Operation Blue Star

A Tragedy for the Sikh Population in India

The Golden Temple as it goes up in flames at the end of Operation Blue Star.

What was Operation Blue Star?

Operation Blue Star was a government plot to force several dozen Sikh radicals, who believed they weren't recognized in a Hindu- and Muslim-majority India, to abandon a religious monument they had taken over and give up many pilgrim hostages. Ordered by Indira Gandhi, this attack is still a sore spot for many Sikhs still living in India; many in this minority consider it showing that the Indian government doesn't really value religious equality. In actuality, the Indian government was being pressured by other Sikhs, who wanted the militants out of Akal Takht, or the Golden Temple - a huge Sikh monument. In order to show that they were on the people's side, Indira had to order a huge mass of Indian soldiers to force the leaders of this situation out. Although the intentions of this mission were pure, it ended in 500 civilian deaths and Sikh hostility towards many Hindus. For many Sikhs, this is an example of religious aggression from Hindus, even though it was actually only a poorly managed and controlled rescue mission.

Lieutenant-General Kuldip Singh Brar

Gen. Brar was the leader of Operation Blue Star, and still pays for what many consider "his attack on Sikhism", the only reason being his faith: Sikh. When asked whether he was torn about fighting against people of his religion, and for the Indian government, he responded by telling the interviewer that, "You are convinced you are not acting against any religion but against a section of misguided people who have held the country to ransom, who are ready to fragment this country." He knew the toll this could take on other soldiers of the same faith, so he asked everyone going in that they could leave at any moment without shame or punishment. If anything, this unified the troops toward this common goal.

Twenty-eight years later, he is still getting targeted by radical Sikhs. While in London with his wife, a group of young men went after him with a knife, cutting up parts of his face and neck. He managed to stay alive, although Brar definitely looks over his shoulder a little more.

Did you know...

Operation Blue Star is also known as Gallughara to many Sikhs. It represents the aggression of the attack and the brutality of, what seems to be to them, religious persecution. It really shows the Sikh's perspective of this event: overkill, versus the Indian government's: a necessary mission.


Dozens of Sikh passerby stare at the wreckage of what used to be Akal Takht.

Did you know...

The first person to enter Akal Takht was actually a Sikh. When General Brar asked if anyone couldn't go through with the operation, Second Lieutenant Jasbir Singh Raina raised his hand, and asked if he could go into the temple first. He said that he would like to be the first to kill the people who had taken over his holy monument. Unfortunately, because Raina was the first to enter, he was also the most heavily shot at, and both of his legs were seriously injured. He later received the Indian military's equivalent of a Purple Heart.

What actually happened?

In order to achieve getting all of the Sikh militants rounded up and out of Akal Takht, the government had a very detailed plan. May 25th, 100,00 Indian troops were sent out onto the Punjab streets, surrounding the Sikh government building, including long-distance snipers and groups on foot. A few days later, hundreds of Sikhs gathered in the courtyard to celebrate the anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev, along with the leader of this extremist gathering. When police see him from a distance, they shoot to kill and miss. Sikh militants fire back, leading to a seven-hour shooting and 36 people injured or killed. The next day, all of Punjab is under lock-down with curfews, no telephone communication allowed, and journalists banned from entering the city, leaving 10,000 Sikh pilgrims trapped inside the Golden Temple. Battles continue onto the next day, where over 100 soldiers and Sikhs are killed when the troops start firing at the main building of Akal Takht.

On June 5th, the bloodbath begins. Soldiers start by using weaponry to explode the tops of buildings all around the temple and let them burn, but are told not to shoot with their guns. Tanks moved in front of the building as small bands of fighters unsuccessfully attempt to get into Akal Takht. After repeated efforts to storm the Golden Temple fail, and many people get shot down, the Indian army ends the day. All the while, Sikh militants continually move around the building, setting up more snipers, and checking the enforced doors and bricked-up windows. That night at midnight, six tanks bulldoze their way into Akal Takht and are ordered to fire. The result: over 80 bullets pumped out of 105 millimeter cannons, leading to the entire front room being ruined, and fires starting in many of the central rooms, ruining artifacts and pieces of architecture dating back to as early as 1799. The dome at the top of the building, which the Golden Temple its name, was also wrecked due to heavy artillery fire from the building across the street. The next day they found the bodies of the leader and his closest fanatics, and spent the rest of the day rounding up the 250 survivors. Bodies were cremated before families could identify the victims and looted many of the sacred libraries and storage facilities. In conclusion, Operation Blue Star began and ended as a bloodbath.

Bibliography

Websites:

Operation Bluestar. Midwest Sikh Association. April 24, 2013. <http://kcmsa.org/OB.pdf>


Operation Bluestar: The Untold Story. Khalsa Press/Panthic Network. April 28, 2013. <http://www.panthic.org/articles/3332>


Jonathan Kay: Three decades after Operation Bluestar, Deadly Sikh Radicalism Still Stalks Western Streets. Jonathan Kay. Postmedia Network, Inc. April 22, 2013. <http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/10/19/jonathan-kay-three-decades-after-operation-bluestar-deadly-sikh-radicalism-still-stalks-western-streets/>


Pictures:

http://www.sikhmuseum.com/bluestar/photographs/#tn3=0/slide0 (Picture #1)


http://www.neverforget84.com/history/operation-bluestar (Picture #2)