Operation Bluestar – 10 days. June 1984-timeline.
The Indian Army. as already explained, had laid complete siege of the Golden Temple Complex on 3rd June. Army’s Main Battle Tanks Vijayanta (MBT) fitted with the biggest and heavies) guns of 105 mm. heavy field artillery and Armed personnel Carriers had been positioned all around and inside the Complex as though the Army had to fight a war with the Army of an enemy coun- try. The Sikh defenders of the Golden Temple and Akal Takht. at best, were armed with ordinary weapons like Light Machine Guns, Rifles and Carbines. They had however high morale and were motivated and committed to die for their mission.
On the morning of 4th June the Indian Army bombarded the historic Ramgarhia Bungas, the eighteenth century brick-laid towers, located near Guru Ram Das Langar and water tank. located behind the Guru Nanak Niwas. Other adjoining houses and buildings situated around the Complex were also bombarded heavily. Heavy artillery, which is used only in the open field.battle, was arrayed against the defenders of the Golden Temple Complex and deadly 25 pounder shells were fired at them. As a result the buildings around the Golden Temple Complex were reduced to rubbles, the Bungas and the water tank were blasted along with their occupants and their bodies were flung off in pieces all around. Bombardment by the Indian Army was so severe, so cruel, and so savage that not a single defender and other innocent Sikh occupants of the buildings survived. The casualties of innocent Sikh pilgrims who had been trapped there were enormous.
I saw these buildings about two weeks after the terrific bombardment which were razed to the ground. I was shocked to see the extant of cruelty and brutality committed by the Indian Army on their own people. Perhaps the Army had treated the innocent Sikh victims as their enemies. And for that matter it is also doubted if the Indian government had treated those victims as their own citizens.
The Army led by Ranjit Singh Dyal positioned the Vijayant Tanks and the Armed Personal Carriers (APC) ‘on the road separating the Guru Nanak Niwas, Teja Singh Samundari Hall. Akal Rest House, and other buildings adjoining them. in such a formation that the Golden Temple Complex was totally separated and cut off from the former. The Tanks and APCs virtually formed an iron wall between these two Complexes so that the Army could concentrate their monstrous attack on both the Complexes with full force.
When a word of total siege of Golden Temple reached the villages, thousands of Sikhs armed with their traditional weapons like swords and spears and 12 bore guns, gathered in the nearby villages in order to march towards the Golden Temple with determination to liberate their sacred shrines from the diabolical hands of the Indian Army. Nearly fifty thousand Sikhs gathered in Golewal village about 25 kms from Amritsar and thirty thousand Sikhs converged from the side of Batala in Gurdaspur district. Besides twenty thousand Sikhs gathered near Chauk Mehta, the head quarters of Sant Bhindranwale. Other formations of twenty to thirty thousand Sikhs were marching from the side of Harike Pattan. a bridge built on the confluence of rivers Sutlej and Beas. The Army Helicopters spotted the massive movements of the Sikhs converging on Amritsar to free the Golden Temple from the siege laid by the Indian Army. The military officers on board of these helicopters sent wireless messages to the temporary headquarters of Lt. General K. Sunderji. He sent Battle Tanks, APCs and artillery to all directions where the Sikhs had gathered and wherefrom they were marching towards Amritsar with a clear order to check their advance by force. The Army killed hundreds of these Sikhs with canon fire and dispersed them and only then their advance was checked.
Interestingly, when Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his companions were bravely and courageously defending the Golden Temple and Akal Takht and lakhs of Sikhs from the villages were converging on Amritsar to free their sacred shrines, Gurcharn Singh Tohra emerged from his hideout and went to Sant Bhindranwale in the Akal Takht to persuade the gallant defender of the faith of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh to surrender before the Army. It could not be supposed that Tohra went to the Sant voluntarily. Perhaps he was negotiating the surrender of the Sant on behalf of the Central Government. That is why the Army, which had besieged the Complex, had not opened fire till he returned from the Akal Takht to his office.
When Tohra argued with Sant Bhindranwale that he could not match the tanks and heavy field guns he snubbed and reprimanded Tohra and dismissed his suggestion with contempt blaming him as an agent of the Indian government. Had Tohra wanted to fulfil his pledge to defend the Golden Temple, he would have sided with Sant Bhindranwale and remained with him in the Akal Takht to fight the Army. But he preferred to surrender.
Worse than Tohra’s role was that of Harchand Singh Longowal, the traitor, who kept himself hidden in the office of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee till he was safely rescued by the Army on the intervening night of 5th & 6th June.
The savage onslaught of the Indian Army launched on 4th June was bravely and successfully repulsed by Sant Bhindranwale and his followers and the battle again ended in a stalemate. Well equipped Indian Army, the generals and the Indian government were stunned to see the extraordinary courage of a few motivated and committed Sikhs defending their sacred shrine. The Army Generals had to change the strategy several times to win the battle at any cost irrespective of loss of life to be suffered by hundreds of innocent Sikh trapped in the Complex.
Ajmer Singh Randhawa