Day 10, 10th June 1984.
The guns finally fall silent. Operation Bluestar is concluded.
The number of people who lost their lives will never be known. The Army cremated the dead before the bodies could be identified or claimed by their families. They piled the dead into garbage trucks and unceremoniously cremated them. Family members were not allowed by the army to claim the remains or perform any traditional funeral rites. It is clear that thousands lost their lives in the Temple complex.
The number of deaths was high. The Indian Government shockingly claims in their White Paper that only 439 Sikhs were killed. No other body agrees with this figure. The New York Times (June 11, 1984) put the figure at 1,000. Author Mark Tully’s book claims that 2,093 Sikhs were killed. Amritsar crematorium workers put the figure at 3,300. Author Chand Joshi writes that 5,000 Sikhs were killed. However, eyewitnesses put the figure at 8,000 Sikhs having been killed during the ten days of terror. Maj. Gen, (Retd). KS Brar reveals death toll as follows;
the death toll – total = 15307 out of which 43 officers, JCO’s 109, and other ranks as 332 were killed, the toll of wounded was 17897.
The operation was supposed to have happened during a complete media blackout so that no one would know what happened between the inner walls of the complex. However, as the fighting lasted over a week, word began to spread, which resulted in a huge outpouring of grief and anger from Sikhs across the world.
Soon after the massacre, the government disinformation campaign went into overdrive to create legitimacy for the action. False claims were propagated. The Times of India (June 10, 1984) put forward a particularly disgusting, twisted version of events. They headlined on the front page a Press Trust of India report, saying, “Terrorists made a desperate attempt to blow up the Akal Takhat, killed a number of men, women and children, and unsuccessfully tried to escape with huge amounts of cash, jewellery and other valuables after their leaders were killed in the action on June 5. The Akal Takhat was not damaged in the Army action.”
The Government of India censored and persecuted any journalist or human rights organisation who tried to report the truth, and thus when Citizens for Democracy published a report detailing the “Oppression in Punjab” in 1985, it was banned and confiscated the next day, the authors were arrested and charged with “sedition” (incitement of rebellion against a government). Brahma Challeney of the Associated Press (AP) of USA was the only foreign correspondent who managed to stay in Amritsar during the attack, and was one of the first to publish reports that Sikh pilgrims were executed after the attack. For his troubles he was arrested and also charged with sedition.
Telegraph London (June 15, 1984) published the following report from David Graves: “The Akal Takhat looks like it has been bombed. It looks like a building in Berlin after the War. Every building in the complex had been riddled with bullets and there was still a stench of death in the air.”
C.K.C Reddy, an Indian journalist, writes:
“Whole of Punjab and especially the Golden Temple Complex was turned into a murderous mouse trap from where people could neither escape nor could they seek succour of any kind. The way the dead bodies were disposed off adds to the suspicions regarding the number and nature of the casualties. The bodies of the victims of military operation in Punjab were unceremoniously destroyed without any attempt to identify them and hand them over to their relatives. The government, after the operation, on the other hand, did every thing in its power to cover up the excesses of the army action. The most disturbing thing about the entire operation was that a whole mass of men, women, and children were ordered to be killed merely on the suspicion that some terrorists were operating from the Golden Temple and other Gurdwaras.”
Similar accusations of high handedness on the part of the Indian Army and allegations of human rights violation by security forces in Operation Blue Star and subsequent military operations in Punjab has been levelled by Justice V.M. Tarkunde, Mary Anne Weaver, Ram Narayan Kumar, a noted human rights lawyer, Joyce Pettigrew, a Swedish Anthropologist and many others.
The Indian Army responded to such criticism by simply stating that they “answered the call of duty as disciplined, loyal and dedicated members of the Armed Forces of India … our loyalties are to the nation, the armed forces to which we belong, the uniforms we wear and to the troops we command”.
Many other journalists and writers point out that a “wearing out” approach and blockade tactics – often used by the authorities, always with success – could have been resorted to, and the tragedy could easily have been avoided.
More serious questions have surfaced since then, however … and they remain unanswered.
The involvement of the right-wing and fundamentalist Hindu element in the critical and crucial decision-making processes of the government suggests a concerted agenda to attack the very core of the Sikh community and to eradicate its separate identity and philosophy, thus causing an absorption of it back into the dark recesses of Hinduism -exactly the way Buddhism, Jainism, and to a certain extent, Zorastrianism, had already fared under Hindu hegemony. What role had the Indian State played, and continued to play, in these nefarious matters?
The soldiers of Indian army sent to invade Darbar Saheb had been brain washed and filled their minds with hate against Sikhs, every Sikh was an enemy for them. This is not only any hearsay but a fact which is revealed by army circular itself. A copy of said circular is posted below.
It was the only reason that army killed every Amritdhari Sikh where it found on roadside. this massacre continued in every part of Punjab for 5 days under code name of ‘Operation Woodrose’. 123 Gurudwaras in Punjab, 43 historical out of these 123 were attacked by army, the blood was flown in every gurudwara and disrespected the every shrine.
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
Valor of Sikh youths and the defeat of Indian army ;
The infantry division of Indian army had surrendered before the valiant Sikh youths. The fierce fight which was fought continuously for nearly 72 hrs. had stopped the advance of a mighty and best army in world which had earlier defeated Pakistan and captured its 93000 soldiers, was not able to fight with these handful Sikh youths.
The distance from Clock tower entrance to Sri Akal Takhat in complex of Darbar sahib is hardly 200 meters. The Army generals were sure to take over the Akal Takhat within half an hour but this largest army which had already covered up whole of Punjab, couldn’t cover this distance of merely 200 meters for 72 hrs, it marked a question on their valor. It had to face such a heavy resistance. The Indian army could never think of od such stiff resistance, it had not thought the handful Sikh youths who were not properly trained shall stop the mighty Indian army. The Generals of Indian army had forgot that the Sikhs have a charm to get martyrdom since their childhood and they feel proud to offer their heads to their Guru and getting martyred in battlefield. The Sikh youths were fighting those who had invaded with a malicious thought to destroy their holiest shrine, to protect the house of lord and to make it’s sanctity, these Sikh youths had one motto only —- to sacrifice for a good cause, and to get martyred, they practically proved in the battlefield the prophetic prononuncement of Guru Gobind Singh ji that “ “Chirian to main baaz tudaun, Gidran to main sher banun, Sawa lakh seek laraun, Tbhai Gobind Singh naam kahaun”, means “ only if I can make sparrows fight against hawks, make lions out of jackals, and make one person fight against 1.25 lakh (one hundred twenty five thousand) enemies—only then I deserve to be called Gobind Singh”. These Sikh youths sacrificed their lives to prove these words whereas the soldiers of Indian army were just obeying the orders of their queen Indira.
The Generals of Indian army had deliberately selected the martyrdom day of fifth Guru of Sikh religion to attack Darbar sahib while making strategy because on such day the Sikhs arrives in large numbers to Gurudwara along with their families. The Indian army could use their large gathering of congregation to achieve their mission of capturing Akal Takhat. It could deliver two benefits:-
First— by presence of large congregation the army could reach Akal Takhat easily in cover of these innocent Sikhs, if the army opened fire, the chances were of killing of innocent Sikhs from either side, the Sikhs may be from devotees or the followers of Sant Jarnail Singh ji. Indira Gandhi had also issued such orders that whether whole of Amritsar is destroyed but Bhindranwala must not be left alive. Thus, the Indian army had planned to proceed safely towards Sri Akal Tkhat in cover of innocent devotees and then to attack there like the soldiers proceed in battle fields in the cover of buffalows or other animals to save their lives.
The Generals of Indian army too made the same strategy that their soldiers shall capture Sri Akal Takhat within half an hour by getting safe cover of congregation of devotees there because these generals were sure that the Sikh youths shall never fire on their brothers, sisters or the children in congregation but the brave warriors inside the shrine had got Gurilla training from retired Maj. General Shubeg Singh who was expert in such wars. These brave Sikhs finished the first attack in minutes. All those soldiers who were sent inside at periphery of Darbar sahib were killed by indiscriminate firing.
The fierce fight to capture Akal Takhat was continued for nearly 72 hrs but when infantry division of Indian army failed to proceed a few meters, than Armored personal carrier vehicles was brought into service to ferry the soldiers safely to Akal Takhat but such an APC vehicle was blown off by a missile.
Ajmer Singh Randhawa.