“Operation Blue Star” in the Government’s view was a necessary military operation to flush out the terrorists and recover arms from the Golden Temple whereas “Ghallughara” is how the Sikhs of Punjab remember this episode.
Operation Blue Star” and “Ghallughara”. Two different terms for the same episode – the Army action on the Golden Temple in June 1984. Two different meanings given to the same unprecedented event.
The history leading to the massacre at the Golden Temple complex:
Gurbachan Singh , the head of Nirankaris, led a procession in Amritsar in 1977. Singh had declared that “If Guru Gobind Singh can make five beloved one’s, he will make seven stars”. The Nirankaris wanted to reform Hinduism. They were of the opinion that the Sikhs should shave off their beards, doff their turbans and doubtless shear their long hair, losing many of their ties to Guru Gobind Singh’s 5 Kakars, and assimilate into Hinduism.
So on the occasion of Vasakhi, the day that the Khalsa was born , also the same day of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre– Gurbachan Singh lead an armed mob of Nirankaris right through Amritsar, Jarnail Singh Bhindrenwale, a little known preacher at that time, would visit villages and preach to the youngsters to reaffirm the essential credos of their Gurus and return to Sikhi.
The Akhand Kirtani Jatha (an Akali group with a totally opposing viewpoint, to say the least), set out from the Akal Takht to stop Gurbachan Singh for his disgraceful procession, However, Gurbachan and his armed accomplices opened fire on the Akalis and, one by one, a total of 13 Akalis were killed. After this incident, Bhindranwale’s reputation as the next powerful Sikh leader, rose tremendously in the Sikh community and in Sikh political circles.
From 1977 until 1983, Bhindrenwale led his agitation against the Arya Samajis and other fanatic Hindu organisations who were working against the Sikhs. Although many Sikh leaders did not accept his views, young rural Sikhs, who had been disappointed with both the state and central government due to unemployment, poverty and other problems, supported Bhindranwale. Bhindranwale openly spoke against the government for not doing anything against Gurbachan Singh.
He united the individuals in Punjab to come together for the rights of the sikhs. The messages that Bhindranwale gave influenced the people very much.
Operation Bluestar commences:
In 1982, Bhindranwale and around 600 armed followers moved into a guest-house called the Akal Takht, in the precinct of Harmandir Sahib. It was a known fact that by 1983, that the Akal Takht had become a fort for a large number of separatists.
On 23 April 1983, the Punjab Police Deputy Inspector General AS Atwal was shot dead as he left the Harmandir Sahib compound. The following day, after the murder, it was hinted that Bhindranwale was involved in the murder. Bhindranwale was also accused of amassing weapons in the premise in order to start a major armed uprising. However, keeping weapons in Akal Takhat is well within the precincts of Sikhism.
According to the Indian government, Operation Blue Star was only launched to eliminate Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers who had sought refugee in the Amritsar Harmandir Sahib Complex. The armed Sikhs were led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and former Maj. Gen.Shabeg Singh, who was expelled from the Indian army for being a Khalistan sympathiser, while Lt. Gen. Kuldip Singh Brar had command of the action, operating under Gen. Sunderji.
On June 1, 1984:
The CRPF started firing at ‘Guru Ram Das Langar’ building. The Border Security Force and the CRPF, under orders of the Army, started firing upon the Complex, in which at least 8 people died.
On June 2, 1984:
The Indian Army had sealed the international border from Kashmir to Ganga Nagar, Rajasthan. As many as seven divisions of army were deployed in villages of Punjab. By the nightfall media and the press were removed from the area and the transport route in Punjab was suspended. Entry to Foreigners’ and NRIs’ was also banned . The water and electricity supply was also cut off by the army in order to flush out the insurgents from the temple premise.
On June 3, 1984:
A complete curfew was ordered by the army and para-military was patrolling the whole of Punjab. The army had sealed off all the routes of entry and exit around the temple complex
On June 4, 1984:
The army started bombarding the historic Ramgarhia Bungas and other fortified positions. The army achieved in destroying the outer defences laid by General Shabeg Singh. The army then placed tanks and Armoured Personnel Carrier’s (APC) on the road separating the Guru Nanak niwas building, thus forming a wall of iron. More than 100 people died in pitched battles from both sides.
Nearly fifty thousand Sikhs had gathered in the Golewal village about 25 km from Amritsar to fight the Indian army. Thirty thousand converged from the side of Batala in Gurdaspur district and about twenty thousand Sikhs gathered at Chauk Mehta, the headquarters of Damdami Taksal. Another formation of about twenty thousand were marching from the side of Harik Patan at confluence of the rivers Sutlej and Beas.
The army helicopters spotted the massive movements. General K Sunderji sent tanks and APCs. Hundreds/thousands of Sikhs were killed at this rendezvous. The artillery and small arms firing stopped for a while, and Gurcharan Singh Tohra, former head of SGPC was sent to negotiate with Bindrawale; however, he was unsuccessful and returned with empty hands. The firing was resumed again.
On June 5, 1984:
On June 5, 1984:The generals decided to launch a simultaneous attack from three sides. 10 Guards, 1 Para Commandos and Special Frontier Force (SFF) would attack from the main entrance of the Golden Temple complex, and 26 Madras and 9 Kumaon battalions from the hostel complex side entrance from the south.
The objective of the 10 Guards was to secure the northern wing of the Temple complex and draw attention away from SFF who were to secure the western wing of the complex and 1 Para Commandos who were to gain a foothold in Akal Takht, and in Harmandir Sahab with the help of divers. 26 Madras was tasked with securing the southern and the eastern complexes, and the 9 Kumaon regiment with SGPC building and Guru Ramdas Serai. 12 Bihar was charged with providing a cordon and fire support to the other regiments by neutralising enemy positions under their observance.
On June 6, 1984:
Due to shelling by Vijayanta tanks, the Akal Takhat was destroyed. People trying to escape were mowed down by machine gun fire. The resistance continued from the neighbouring structures of the Akal Takhat.
On June 7, 1984:
The Indian army gained effective control of the Harmandir Sahib complex.
On June 8, 1984:
The Army fought about four militant Sikhs holed up in basement of a tower. By the afternoon of 10 June, the entire operation was completed by the army and Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and former Maj. Gen.Shabeg Singh were killed.