Giani Puran Singh’s Eyewitness Account Of Operation Bluestar
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh !!
Today, Giani Sant Singh Maskeen has invited me to tell the story of 1984. On 5th June at 7.30 I went to Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji. There I saw, (had darshan of), Baba Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale. At that time bullets were flying about. After meeting Sant Ji, I went to Sri Darbar Sahib and carried the duty of Sodar Rehraas Sahib, which was supposed to be done by Giani Mohan Singh.
When I came out from Sri Akal Takht bullets were flying like mad. There were Singhs sitting at the front of Sri Akal Takht Sahib and I sat there with them. I said to them “Pyaare Gurmukho, please make sure Giani Mohan Singh does the duty of reading Sodar Rehras Sahib” and so they also made sure Sodar Rehras Sahib would be read from Sri Akal Takht Sahib.
Normally at Sri Darbar Sahib Sodar Rehras Sahib starts 5 minutes earlier than Sodar Rehras Sahib read at Sri Akal Takht Sahib. I wanted to make sure Giani Mohan Singh was okay, seeing that bullets were flying around. I ran to Sri Darbar Sahib like I never ran in my whole life. A bullet missed me and hit Darshani Deori (entrance).
I waited by the Darshani Deori, and took a breath for two minutes. Then I ran towards Sri Darbar Sahib. A bullet hit Sri Darbar Sahib. I managed to organise Sodar Rehras Sahib da Paath. Giani Mohan Singh was in Darbar Sahib at the time. There were 22 Singhs inside Sri Darbar Sahib. As soon as the end verses of Sodar Rehras were being read, bullets began to be fired at Sri Darbar Sahib. We obviously couldn’t take Guru Maharaj’s sawaari to Sri Akal Takhat Sahib for rest as usual. However, we did Sukhaasan of Guru Ji and took Guru Ji to the top floor of Sri Darbar Sahib. As soon as we did this (10pm) tanks came straight inside Sri Harmandar Sahib.
From the top of Sri Darbar Sahib we could see the whole city in flames. We were thinking of taking water out of the Sarovar (pool of nectar surrounding Sri Darbar Sahib) to put out the burning flames. Four tanks now came inside Sri Harmandar Sahib and they were setting fire to all the rooms in Parkarma (surrounding area of Sri Darbar Sahib). We could hear women crying, children looking for their mothers. The war was over, the army began to walk past Darshani Deori (the entrance gate to the bridge leading to Sri Darbar Sahib).
There were to my recollection 40-50 Singhs getting ready to fight the army. They were so brave that they carried on until they became Shaheed (martyred). Even when the ammunition finished they carried on.
They were fighting from 10pm till 4.30am, throughout which we stayed on the upper floor of Sri Darbar Sahib. We got Maharaj’s Saroop from upstairs at 4.30 and brought him downstairs. A Hukamnama (Sacred Edict) was taken then the Raagis (musicians) sang Aasa Ki Vaar. The Raagis weren’t with us all night. As soon as they finished their duty they left. All the Raagis were shot down and made shaheeds (martyrs) outside Darshan Deori, except for Raagi Bhai Amrik Singh Ji. In Sri Darbar Sahib Raagi Bhai Randhir Singh’s jatha was performing Aasa Ki Vaar. Bhai Avtar Singh, a member of his Jatha, was shot inside Sri Darbar Sahib by the army. The army was now firing from all four doors. As a result Guru Ji’s saroop was hit with a bullet. The bullet mark is still present in Maharaj’s Saroop. So we got the Saroop of Guru Ji that Maharaja Ranjit Singh donated, which is kept on the top floor and did Parkaash.
At 4pm the army were throwing gas grenades at Sri Akal Takht Sahib. They thought Singhs were still in Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, despite the bombings. Even after the bombings the Singhs were still firing, as a result gas grenades were now being used. They destroyed the whole place! At 4.30pm the officer said if they saw any survivors, they were ordered to kill them on the spot, be it a child, elderly man or elderly women. Whoever was seen was to be shot.
So the 22 singhs with us decided to get out of Sri Darbar Sahib. Giani Mohan Singh gave the message to the Singhs and said that if the army wanted the Singhs inside Sri Darbar Sahib, then they would have to send their men inside.
Three times this message was given to the army but the army said through the speakers that we should get out of Sri Darbar Sahib with our hands up. Giani Mohan Singh and I both thought if we were to get out of Sri Darbar Sahib with our hands up, we will be probably shot. We both felt that we would rather be martyred inside Sri Darbar Sahib. So we didn’t get out. We stayed inside from 4.30pm till 7.30pm. At 7.30pm two soldiers come to get us and one sewadar was also sent with them. We went towards the army. The officer said to his troops (via speakers) that no one must shoot at the Gianis. We got out of Darshan Deori and saw Sri Akal Takht Sahib. It was more or less a pile of bricks.
Some soldiers said to us “Sat Sri Akaal”. The soldiers said: “We are Sikh, is there anything we can do for you?” We replied :”Get us out of here. We need to go to the toilet and we want some water. Why not send two Singhs to get the water?” The officer said: “No”. He said we couldn’t go out of Sri Darbar sahib. So we said at least let us go to the toilet, to which they agreed. On returning they demanded to know where Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhinderanwale was. We had no idea what they were on talking about. At this point “Bhinderanwale Zindabad” (Long live Bhindranwale) could be heard.
We said we were both inside Sri Darbar sahib, so we have no idea where he was. “You should know, you either killed them or released them,” I said. They said “We saw machine guns at the top of Sri Darbar Sahib.”.So I said, “No Singh fighter came into Sri Darbar Sahib nor did one bullet fly out from Sri Darbar Sahib”. They didn’t believe us. So anyway, I said to the officer that if there was a machine gun on the top some sandbags would be surrounding it as well. Eventually the officer said no bullet came out from inside Sri Darbar Sahib.
There were many Singhs who were killed and martyred lying all around us, so an officer got some white sheets from Sri Darbar Sahib and put them over the Shaheed (martyred) Singhs. They let us out on 7th June at 7.30pm. The army said “Bhindranwale, Bhai Amrik Singh and General Subegh Singh’s bodies have been confirmed.” I asked where they found Baba Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale’s body. The ‘Sikh’ officer replied that Baba Jarnail Singh Ji’s body was found between the two Nishaan Sahibs outside Sri Akal Takht Sahib and that bodies of two other Singhs who were with Bhindranwale were found behind the Niishaan Sahib. However, they soon replied that they saw his body elsewhere. But they never showed us his body.
They didn’t show the body to anyone else. So Giani Mohan Singh and I went to our homes at 7.30pm. That is when they got Giani Sahib Singh involved. The army said the same thing about Baba Ji’s body being found to Giani Ji. Now, if they really did have Sant Ji’s body they would have shown it to us definitely.
They showed the weapons Sant Ji had and they showed us other Singhs that were killed. But they never showed Sant ji’s body. Many thousands of pilgrims were killed, but we saw just as many soldiers lying dead. It wasn’t a few soldiers rather in their hundreds. They could have taken Sant Jarnail Singh’s body to Delhi, but even they said that they never received any body.
On 7th June when we came back, Giani Sahib Singh (the Head Granthi Singh of Sri Darbar Sahib at that time) was with the army. The four Singhs had dug up a trench under the Ramgarhia bunga. Three amry troops went in, and they were pulled by the Singhs into the trench.
The soldiers told them to get out. The Singhs wanted a negotiator before anything would happen. So they called me to negotiate with them or otherwise they wouldn’t get out. I said if I was to negotiate, then don’t shoot the Singhs. To this they agreed. But the officer said we wont kill them here. I knew they would shoot them elsewhere and that if the Singhs were fired at while I was there, I would held prisoner by the Singhs. So the officer told me to find out if the three troops sent in were alive, especially the doctor with them and then he said “We’ll forgive them.”
I began to speak to them via speakers. The Singhs said that they were willing to do what I told them to do. I asked if the military troops were alive. The Singhs said no military person was alive in their trench. The officer requested me to leave and the Singhs would be flushed out. They fought all day, all night. However, the army just couldn’t flush them out. Even when Giani Zail Singh (the President of India at the time) came to Sri Darbar Sahib, they were still fighting.
Giani Zail Singh was shot when crossing the firing line of the Singhs, however if the Singhs stopped firing then they would be martyred. But they didn’t know of anyone visiting Sri Darbar Sahib. It was turning dark. A colonel had a gun with him. His commander gave him the blessing to do the following which I witnessed myself. The colonel fitted some battery to the gun and began to fire at the Singhs. So the Singhs were apparently killed but we didn’t know if the colonel was alive or not. However, nothing happened to the Singhs, as they carried on firing. The army began to throw grenades. But an officer told me that they were not doing much, considering the Singhs were still firing. Then the army began to fire tear gas as obviously this would react with their eyes. One Singh got out the trench, as he was in agony, and was shot down by the army. And then the other Singhs went out to search for water and they were also shot down by the army.
This is the first time I have talked about my experiences with the Sangat.
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh !!
Ajmer Singh Randhawa.