Day 9, 9th June 1984.
Following the execution of surviving pilgrims within the Golden Temple complex, the rest that survived are rounded up, detained by the Army and charged as terrorists:
“379 of the alleged ‘most dangerous terrorists’ were forced to sign a common confessional statement and thereafter served a common charge sheet that they were all Bhindranwale’s closest associates and comrades-in-arms engaged in ‘waging war against the State’.”
“The evidence collected established beyond doubt that none of the Jodhpur detainees we succeeded in profiling are ‘terrorists’ but rather all of them are completely innocent, ordinary persons, whose only crime was that they had all gone to or were coming from the Golden Temple as devotees or pilgrims visiting the Golden Temple for the Gurpurab on June 3, 1984 or farmers gone to the Temple to deliver village donations of grain to the S.G.P.C. or students gone to pay obeisance at their holiest religious shrine, the Harmandir Sahib.”
Source; Citizens for Democracy; Report to the Nation: Oppression in Punjab (Bombay, 1985).
These detainees were detained for up to 5 years, before in the face of worldwide condemnation and protest they were finally released. The government orders the shooting of unarmed protesters in New Delhi, Sri Nagar (Kashmir) and Punjab.
They are an amazing example of dedication and solidarity shown by Sikh soldiers in the Indian Army during the horrendous attack on the Golden Temple complex.
Every Sikh soldier swears an oath that he would not let any harm come to Sri Guru Granth Sahib first, before swearing an oath that he would not let any harm come to India.
Among the tragic outcome of the Blue Star attack, was the reaction and revolt of Sikh troops. Although there was a media blackout in Punjab, rumors of the assault on the Darbar Sahib managed to leak out and over 5000 Sikh soldiers spontaneously deserted their regiments in a bid to get to Amritsar. These soldiers are affectionately called Dharmi Faujis, which loosely translated means Soldiers of Faith. Had there not been a media blackout and false government propaganda, the scale of rebellion would have been even larger.
The Government initially did not publicly admit the revolt, and even later referred to the troops as having deserted rather mutinying (abandoning ones post as opposed to a mutiny or rebellion).
- It is interesting to note that prior to the attack the Sikh Regimental Centre was purposefully shifted outside of Punjab to Uttar Pradesh. This clearly shows the intentions of the Government and their view of Sikhs. Military analysts have commented that although the Sikhs that defended the Golden Temple complex kept the army at bay for over a week, had the Sikh Regiment been stationed in Punjab, the outcome of the battle could have been very different. The Indian Government was well prepared and the Army had already been deployed to check the advances of the rebel Sikh troops who were travelling thousands of miles from 9 different States towards their ancestral homeland.
Although desperately outnumbered, the Sikh soldiers faced the Indian Army and fought gun battles in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat in which hundreds of Sikhs were killed by the military.
Those that survived or were captured, were dishonourably discharged from the army, stripped of all their privileges and pensions, and imprisoned for between 5-10 years. After leaving prison many had to work as manual labourers to support their families, whereas if they had still been in the army they would have enjoyed high ranking positions and state pensions.
Nonetheless, they are proud men and do not regret their decisions. The courage and dedication shown by the rebel Sikh troops is awe inspiring, facing impossible odds, they did not hesitate to stake everything in an attempt to protect their faith and nation.
“No prayers stir the silence under golden dome of the Golden Temple. There are no priests left to intone them. They are all dead or missing. The musical instruments, which at all times drummed out the tones and rhythms of worship are quiet for the first time in centuries. There are no visitors, only soldiers. The Sikhs Holy Bible is closed, covered by a blue cloth. There is no one to read its scriptures. It is like the Vatican without a Pope. At the other end of the causeway that links the Temple to the Akhal Takhat, the second most sacred shrine in Sikhdom, the quiet is more permanent.”Ross Benson of the Daily Express, London, June 19 1984.
Operation Bluestar enjoyed SHIROMANI AKALI DAL patronage post-1997.
Those who strongly supported and worked for the Union government during Operation Bluestar in 1984 were later rewarded or “honourably adjusted” when SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal became the chief minister of Punjab post-terrorism days in late 1990s. This despite the fact that SAD has strongly denied allegations by former CM Captain Amarinder Singh that Akali leaders were in cahoots with the Indira Gandhi-led regime during the military action on the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar.
The policy of giving prime postings to officers and rewarding political leaders who were accused by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), SAD and Sikh groups for helping the Centre in Operation Bluestar, continued during the tenures of Badal as CM since 1997 while Akalis continued to claim to champion the cause of Sikh community.
History books and even SGPC’s own whitepaper recorded that Ramesh Inder Singh, an IAS officer of 1974 batch of West Bengal cadre on deputation to Punjab in 1984, was brought in as Amritsar deputy commissioner (DC) just before the launch of the Army action on the Golden Temple complex after his predecessor Gurdev Singh Brar was made to proceed on leave when he reportedly refused to sign on the dotted line for the military action. Ramesh Inder emerged as one of the trusted bureaucrats during Badal’s three tenures as CM after 1984. Following Operation Bluestar, the Union government confirmed his absorption in Punjab cadre. Ramesh Inder was appointed Badal’s principal secretary when he came into power in 1997 and then became the chief secretary when the SAD patriarch returned to power in 2007. After retirement, he was appointed the chief information commissioner (CIC) of Punjab.
Amarjeet Kaur, a Congress Rajya Sabha member during Operation Bluestar, who also happens to be Captain Amarinder’s relative, was one of the most vocal leaders from Punjab to support the military action. She not only spoke in the Parliament to support it but also wrote a detailed article “Akali Dal the Enemy Within” in 1984. She had termed former SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra a Communist, apart from objecting to Akal Takht edict on Nirankaris. However, in 1990s she was “rewarded” with a ticket by Badal-led SAD, which had to be taken back after fierce opposition from Sikh groups and she appeared before Akal Takht for atonement.
Family of Badal’s son-in-law Adesh Partap Singh Kairon remained loyal to the Congress during and after the Operation Bluestar. Adesh Partap’s father Surinder Singh Kairon, son of former Punjab CM Partap Singh Kairon, became an MP in 1991 on Congress ticket. However, Adesh Partap was elected an MLA in 1997 representing SAD and was even made cabinet minister.
Several other Congress leaders like former Ludhiana MP Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, former Rajasthan governor and Jalandhar MP Darbara Singh, former Hoshiarpur MP Kamal Chaudhary and former Jalandhar MP Balbir Singh, who remained with the party and never opposed the Army action during Operation Bluestar or raised their voice against 1984 anti-Sikh riots, were welcomed into SAD with open arms and made party candidates or adjusted at other positions.
The Government Targeted Amritdhari Sikhs
The following quote is from an Indian Army circular which was distributed in June 1984. This excerpt from the official document exposes that in fact all practicing Sikhs were considered terrorists and were targeted by the government:
- “Some of our innocent countrymen were administered an oath in the name of religion to support extremists and actively participated in the act of terrorism. These people wear a miniature kirpan round their neck and are called “Amritdharis”. They have to be subdued to achieve the final aim of restoring peace in the country. Any knowledge of the “Amritdharis” who are dangerous people and pledged to commit murder, arson and acts of terrorism should be immediately brought to the notice of the authorities. These people may appear harmless from outside but they are basically committed to terrorism
Ajmer Singh Randhawa