Operation Bluestar Essay, Research Paper
Operation Blue star
The lives of thousands, the calm, the friendship and the peace were all taken away when an existing Government lost its power following the elections in India in. To what extent will one go to regain lost power? And how much is it worth? These are questions that one encounters when reading about the notorious Operation Blue star.
Set in India in 1977:
Indira Gandhi has lost power. After successfully ruling the government of this metropolitan country, her and her political party has just been ousted by the opposing Akali party. Tension and anxiety wash over the Indian people as the new government sets in; hostility in some, who favored the Indira Gandhi rule yet the results are in, the ballot, is cast. Can the Akali party fulfill their promises? Did the people of India vote the right party in?
It was a close vote, a near miss result. Here s where Sanjay Singh and Zail Singh (former president), step in. Sanjay, being the son of Indira Gandhi and a loyal follower of her political moves, is distraught over his mother s loss of power and Zail Singh wants his position back. As these two powerful men come together in their grief, a plan is made to decrease the popularity of the Akalis and promote Indira Gandhi and her party; who better to head this propaganda than Bhindranwale?
The seventh son of a poor peasant, Bhindranwale preached to the world about Sikhism. He promoted the tobacco free policy and encouraged Sikhs to grow out their hair and practice their way of life. He was the person who became victim to the cruelty of the Congress, who created him, let him loose, resulting to the Blue star Operation, a massacre in which the Sikhs and the army faced heavy casualities. It was the negligence and incompetence of the Congress, the ruling party, that led to the Bhindranwale getting so powerful. He needed a reason to come on the political forefront and the Nirankaris gave him the reasons.
Bhindranwale s first appearance in Amritsar focused on bringing down the Nirankari group. The Nirankari s were a group, who had their own ways and motions. They believed in the continued existence of Gurus and the Dasam Granth as part of the sacred scripture as opposed to the Khalsa, who believed in the Adi Granth to be their eternal Guru after the ten mortal Gurus and the Adi Granth as their only sacred scripture.
Sanjay Singh and Zail Singh, although denying their association with Bhindranwale, planned this appearance in such a way that Bhindranwale used his establishing popularity to draw him into the political scene and divert attention away from the Akali party, bringing it back to the congress.
This was the start of a plan to the top. The plan turned corrupt and politics got dirty people were killed and peace was taken, leading to Operation Blue star; an operation that was to promote Indira Gandhi but instead led to her assassination on the 31st of October, 1984.
Congress, namely Zail Singh and Sanjay Gandhi, after losing power in the 1977 elections, were scheming to bring the Akali party down. They were eager to come back into power. The Akali party consisted of three main spearheads: Prakash Singh Badal, successor of Zail Singh as Chief Minister, Harchand Singh Longowal, a religious teacher and Gurcharan Singh Tohra, head of the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee. So they decided to create a new figure to reduce the hold of the Akali party instead of trying to split the Akali party, realizing that the downfall of one of its members would bring about a stronger alliance between the other two.
There is a search for suitable candidates to achieve the task of bringing the Akali Party down and the suitability was found in Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. He was the youngest of seven sons, being born in 1947 in the village of Rodey in the district of Moga. Being the last of seven sons, his father was happy to send him to study at the Damdami Taksal Missionary school as he had six other sons to help him cultivate his land. His father was devoted to his religion, going regularly to the gurudwara. Baba Deep Singh founded the Taksal. Head in hand on way to temple. Bhindranwale tied a blue or saffron turban tied in tiers, wore a loose knee length shirt and breaches and kept a dagger and revolver. After joining the Taksal, he soon became a favorite of Kartar Singh, the leader of the Taksal. When Kartar Singh died, he asked Bhindranwale to lead the Taksal and not his son. Kartar Singh s son, Amrik Singh, became Bhinranwale s right hand man. He was also the president of the All India Sikh Students Federation. The headquarters of the Taksal is situated in the village of Chowk Mehta, about 25 miles from the Golden Temple. In order to promote Bhindranwale a new party was formed. It was enough for people to know that Bhindranwale was supporting a candidate in order to gain votes, that was the extent of influence Bhindranwale had gained.
There were three murders committed by Bhindranwale. The first was that of Baba Gurbachan Singh, Guru of the Nirankari sect, he was shot dead at his house in Delhi. When Bhindranwale s name came in the murder, he fled and took shelter at one of the Golden Temple s hostels. Zail Singh helped clear the Sant s name from the investigation.
The second murder was that of Lala Jagat Narain, the proprietor of the Punjab Kesari, an influential daily. After that the police issued a warrant for the arrest of Bhindranwale, it was announced on the government controlled radio that Bhindranwale was a wanted man. He fled from Chando Kalan in Haryana, where he was preaching. An Important thing to notice here is that even though it was announced on the radio, he was able to drive back, approximately 200 miles, to the security of his temple. He left in a hurry, leaving his religious discourses there. When the police arrived there and realized that he had escaped, they burned his discourses. He had a secretary who copied all of his words when he used to preach. This was what was burned down, resulting in hatred against his creators, Zail Singh and Indira Gandhi. Eventually, the Gurudwara at Chowk Mehta was seiged by the police and the paramilitary forces. He agreed to give himself up, but addressed the public and preached against the Punjab government, requesting the public to stay calm. His supporters opened fire resulting in the death of 11 people.
From this day onwards the violence had started eventually ending with the army marching into the Golden Temple. Sikh shootings against Hindus, derailing of trains, shootings in markets and hijacking of planes had started. Attempts to assassinate the Deputy Inspector-General also took place, fortunately in vain. The Sant was jailed in Ferozepur, he insisted to be guarded by Sikhs with flowing beards, even though he had no right as the constitution says men of all religion are to be recruited by the police and prison service.
It can be seen by the escape from Haryana, Zail Singh s word to clear him from the first murder and the flowing beard Sikh guards that the government was being incompetent and negligent, they were worrying about who will be in power rather than the consequences of their actions. Within a month, Zail Singh told the government that there was no evidence linking the Sant to the murder and thus he was released. The government released Bhindranwale, not a verdict of a court, after all the trouble they went through trying to arrest him.
In order to celebrate his release, he wandered around the capital, Delhi, with his followers, showing off illegal arms. Again, there was no action taken against him. Bhindranwale hated to even roll up the beard or the dyeing of the beard. So, he met Zail Singh at the memorial of Santokh Singh, a Bhindranwale man, he said, In a village anyone who has his face blackened and sandals hung around his neck and is made to sit backwards on a donkey is being punished because he has molested someone s sister or someone s mother. I am surprised to see here that people have blackened their own faces. I do not know whose sisters they have molested.
Now, even though the Sant hated the Congress, the Congress still thought that Bhindranwale would be useful to them. A new contender had entered the ring, the Akali Party wanted to have Bhindranwale on their side.
Now, Bhindranwale was going completely out of control. He went on publicity rides in Dehli and Bombay with illegal weapons in his possession, but no attempt was made to arrest him. He tried to start up a communal hatred between the Sikhs and the Hindus, trying to make them leave Punjab in fear. On 19th July 1982, Bhindranwale s right hand man, Amrik Singh was arrested. This made the Sant very angry. Before defying the government, he decided to take residence in the hostel complex again. He is not known for leaving the complex until his death.
The Akalis and the Sant set out on morchas (protests) together, the Akalis fighting for the implementation of the Anandpur Act and the Sant fighting for the release of Amrik Singh.
It took two more brutal killings for Indira Gandhi to act, one of the Deputy Inspector General A.S. Atwal while he walking towards the main gate. The other one was of a C.I.D. officer placed by Atwal to give them news about Bhindranwale s plans. Then came rumors of an Akali/ Congress coalition, but Bhindranwale used Tohra to meet Longowal convincing him to abandon the coalition, later just discarding him. Amrik Singh had now been released from jail, a mistake as it was claimed by the government. After disagreements, there was tension created between Longowal and Bhindranwale, making the Sant move to the Akal Takht. People stopped going to court, rather came to the Sant for justice. His influence was growing rapidly over Punjab. Even though the Guru Nanak Niwas, where Bhindranwale was taking shelter, was not part of the Temple, the police could have gone and arrested him but they did not on orders from the central government. They were giving the extremists (the Sant and his followers) chances to carry on and they did, inviting conditions leading to Operation Bluestar. The central government took rule over Punjab and tried to contro the crisis but Bhindranwale had his own plans. He went on killing Hindus and people who challenged his authority. Longowal was challenging Bhindranwale and so wanted a private band of men, thus calling the Babbar Khalsa. They ordered the Sant s men to get out. They had no place to go but the Akal Takht. Firing was frequent between these two opposing groups from the day the Sant s men moved to the Takht. Bhindranwale used to preach against India and the Hindus in the mornings from the roof of the langar, he was a sitting duck for marksmen who could have taken a shot at him but again the government failed to act. The message of hate was spreading through tapes circulated throughout Punjab. From then onwards, negotiations were tried but it was too late, and were basically futile. Major General Shahbeg Singh was a soldier who was going to direct the battle against the army. He was responsible for the fortification of the temple. The government knew that he was part of the Sant s team but the government did not ask any officers of his time about him. It would have helped them analyze the way he would defend the Temple.
Zail Singh had an idea that the army was to be sent to attack the Temple but he was never told exactly when by Indira Gandhi. He thought that the army would make the Sant surrender but did know of its intentions to march into the Temple. A curfew was placed in Amritsar. Indira Gandhi gave the thumbs up to the Operation on 2nd June 1984. The next day, the Martydom day of Guru Arjun Dev, the army surrounded the Temple.
General Brar made a visit to the golden temple in civilian clothes. 12 days before operation, about 24 innocent individuals lost their lives. The killing had started and the outcome of it was going to be horrific.
Not a single hand was raised when Brar offered his men a chance to back out of fighting. That made Brar proud. Major Brar told his troops that entering the Golden Temple had been the last resort and Bhindranwale was identified as the enemy, he had seized the temple. Every soldier was asked not to fire at the temple or the Akal Takht without direct orders. To minimize the damage they decided to separate the hostel complex from the temple complex so it would not be involved in the main battle.
On 4th June firing began at 4.40 am to find out about the weapons the extremists had and the positions they had taken to defend from. After firing stopped the President of S.G.P.C., Tohra went in to talk to Bhindranwale asking him to surrender as the odds were against him due to the large army and their sophisticated weaponry, but all his attempts were in vain.
At 4pm, 5th June, using the public address system, the devotees and others who wanted to leave the Temple were asked to come out. As many as 126 came out.
At around 7pm, the firing started, with the water tanks and the towers being the first targets.
The Akal Takht was not to be attacked with minimum force as shown in the White Paper on the Punjab agitation issued by the government. Bhindranwale s headquarters was based at the Akal Takht and the main gun positions were concentrated there. The rooftops, intermediate floors, and the Akal Takht were the most fortified areas. All of these points were interconnected with a communication system the enemy had established.
The army kept in contact in Delhi with K.P. Singh Deo, Deputy Defence Minister. He made 2 trips to Amritsar and Chandigarh before the start of the Operation. Arun Singh, one of Rajiv Gandhi s boys, due to his Punjabi background, helped the Deputy Defense Minister. 4 planes were requisitioned for these men at Haryana, Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
To minimize the damage they decided to separate the hostel complex from the temple complex so it would not be involved in the main battle. Bhindranwale was in the Akal takht, He had made it his main arsenal. The First task the army had to do was to destroy Major General Shahbeg s outer defences and the 17 houses that were in the alleys around the temple. The temple view hotel gave clear view of the entrance. Next the Brahmbuta Akhara, a large building housing the headquarters of a Sikh sect, were three towers to be attacked as they gave good view of the complex and since they were elevated it gave a good view of the army surrounding the temple to the extremists.
The army tried many ways of penetrating the terrorists but all efforts were in vain. The army was facing heavy casualities. A job that supposed was to take a few hours, was taking much more time and resources than expected. Bhindranwale did not come out of the Takht so the army had to use a tank to blast the Takht reducing it to rubble. The hostel complex was evacuated but heavy casualities were faced.
After all the army s alternative ideas were tried in vain, the army decided to attack heavy launch on Takht. Commandos ran down the clock tower on to the pavement but were shot down by Sikhs with light machine guns on the steps. As there was firing coming from the Temple, permission was requested to attack on the temple but denied. Some commandos made it to the Takht but it was heavily fortified. All the buildings around the shrines had been fortified. The courtyard in front of the Takht had become a killing ground. The defences of the Takht were too strong. The army was in fear of a massacre and so had to order the tanks in. Before the tanks went in, they tried to send an armored personal carrier into the Takht but it was destroyed by the Chinese made rocket propelled grenade launchers which the army did not expect the extremists to have. The tanks had search lights but they were ordered to be turned off once the army realized that the extremists possessed grenade launchers. The tanks fired on the Takht.
Tanks opened fire on the evening of 6th June. Once the tanks fired at the Takht, the firing from the Takht started to decrease. After the tank barrage ended, the Sant asked those who wanted to be shahid(martyrs) to stay and the others to go away. The Shahid group walked forward through the rubble in front of the Takht. They were greeted with gunfire. One priest claimed that Bhindranwale was shot in thigh when he ran out in front of the Takht. Another priest, Giani Puran Singh said that Amrik Shahbeg and Bhindranwale were found dead in the front of Takht. The battle was almost over. It took the army a couple hours more to clear the basement and the ground floor of the last few remaining extremists. The bodies of Bhindranwale, Amrik Singh and Shahbeg Singh were found along with 31 other bodies at the Takht. The General still had a walkie talkie clenched in his fists even after dying. On the ground floor of the Takht, a diary was found belonging to the All India Sikh Students Federation. It contained all the names of the people killed by them, letters to Bhindranwale. The army operations at the Moga, Muktsar, Faridkot, Patiala, Ropar and Chowk Mehta were over as well.
General Jagjit Singh Aurora said that as many as 80 shells could have been fired into the shrine. He had examined the shrine before it was repaired. There was hardly one pillar standing of the Takht. The gold dome had been damaged. The defenders must have feared the building coming down on them. Even though the Takht had been severely damaged there was still strong resistance. The army feared that the Sant had escaped. Brar said only one tank fired machine gun but damage depicts a different scenario. Other officers told Satish Jacob as many as 6 tanks were used. Along with this battle, another regiment was taking care of Longowal and his men. as the army was told by the government to prevent fighting between the two groups. Bhan singh, S.G.P.C. secretary, described it as people drinking the sweat to ridden their thirst. There was no electricity or water for more than thirty hours in that room. At one in the morning, the army broke into the Teja Singh Samundri hall. The army says, the men surrendered as opposed to the secretary who says they fought but were forced to give in. The Akali s were kept in office while the rest left, as they were leaving, they were hit by grenades. 70 dead bodies were found in the compound of women and children from the hall that were either shot by the army or the extremists. During the operation, the library which had the copies of the Granths, hand written by the Gurus, had caught on fire. It happened when a brigadier and his men were eating puris when a sniper fired, when they fired back the sniper was running in front of the library and it caught fire in the process.
Late on 6th June, the Army controlled both complex and the Takht and lifted curfew for 2 hours.
After that Brar sent his soldiers to tell extremists hiding to surrender since it was all over now.
Many groups of Sikhs marched towards Amritsar with old guns, swords and lathis but were stopped by the army. Tohra and Longowal entered the guru nanak niwas before the operation had commenced. After inquiries from Delhi, Brar sent men to the Niwas. He not only found them, but nearly 30 others in a room. Top sources from government revealed that on evening of 5th June, Longowal was asked by Bhindranwale to declare the birth of Khalistan, but Longowal disagreed. He said Pakistan and China would recognize on hearing from them. They were supposed to have a transmitter.
One of the copies of the sacred scripture, had over three hundred bullet marks, the marks are the result of the shooting that took place when the firing between the Nanak Niwas and the Takht along with other surrounding buildings took place. Even though the Generals deny that the Harimandir was fired upon, one officer admitted to shooting back at the temple when extremists were firing form the temple. The army face heavy casualties as the attack was on a fortified area.
After the death of Bhindranwale, the battle was over. Sniper firing continued till 8th June.
Srinagar sikhs protested and burnt down hindu shops and temple and arya samaj institution. Sharp reaction from canada anad uk.
On 21st June 10000 devotees were allowed to go to their sacred Temple, they were shocked by the damage. The Harimandir was intact but the Akal Takht was gravely damaged.
The White Paper on the Punjab Agitation said that 41 light machine guns, 57 sten guns, 377 rifles, 83 7.62mm self loading rifles, 88 12 bore guns, 52 7.61 mm chinese rifles, 71 assorted rifles, 61 12 bore and 2 anti tank weapons, 128 2 inch mines and large quantities of ammunition and explosives were found at the Takht. Some officials included Kirpans to the weaponry found but they were excluded after Zail Singh said that it was not illegal to carry Kirpans. A terrorist took a shot at Zail Singh, fortunately missing him and hitting a colonel, but it does signify the extremist s anger against him. Zail Singh was harsh to the Governor Pandey, he was shocked at the amount of weapons found at the Golden Temple. He was in tears as he saw the dead bodies floating in the tank around the Harimandir, the blood on the marble, the rubbles of the remaining Takht and the burned ashes of the scriptures that were in the library.
As a result of Operation Bluestar, riots broke out all over. The police was loose, trying to find and get rid of as many terrorists as possible. There was discrimination against the Sikhs, as very few Hindu s were tortured or even interrogated. Innocent Sikhs were beaten to death and thrown around. The state was in chaos blaming the government for attacking it s holiest shrine. The considered it as an act of violence against them. There were asking themselves if they were even being considered as Indians.
Indira Gandhi was assassinated on the 31st of October, 1984. She was wearing a saffron sari, not knowing that she was wearing the color of Sikh Martyrdom. She was gunned down by her two Sikh guards, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, who were taking revenge as they blamed her for the massacre of Operation Bluestar. Anti-Sikh riots had broken in the capital. It was a mayhem in which Sikhs were killed, slaughtered, burned and looted. They were rumors spreading like fire about how the Sikhs were rejoicing at the assassination of the Prime Minister. The government admits that 2,717 Sikhs were killed in the riots, about 2150 dying in Delhi. Many Sikhs fled back to their homeland, Punjab, some taking refuge at special camps organized by the government and other agencies. The riots stopped in Delhi after Rajiv Gandhi, the new prime minister, visited some affected areas, realizing the gravity of the situation, asking the army to step in and take drastic measures to control the violence.
Operation Bluestar was the result of the incompetence and negligence of the Congress. They had many opportunities to stop Bhindranwale by arresting him, but for selfish reasons, such as maintaining power, they did not preform their duties causing the horrific massacre at Amritsar. They created him, used him, were not able to control him, eventually destroying him and the faith of the Sikh community. I think that the Army attack on the Temple was wrong and the situation should have never reached to that point. I agree with Khushwant Singh and Lieutenant Jasjit Singh Aurora who both question the decisions the ruling party took at that time. They say that the government knew of the smuggling of the weapons into the temple, but ignored it. They did not act when Bhindranwale would go on protests across the capital, Delhi, with his men brandishing illegal arms in open jeeps.