( The damaged building and some martyred Sikhs during the attack)
Operation Blue Star was the codename of an Indian military action carried out between 1 and 8 June 1984 to remove militant religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers from the buildings of the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) complex in Amritsar, Punjab.
We were little kids to understand what was happening but old enough to understand that something wasn’t right. Suddenly, the Indian Army and other special forces were on the roads of the entire state of Punjab. Schools were closed and the curfew was in progress. We were glad the schools were closed. But our parents had some fears that we didn’t understand. I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened in JK because it was a normal situation there.
Domestically, the golden and rich Punjab shares its border with like Haryana and JK, but internationally it shares the border with Pakistan. The majority of the Sikh population resides in this state. Fortunately, this is also the place of my ancestors. The local police used to enforce the law instead of the army. Punjab police were also corrupt, but they did not sell their country like others.
I still remember what my mother said when she saw Indian troops roaming the streets of our city, she said, “Mussa Moto Bhajaye per Agay Mot Khari which means Mussa ran away from the death, but the death was already waiting for him at the new place.” She was trying to say that we had left JK because of terrorism, but now this new place was also slowly engulfed in the fire of terrorism.
I heard the adults talking about that the Indian Army had laid siege to the Golden Temple and the attack had been in progress. I had never seen the Golden Temple before. On the morning of June 4, someone had made an announcement from a local temple that I did not understand. But I saw my mother leaving the house barefoot and she told me, “Shut the door, don’t come out.” Shortly after my mother left, my uncle came home and left with a sword. He also told me, “Shut the door.”
I wondered why they left after hearing the announcement. My father was in Russia at the time. I went to ask my cousin Binu to translate the speech. Binu and his twin brothers were also sitting alone without the presence of an adult. Binu told me, “Everyone has gone to the temple. Our Golden Temple has been attacked.” Binu and Twins told me about the historic Golden Temple. All of us went to the local temple to find out what was going on.
We stood behind the crowd so our parents wouldn’t see us. At that time, traditional newspapers, radio, and TV were the only sources of communication. The Indian government had also blocked communication. Only BBC London was broadcasting the news on the radio. There was no electricity in the town. The government had planned the attack a few months ago. This was another political attack on the minority. The government had confiscated personal weapons from the people. The Sikh regiment of the Indian army was forced to stay in the army barracks, and their weapons were confiscated. Well, the warriors do not need weapons to fight against the brutality of the government.
The whole city was gathered in the local temple. Suddenly, people started shouting, “Bole So Nihal Sat Sri Akal.” Their faces had turned red, and they drew their swords and shouted “Bole So Nihal Sat Sri Akal.”
My cousin Binu told me that Sant Bindrawale has been martyred while fighting with the Indian Army, and the Golden Temple was badly damaged. Binu was my translator because I was still not fully immersed in the culture and language of Punjab. Sikhs are known as a peaceful community, but they are warriors. They have a very strong history. You can harm Sikhs but never dare to attack their famous historical temple. They are very sentimental about their religion and historic religious places.
Some of the youngsters went to nearby towns on motorcycles through the farms to seek advice on what to do next. The Sikh population was upset, and they were very angry. Thank God they didn’t have guns. Everyone decided to march towards the Golden Temple. Within minutes, women and men sat in trailers and commercial trucks. They were without any weapons. However, I saw their courage and bravery. They were ready to face guns and tanks with wooden sticks and swords. Have you ever seen someone with such courage? Only children under the age of 18 and adults over the age of 70 were left behind. The elders were caring for the little ones. We were told to obey the elders.
I also saw Ponga and Baljit sitting in trucks. I was like, “Who will cook for me?” A convoy of unarmed Sikhs started marching towards the temple, but the army had blocked highways and other roads. The Sikhs made their way using the farmland. They managed to reach the Beas river. However, the army blocked the bridge with artillery and tanks. Seriously, the regiment was so frightened that they had to bring tanks to fight the unarmed Sikhs. The distance between the Golden Temple and the Beas River is about 169 miles. The army had to bribe other religious leaders to convince the people.
The army did not dare to face unarmed warriors. Thus, the religious leaders, who were also on government pay, reassured the people that there was nothing left in the temple now. All Sikh militants were killed, and the Golden Temple was not damaged, but other buildings within the boundary (74 acres) were slightly damaged. The public was disappointed and returned to their home. Some of them were managed to swim in the river, but none of them returned home. The army also killed them.
The attack began on June 1 but continued until June 8. Indian soldiers entered the temple with their shoes on, and they smoked inside the temple. What a shame? The army forgot to respect the historic religious temple.
The Indian Sikh Army left the barracks and walked towards the temple when they found out what was happening. Some of them returned home safely, and some were killed, and some of them rejoined the army.
Surprisingly, the chief commander of the Sikh militants was a retired general of the Indian Army, known as General Shabag Singh. He was a brave and intelligent officer who knew about the Indian Army. Can you imagine that thousands of Indian soldiers were fighting against some Sikh rebels? The number of deaths reported by the government is all wrong. The govt never published the actual data. The army did not kill the rebels but the Sikh pilgrims as well. The government claimed that they had broken the bones of terrorism by attacking the temple, which was also a big lie.
The attack on the temple had caused chaos in the state of Punjab. Terrorism was born out of the attack on the temple. The attack did not break the bones of terrorism but had given birth to terrorism in a peaceful state. Later, for more than ten years, every day, the golden soil was bathed in the blood of innocent people. As usual, the government had blamed some rebel Sikhs and Pakistan. Everyone knows the facts. It was a dirty game of politics. Who had sent Sant Bhindrawala to the temple? There are many stories about it. All I remember is that Indira Gandhi sent Bhindranwale to divide the Sikhs for her own political gain. But, Bhindranwale learned the truth and had become armed against her.
Well, four months later, the Sikhs took their revenge. Indira Gandhi was assassinated by Sikh youths on 10/31/1984. Her cabinet had advised not to attack the Golden Temple, but she wanted to hide her mistakes. She also wanted to teach a lesson about how a saint dared to go against her orders. Indira Gandhi had forgotten the history of Sikhism. She forgot that you cannot defeat the Sikhs by force. You can only win their hearts with love. Today, no Sikh respects Prime Minister Gandhi. During the Blue Star massacre, Army Chief General Arun Sridhar Vaidya was assassinated in 1986 in Pune by two Sikhs, Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha.
Once again, terrorism forced me to leave my home. I was permanently deported to the United States. I lost many of my friends because of terrorism. It was a nightmare. Terrorism had impacted our life badly. Well, has the problem solved after attacking the soul of Sikhs? Does the operation blue star ended the Khalistan revolution? Time will answer those questions.