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Operation Blue Star

Operation Blue Star

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Operation Blue Star 3– 6 June 1984 was an India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n military operation, ordered by Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhara was an Indian politician who served as the third Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms and a fourth term . She was assassinated by Sikh extremists...

, then Prime Minister of India
Prime Minister of India
The Prime Minister of India , as addressed to in the Constitution of India — Prime Minister for the Union, is the chief of government, head of the Council of Ministers and the leader of the majority party in parliament...

, to remove Sikh
Sikh
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism. It primarily originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. The term "Sikh" has its origin in Sanskrit term शिष्य , meaning "disciple, student" or शिक्ष , meaning "instruction"...

 separatists
Khalistan movement
Khalistan refers to a global political secessionist movement to create a separate Sikh state, called Khālistān , carved out of parts mostly consisting of the Punjab region of India, depending on definition....

 from the Golden Temple
Harmandir Sahib
The Harmandir Sahib also Darbar Sahib , also referred to as the Golden Temple, is a prominent Sikh gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab . Construction of the gurdwara was begun by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, and completed by his successor, Guru Arjan Dev...

 in Amritsar
Amritsar
Amritsar is a city in the northern part of India and is the administrative headquarters of Amritsar district in the state of Punjab, India. The 2001 Indian census reported the population of the city to be over 1,500,000, with that of the entire district numbering 3,695,077...

. The Sikh
Sikh
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism. It primarily originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. The term "Sikh" has its origin in Sanskrit term शिष्य , meaning "disciple, student" or शिक्ष , meaning "instruction"...

 separatists
Khalistan movement
Khalistan refers to a global political secessionist movement to create a separate Sikh state, called Khālistān , carved out of parts mostly consisting of the Punjab region of India, depending on definition....

, led by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, were accused of amassing weapons in the Sikh temple.

The operation was carried out by Indian army
Indian Army
The Indian Army is the land based branch and the largest component of the Indian Armed Forces. With about 1,100,000 soldiers in active service and about 1,150,000 reserve troops, the Indian Army is the world's largest standing volunteer army...

 troops with tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s and armoured vehicles. Militarily successful, the operation aroused immense controversy, and the government's justification for the timing and style of the attack are highly debated. Operation Blue Star was included in the Top 10 Political Disgraces by India Today
India Today
India Today is an Indian weekly news magazine published by Living Media India Limited, in publication since 1975 based in Mumbai. India Today is also the name of its sister-publication in Hindi...

 magazine.

Official reports put the number of deaths among the Indian army at 83 and the number of civilian deaths at 492, though some independent estimates run as high as 1500. In addition, the CBI
Central Bureau of Investigation
The Central Bureau of Investigation is a government agency of India that serves as a criminal investigation body, national security agency and intelligence agency. It was established on 1 April 1963 and evolved from the Special Police Establishment founded in 1941...

 is considered responsible for seizing historical artifacts and manuscripts in the Sikh Reference Library
Sikh Reference Library
The Sikh Reference Library was a repository of over 1,500 rare manuscripts located in the Golden Temple at Amritsar, Punjab which was destroyed during Operation Blue Star. In 1984, the library's contents were confiscated by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the empty building allegedly burned...

 before burning it down.

The military action led to an uproar amongst Sikhs worldwide and the increased tension following the action led to assaults on members of the Sikh community within India. Some Sikh soldiers in the Indian army mutinied
Mutiny
Mutiny is a conspiracy among members of a group of similarly situated individuals to openly oppose, change or overthrow an authority to which they are subject...

, many Sikhs resigned from armed and civil administrative office and a few returned awards and honors they had received from the Indian government. Four months after the operation, on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards in what is viewed as an act of vengeance. Following her assassination, more than 5000 Sikhs were killed in anti-Sikh pogroms
1984 anti-Sikh riots
The 1984 Anti-Sikh pogroms / riots or the 1984 Sikh Massacre was a sikh genocide there was four days of violence in northern India, particularly Delhi, during which armed mobs killed Sikhs, looted and set fire to Sikh homes, businesses and schools, and attacked gurdwaras, in response to the...

. Within the Sikh community itself, Operation Blue Star has taken on considerable historical significance and is often compared to what Sikhs call 'the great massacre', the 1761 slaughter of Sikhs by the Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Abdali.

The Operation


Indira Gandhi first asked Lt. Gen. S.K. Sinha, then Vice-Chief of Indian Army and who was to succeed as the Army chief, to prepare a position paper for assault on the Golden Temple. Lt. Gen. Sinha advised against any such move, given its sacrilegious nature according to Sikh tradition. He suggested the government adopt an alternative solution. A controversial decision was made to replace him with General Arun Shridhar Vaidya
Arun Shridhar Vaidya
General Arun Shridhar Vaidya, MVC, AVSM was the 13th Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army.-Lieutenant Colonel:In 1965, the then Lieutenant Colonel Vaidya was in command of the Deccan Horse...

 as the Chief of the Indian army
Indian Army
The Indian Army is the land based branch and the largest component of the Indian Armed Forces. With about 1,100,000 soldiers in active service and about 1,150,000 reserve troops, the Indian Army is the world's largest standing volunteer army...

. General Vaidya, assisted by Lt. Gen. K Sundarji as Vice-Chief, planned and coordinated Operation Blue Star.

On 3 June, a 36-hour curfew
Curfew
A curfew is an order specifying a time after which certain regulations apply. Examples:# An order by a government for certain persons to return home daily before a certain time...

 was imposed on the state of Punjab with all methods of communication and public travel suspended. Electricity supplies were also interrupted, creating a total blackout and cutting off the state from the rest of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and the world. Complete censorship was enforced on the news media
News media
The news media are those elements of the mass media that focus on delivering news to the general public or a target public.These include print media , broadcast news , and more recently the Internet .-Etymology:A medium is a carrier of something...

.

The Indian Army stormed the Golden Temple
Harmandir Sahib
The Harmandir Sahib also Darbar Sahib , also referred to as the Golden Temple, is a prominent Sikh gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab . Construction of the gurdwara was begun by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, and completed by his successor, Guru Arjan Dev...

 on the night of 5 June under the command of Kuldip Singh Brar
Kuldip Singh Brar
Kuldip Singh Brar is a retired Indian Army officer, who was involved in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, and commanded the highly controversial Operation Blue Star to flush out pro-Khalistan Sikh militants from the Golden Temple complex.-Early days:...

. The forces had full control of the Golden Temple by the morning of 7 June. There were casualties among the army, civilians, and militants. Sikh leaders Bhindranwale and Shabeg Singh
Shabeg Singh
Major General Shabeg Singh AVSM and PVSM , was an Indian Army officer noted for his service in training of Mukti Bahini volunteers during the Bangladesh Liberation War, and later for his role in training Sikh militants in their occupation of the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.- Early days :General...

 were killed in the operation.

Operation Blue Star coincided with a Sikh annual festival. Pilgrims, including the elderly and children, were trapped inside the temple when the operation began and many were wounded and killed as a result.

Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the Golden Temple


Throughout his career Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale remained in contact with Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhara was an Indian politician who served as the third Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms and a fourth term . She was assassinated by Sikh extremists...

. Bhindranwale had earlier "taken refuge in" or "taken over" the Golden temple and made it his headquarters in April 1980, when he was behind the in the assassination of Nirankari
Nirankari
The Sant Nirankari Mission , abbreviated as, SNM, and also known as Universal Brotherhood Mission, is a spiritual organization.The Sant Nirankari Mission is neither a new religion nor a sect of an existing religion, but an all-embracing spiritual movement dedicated to human welfare...

 Gurbachan Singh
Gurbachan Singh
Baba Gurbachan Singh was the leader of the Sant Nirankari sect, considered to be heterodox by mainstream Sikh. He was declared Satguru by his predecessor Baba Avtar Singh in 1962.He should not be confused with Gurbachan Singh Manochahal.-Events of 1978-1980:...

. The Nirankari Baba, also known as Baba Gurbachan Singh, had been the target of an attack by followers of Jarnail, outside the Golden Temple. On 13 April 1978, Nirankari's Baba Gurbachan Singh is alleged to have ridiculed 10th Guru Gobind Singh in a Nirankari Convention held in Amritsar. This prompted Akhand Kirtani Jatha to lead a violent protest against the actions by Baba Gurbachan Singh Ji. Police responded to the violence caused by the sikhs by opening fire on them. Amritsar police used guns to fire at the violent protesters. In the ensuing violence, several people were killed: two of Bhindranwale's followers, eleven members of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha and three Nirankaris.

In 1982, Bhindranwale and approximately 200 armed followers moved into a guest-house called the Guru Nanak Niwas, in the precinct of the Golden Temple. From here he met and was interviewed by international television crews.

On 23 April 1983, the Punjab Police Deputy Inspector General A. S. Atwal
A. S. Atwal
Avtar Singh Atwal was a senior Indian police officer. He was an IPS, which he joined after serving five years as an Emergency Commissioned Officer in the Regiment of Artillery. He was serving as Deputy Inspector General of Police of Jalandhar District in Punjab...

 was shot dead as he left the Golden Temple compound. The following day, after the murder, Harchand Singh Longowal (then president of Shiromani Akali Dal) hinted at the involvement of Bhindrawala in the murder.

On 15 December 1983, Bhindranwale was forced to move out of Guru Nanak Niwas house by members of the Babbar Khalsa who acted with Harcharan Singh Longowal
Harcharan Singh Longowal
Sant Harchand Singh Longowal was the President of the Akali Dal during the Punjab insurgency of the 1980s.-Early years:...

's support Longowal by now feared for his own safety. By 1983, the Golden Temple became a fort for a large number of militants.

The Golden Temple compound and some of the surrounding houses were fortified. The Statesman reported on 4 July that light machine-guns and semi-automatic rifles were known to have been brought into the compound .
Faced with imminent army action and with the foremost Sikh political organisation, Shiromani Akali Dal (headed by Harchand Singh Longowal), abandoning him, Bhindranwale declared "This bird is alone. There are many hunters after it".

Time magazine reported (about Amritsar
Amritsar
Amritsar is a city in the northern part of India and is the administrative headquarters of Amritsar district in the state of Punjab, India. The 2001 Indian census reported the population of the city to be over 1,500,000, with that of the entire district numbering 3,695,077...

) that:
"These days it more closely resembles a city of death. Inside the temple compound, violent Sikh fanatics wield submachine guns, resisting arrest by government security forces. Outside, the security men keep a nervous vigil, all too aware that the bodies of murdered comrades often turn up in the warren of tiny streets around the shrine."

Overview


Operation Blue Star was launched to eliminate Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers who had sought cover in the Amritsar Golden Temple Complex. The Sikh militants within the Harminder Sahib were led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and former Maj. Gen.Shabeg Singh
Shabeg Singh
Major General Shabeg Singh AVSM and PVSM , was an Indian Army officer noted for his service in training of Mukti Bahini volunteers during the Bangladesh Liberation War, and later for his role in training Sikh militants in their occupation of the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.- Early days :General...

. Maj. Gen. Kuldip Singh Brar had command of the action, operating under Gen. Sunderji.

2000–2200hrs


The first element was the destruction of Shabeg Singh
Shabeg Singh
Major General Shabeg Singh AVSM and PVSM , was an Indian Army officer noted for his service in training of Mukti Bahini volunteers during the Bangladesh Liberation War, and later for his role in training Sikh militants in their occupation of the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.- Early days :General...

's outer defences. Much of this had been completed in the preliminary shelling. Major-General Brar had hoped to force Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale into surrendering, which did not occur. The destroyed defenses included seventeen houses which the police believed Bhindranwale's followers occupied in the alleys surrounding the Golden Temple. Nearby was the Brahmbuta Akhara, a large building housing the headquarters of a Sikh sect. Then there were three main towers which had been fortified to create positions from which Bhindranwale's men could defend. Because the towers rose well above surrounding buildings, they were excellent observation positions for tracking the movement of Indian troops in the narrow alleys surrounding the temple. The tops of these towers were destroyed in the preliminary artillery fire
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...


2200–2330hrs


Between 10:00 and 10:30 on 5 June, commandos from 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment
Parachute Regiment (India)
-History:The first Indian airborne formation was the 50 Independent Parachute Brigade raised on 29 October 1941 with 151 British, 152 Indian, and 153 Gurkha Parachute Battalions and other support units....

, were ordered to run down the steps under the clock tower on to the parikarma ("pavement"), and move quickly around the edge of the sacred pool to the Akal Takht. As the paratroopers entered the main gateway to the Temple they were gunned down by light machine-gun fire from both sides of the steps. The few commandos who did get down the steps were driven back by a barrage of fire from the building on the south side of the sacred pool. In the control room, a house on the opposite side of the clock-tower, Major-General Brar was waiting with two supporting officers to hear confirmation that the commandos had established positions inside the complex.

The few commandos left regrouped in the square outside and reported back to Maj. Gen. Brar. He ordered them to make another attempt. The commandos were then to be followed by the 10th Battalion of the Guards, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Israr Khan. This second commando attack managed to neutralize the machine-gun posts on both sides of the steps and get down on to the parikarma. They were followed by the Guards who came under heavy fire and were not able to make any progress. They radioed for permission to fire back at the buildings on the other side of the tank. That would have meant that the Golden Temple itself, which is in the middle of the pool, would have been in the line of fire. Brar initially refused, but started to receive reports of heavy casualties from the commander of the Guards.

2330–0100hrs


Brar again requested tanks after an APC
Armoured personnel carrier
An armoured personnel carrier is an armoured fighting vehicle designed to transport infantry to the battlefield.APCs are usually armed with only a machine gun although variants carry recoilless rifles, anti-tank guided missiles , or mortars...

 was destroyed by a rocket fired by a Sikh militant. His request was granted and seven tanks rolled into the Golden Temple complex. They cleared the ramparts and later assaulted the Akal Takht in order to neutralize the militants remaining in the structure. The shelling achieved its objective and the primary target of removing militants from the Akal Takht was achieved by 01 h. However, the secondary objective of removing militants from other neighboring structures went on for a further 24 hours.

Casualties


The Indian Army
Indian Army
The Indian Army is the land based branch and the largest component of the Indian Armed Forces. With about 1,100,000 soldiers in active service and about 1,150,000 reserve troops, the Indian Army is the world's largest standing volunteer army...

 suffered 83 deaths, which included four officers, four Junior Commissioned Officer
Junior Commissioned Officer
Junior commissioned officer is a term describing a group of military ranks found in the Indian Army, Pakistan Army, Bangladesh Army and Nepal Army. Those soldiers holding JCO rank receive a commission from the President,...

s and 75 other ranks. 13 Indian Army
Indian Army
The Indian Army is the land based branch and the largest component of the Indian Armed Forces. With about 1,100,000 soldiers in active service and about 1,150,000 reserve troops, the Indian Army is the world's largest standing volunteer army...

 officers, 16 JCO
Junior Commissioned Officer
Junior commissioned officer is a term describing a group of military ranks found in the Indian Army, Pakistan Army, Bangladesh Army and Nepal Army. Those soldiers holding JCO rank receive a commission from the President,...

s and 220 other ranks were injured in the operation. Indian army recorded 492 civilian deaths inside Golden Temple with 433 persons segregated as "separatists" amongst 1592 persons apprehended.

The Army placed total casualties at:
  • Military: 83 killed, 249 wounded
  • Militant Casualties: 800 killed, 150 wounded.


Other authors have placed the figure at:
  • Military: 500
  • Militant Casualties: 50.

Estimates
Authors/Officials Casualties
Indian Government white paper category civilian/terrorist 493
AP, Reuter
Reuter
-Persons that bear the name Reuter:* Christian Reuter , writer* Edzard Reuter , former Daimler-Benz manager, son of Ernst Reuter* Enzio Rafael Reuter ,entomologist* Erich Fritz Reuter , sculptor in Berlin...

 and New York Times (June 11, 1984)
1,000
Author Mark Tully's (Amritsar, Mrs. Gandhi's last battle) 2,093
Amritsar crematorium worker 3,300
Author Chand Joshi (Bhindranwale: Myth and Reality) 5,000
Eyewitnesses 8,000
  • Combant killed
    Source Casualties
    Government White Paper 200, 35 bodies in Akal Takht 200
    A.I.S.S.F. Member – 100 fighters June 5th 100
    S.S. Bhagowalia, V.P. Association for Democratic Rights 140-150
  • Indian Government White Paper
    Government source casualties
    Own troops killed 83
    Own troops wounded 249
    Civilians/terrorists killed 493
    Terrorists and other injured 86
    Civilians/terrorists apprehended 1,592


According to some journalists, several Sikh youths were also killed in crossfire from militants.
Unofficial casualty figures were much higher.

Aftermath



An unspecified number of Sikh soldiers resigned from positions across India in protest, with some reports of large-scale pitched battles being fought to bring mutineers under control.

The operation also led to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhara was an Indian politician who served as the third Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms and a fourth term . She was assassinated by Sikh extremists...

 on 31 October 1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards, triggering the 1984 anti-Sikh riots
1984 anti-Sikh riots
The 1984 Anti-Sikh pogroms / riots or the 1984 Sikh Massacre was a sikh genocide there was four days of violence in northern India, particularly Delhi, during which armed mobs killed Sikhs, looted and set fire to Sikh homes, businesses and schools, and attacked gurdwaras, in response to the...

. The widespread killing of Sikhs, principally in the national capital Delhi
Delhi
Delhi , officially National Capital Territory of Delhi , is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population in India, next to Mumbai. It is the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population with 16,753,265 inhabitants in the Territory at the 2011 Census...

 but also in other major cities in North India, led to major divisions between the Sikh community and the Indian Government. The army withdrew from the Golden Temple later in 1984 under pressure from Sikh demands.

General A S Vaidya, the Chief of Army Staff
Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army
The Chief of the Army Staff is the commander and usually the highest-ranking officer of the Indian Army. The position is abbreviated as COAS in Indian Army cables and communication....

 at the time of Operation Blue Star, was assassinated in 1986 in Pune
Pune
Pune , is the eighth largest metropolis in India, the second largest in the state of Maharashtra after Mumbai, and the largest city in the Western Ghats. Once the centre of power of the Maratha Empire, it is situated 560 metres above sea level on the Deccan plateau at the confluence of the Mula ...

 by two Sikhs, Harjinder Singh Jinda
Harjinder Singh Jinda
Harjinder Singh Jinda was a member of a Sikh organization Khalistan Commando Force and one of the two assassins of Arun Vaidya . He was responsible for three high-profile killings; Arjan Dass, Lalit Maken and Gen. Vaidya...

 and Sukhdev Singh Sukha
Sukhdev Singh Sukha
Sukhdev Singh Sukha was a member of the militant organization Khalistan Commando Force and one of the assassins of Arun Vaidya, the Chief of Indian army at the time of Operation Bluestar and also the architect of Operation Bluestar. He was responsible for three high-profile killings; Arjan Dass,...

. Both were sentenced to death, and hanged on 7 October 1992.

Sikh militants continued to use and occupy the temple compound and on 1 May 1986, Indian paramilitary police entered the temple and arrested 200 militants that had occupied the Golden Temple for more than three months. On 2 May 1986 the paramilitary police undertook a 12-hour operation
Operation Black Thunder
Operation Black Thunder is the name given to two operations that took place in India in the late 1980s to flush out remaining Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple using 'Black Cat' commandos of the National Security Guards Like Operation Blue Star, these attacks were on Khalistani militants who...

 to take control of the Golden Temple at Amritsar from several hundred militants, but almost all the major radical leaders managed to escape.

In June 1990, the Indian government ordered the area surrounding the temple to be vacated by local residents in order to prevent militant activity around the temple.

Criticisms


The use of artillery in the congested inner city of Amritsar
Amritsar
Amritsar is a city in the northern part of India and is the administrative headquarters of Amritsar district in the state of Punjab, India. The 2001 Indian census reported the population of the city to be over 1,500,000, with that of the entire district numbering 3,695,077...

 proved deadly to many civilian bystanders living near the Golden Temple. The media blackout
Media blackout
Media blackout refers to the censorship of news related to a certain topic, particularly in mass media, for any reason. A media blackout may be voluntary, or may in some countries be enforced by the government or state. The latter case is controversial in peacetime, as some regard it as a human...

 throughout the Punjab resulted in widespread doubt regarding the official stories and aided the promotion of hearsay and rumour. The operation is criticised on four main grounds, the choice of time of attack by Government, heavy casualty, loss of property, and allegation of human rights violations by Army personnel.

"Last resort"


The attack on Golden Temple was in plans before the armed Sikh militants fortified it. Then GOC of the Indian Army, S. K. Sinha
S. K. Sinha
Lieutenant General Srinivas Kumar Sinha, PVSM is an Indian soldier. After his retirement, he served as Governor of the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Assam.-Early life:...

, who was sacked at the last moment had criticized the Government's claim that the attack represented a "last resort", stating that the arrest was planned a year and a half prior to the actual day of attack. SK Sinha and Mark Tully report that the army had been rehearsing the arrest in a replica of the Golden Temple at a secret location near Chakrata
Chakrata
Chakrata or Chakrauta is a cantonment town in Dehradun district in the state of Uttarakhand, India.It is situated between the Tons and Yamuna rivers, at an elevation of 7000–7250 feet, 92 km from state capital, Dehradun, it was originally a cantonment of British Indian Army...

 Cantonment in the Doon Valley. In October 1983, the Indian Army selected 600 men from different units and sent them to rehearse the assault on a replica of the Golden temple at a secret training camp in the Chakrata Hills about 150 miles north of Delhi: 2 officers of the RAW, the Indian secret service, were sent to London to seek expertise from the SAS.

Timing


The timing of Operation Blue Star coincided with a Sikh religious day, the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev
Guru Arjan Dev
Guru Arjan Dev Ji was the fifth of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism. He was born in Goindval, Punjab, India, the youngest son of Guru Ram Das and Bibi Bhani, the daughter of Guru Amar Das. He became the Guru of the Sikhs on 1 September 1581 after the death of his father Guru Ram Das. Guru Arjan died in...

, the founder of the Golden Temple
Harmandir Sahib
The Harmandir Sahib also Darbar Sahib , also referred to as the Golden Temple, is a prominent Sikh gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab . Construction of the gurdwara was begun by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, and completed by his successor, Guru Arjan Dev...

. Sikhs from all over the world visit the temple on this day. In 1736 the Golden Temple was attacked by the Mughal
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

 army, resulting in heavy casualties of civilian Sikhs. The attack of Ahmad Shah Abdali on the Golden Temple (Darbar Sahib) also came on Baisakhi day, when Sikhs gather in large numbers in Amritsar
Amritsar
Amritsar is a city in the northern part of India and is the administrative headquarters of Amritsar district in the state of Punjab, India. The 2001 Indian census reported the population of the city to be over 1,500,000, with that of the entire district numbering 3,695,077...

. Many Sikhs view the timing and attack by the Indian Army as an attempt to inflict maximum casualties on Sikhs and demoralize them, and the government is in turn blamed for the inflated number of civilian dead for choosing to attack on this day.

The Sikh community's anger and suffering was further increased by comments from leading newspaper editors, such as Ramnath Goenka
Ramnath Goenka
Ramnath Goenka was a newspaper baron of India. He launched The Indian Express and created the Indian Express Group with various English and regional language publications...

, terming the operation as "A greater victory than the win over Bangladesh
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was a military conflict between India and Pakistan. Indian, Bangladeshi and international sources consider the beginning of the war to be Operation Chengiz Khan, Pakistan's December 3, 1971 pre-emptive strike on 11 Indian airbases...

, this is the greatest victory of Mrs. Gandhi
Indira Gandhi
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhara was an Indian politician who served as the third Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms and a fourth term . She was assassinated by Sikh extremists...

".

Media Blackout


Before the attack by army a media blackout was imposed in Punjab. The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

 reporter Michael Hamlyn reported that journalists were picked up from their hotels at 5 a.m. in a military bus, taken to the adjoining border of the state of Haryana
Haryana
Haryana is a state in India. Historically, it has been a part of the Kuru region in North India. The name Haryana is found mentioned in the 12th century AD by the apabhramsha writer Vibudh Shridhar . It is bordered by Punjab and Himachal Pradesh to the north, and by Rajasthan to the west and south...

 and "were abandoned there". The main towns in Punjab were put under curfew, transportation was banned, news blackout was imposed and Punjab was "cut off from the outside world". A group of journalists who later tried to drive into Punjab were stopped at the road block at Punjab border and were threatened to be shot if they proceeded. The Indian nationals who worked with the foreign media were also banned. The press criticized these actions by Government as an "obvious attempt to attack the temple without the eyes of foreign press on them". Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

 reporter Brahma Chellaney
Brahma Chellaney
Brahma Chellaney is a Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, an independent think-tank; a Member of the Board of Governors of the National Book Trust of India; and an Affiliate with the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College...

, who managed to report on the operation, later faced police intimidation.

Human rights


Brahma Chellaney
Brahma Chellaney
Brahma Chellaney is a Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, an independent think-tank; a Member of the Board of Governors of the National Book Trust of India; and an Affiliate with the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College...

, who was then the South Asia correspondent of the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

, was the only foreign reporter who managed to stay on in Amritsar
Amritsar
Amritsar is a city in the northern part of India and is the administrative headquarters of Amritsar district in the state of Punjab, India. The 2001 Indian census reported the population of the city to be over 1,500,000, with that of the entire district numbering 3,695,077...

 despite the media blackout. His dispatches, filed by telex, provided the first non-governmental news reports on the bloody operation in Amritsar
Amritsar
Amritsar is a city in the northern part of India and is the administrative headquarters of Amritsar district in the state of Punjab, India. The 2001 Indian census reported the population of the city to be over 1,500,000, with that of the entire district numbering 3,695,077...

. His first dispatch, front-paged by the New York Times, The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

 of London and The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

, reported a death toll about twice of what authorities had admitted. According to the dispatch, about 780 militants and civilians and 400 troops had perished in fierce gunbattles. The high casualty rates among security forces were attributed to “the presence of such sophisticated weapons as medium machine guns and rockets in the terrorists' arsenal.” Mr. Chellaney also reported that “several” suspected Sikh militants had been shot with their hands tied. The dispatch, after its first paragraph reference to “several” such deaths, specified later that “eight to 10” men had been shot in that fashion. In that dispatch, Mr. Chellaney interviewed a doctor who said he was picked up by the army and forced to conduct postmortems despite the fact he had never done any postmortem examination before. The number of casualties reported by Mr. Chellaney were far more than government reports, and the Indian government, which disputed his casualty figures accused him of inflammatory reporting. The Associated Press stood by the reports and figures, the accuracy of which was also "supported by India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n and other press accounts" according to Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

; and reports in The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

 and The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

.

C.K.C Reddy, an Indian journalist writes that the
"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 succor 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 part of Indian Army and allegations of human rights violation by security forces in Operation Blue Star and subsequent military operations in Punjab have been leveled by Justice V.M. Tarkunde, Mary Anne Weaver, human rights lawyer Ram Narayan Kumar, and anthropologists Dr. Cynthia Mahmood and Joyce Pettigrew.

The Indian Army
Indian Army
The Indian Army is the land based branch and the largest component of the Indian Armed Forces. With about 1,100,000 soldiers in active service and about 1,150,000 reserve troops, the Indian Army is the world's largest standing volunteer 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"

It was later pointed out that as the blockade approach
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

 taken by Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Ratna Gandhi was the sixth Prime Minister of India . He took office after his mother's assassination on 31 October 1984; he himself was assassinated on 21 May 1991. He became the youngest Prime Minister of India when he took office at the age of 40.Rajiv Gandhi was the elder son of Indira...

 five years later in Operation Black Thunder
Operation Black Thunder
Operation Black Thunder is the name given to two operations that took place in India in the late 1980s to flush out remaining Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple using 'Black Cat' commandos of the National Security Guards Like Operation Blue Star, these attacks were on Khalistani militants who...

, when Sikh militants had again taken over the temple complex, was highly successful as they managed to resolve the stand-off peacefully and in hindsight, Operation Blue Star could have been averted by using similar blockade tactics. The army responded by stating that "no comparison is possible between the two situations, as "there was no cult figure like Bhindranwale to idolise, and professional military general like Shahbeg Singh to provide for military leadership" and "confidence of militants having been shattered by Operation Blue Star". Furthermore, it is pointed out that the militant
Militant
The word militant, which is both an adjective and a noun, usually is used to mean vigorously active, combative and aggressive, especially in support of a cause, as in 'militant reformers'. It comes from the 15th century Latin "militare" meaning "to serve as a soldier"...

s in the temple were armed with machine guns, anti tank missiles and rocket launcher
Shoulder-launched missile weapon
A shoulder-fired missile, shoulder-launched missile or man-portable missile is a projectile fired at a target, small enough to be carried by a single person, and fired while held on one's shoulder...

s, and that they strongly resisted the army's attempts to dislodge them from the shrine, appearing to have planned for a long stand-off, having arranged for water to be supplied from wells within the temple compound and had stocked food provisions that could have lasted months.

External links


Punjab (India)°N date=December 2010°W