killing thousands of its own citizens.” Indian official figures of the casualties during this grand operation are less than 1000, however, independent sources estimates more than 20,000 people mostly innocent Sikhs lost their lives during operation Blue Star. According to SGPC, there were over 10,000 pairs of shoes unclaimed after the attack on Golden Temple.
Like the Normandy Landing, Indian Army Operation against Golden Temple was in two stages. In first stage; Operation Blue Star, a full scale military operation was launched against Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) in Armitsar. In four days, Darbar Sahib was totally ruined. Darbar Sahib is the Shrine of over 30 million Sikhs all around the world. Stage two was the “Operation Wood Rose”. During this stage, Indian Army attacked over 50 historical Gurdwaras all around in East Punjab with a mandate to; “round up amridhari (baptised) Sikh boys and men of fighting age and take them into custody.” And in next few weeks, thousands of the Sikhs were arrested and imprisoned, where they were tortured and killed inhumanly. The local and international media was banned for months in East Punjab to report the Sikh’s massacre in the area.
On October 31, 1984, the killing of former Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh guards was indeed a retaliation of the Sikh’s massacre, unleashed after June 2, 1984. Later Indian Army Chief (General Arun Shridhar Vaidya), who led the operation Blue Star was also assassinated in 1986 in Pune by two Sikhs, Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha. Both events were vengeance by Sikhs, since the operation against the Darbar Sahaib was ordered by Ms Gandhi, who despite refusal by then Vice Chief of Indian Army launched the military operation. What happened after the assassination of Ms Indira Gandhi, it is a horror and a real black spot over the Indian secularism and democracy?
According to neutral sources, within first four days, over 10,000 innocent Sikhs having no linkages with attack on Ms Gandhi were killed mercilessly (mostly burnt alive) in New Delhi only. This was under the eyes of global leaders, who came from all over to attend the funeral of Ms Gandhi. The killing of Sikhs after Operation Blue Star was not communal riots, as Indian officials and Indian Government claimed. Indeed, it was a well planned and systemic series of attacks on Sikh community all over the India. This can be derived from the statement of Rajeev Gandhi, the son of Ms Indira Gandhi, who once asked about the Sikh’s massacre after assassination of her mother said that, ““when a big tree falls the ground does shake.” In the following years of Ms Gandhi killing, the Indian security forces killed over 100,000 innocent Sikhs taking cover of cruel and inhuman Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). Since then many Sikhs have settled in various parts of the world, particularly United Kingdom, United States and Canada. Those who had witnessed the massacre of Indian Army and still survived, are mostly traumatised and in shock. Every year, the Sikh community remembers this India massacre and protest all over the world to remind the civilized international community that, India is such a country, where rights of minorities are not secured. India is a Hindu fundamentalist country, where human rights of all minorities are constantly violated and there is no stoppage of that.
But the sad episode was that, those officers and men of Indian Army who participated in the Operation Blue Star were given gallantry awards, honours, decoration strips and promotions by the Sikh President Zail Singh in a ceremony conducted on 10 July 1985.
The destruction of Sikh’s holy shrine and killings of Sikhs was one aspect, the destruction of Sikh culture, their history and their libraries was the worst part of Indian state terrorism. According to Chand Joshi, a correspondent of Hindustan Times, the Indian Army has “acted in total anger” and shot down all the suspects rounded up from the temple complex. A well-known British journalist like Mark Tully and Satish Jacob has criticized Indian Army for “burning down the Sikh Reference Library in Amritsar.” It is said that Ms Gandhi’s Last Battle was aimed at, destroying the Sikh culture. In a book entitled, “In Sikhs of the Punjab: Unheard Voices of the State and Guerrilla Violence” the author, Joyce Pettigrew writes that, the Indian Army launched the Operation Blue Star to, “suppress the culture, and political will, of a people”
Operation Blue Star and the subsequent massacre of Sikhs was enough to open the eyes of international community about the Indian Democracy and Secularism. But, unfortunately, no reaction came from the civilized international community and even the human rights organizations. The successive Indian leadership too did not learn any lesson from this carnage, ordered by Ms Indira Ghandi, the daughter of first Indian Prime Minister. Though India is still continuing with its policy of discriminating, humiliating and killing of minorities in that country, but the worst massacre, Indian Army committed after ‘Operation Blue Star-1984’ was the genocide of Kashmiri Muslims in the decade of 1990s. Indian security forces killed over 100,000 innocent Kashmiris, who were just demanding their right of self-determination, which was promised to them by the UN. With this record of accomplishment of brutalities on minorities and Kashmiris, should India still be called as a secular state? — The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.