Operation Bluestar 1984 and Murder of Indira Gandhi - A revisit to the Khalistani Extremism
Exactly 36 years ago, Operation Bluestar, which started on June 3, 1984 and finally ended on June 6, freeing the Golden Temple (Harminder Sahib) from the Khalistani encroachment. This operation turned out to be the first nail in the coffin of the Khalistani separatist movement, which was later completely controlled after ‘Operation Black Thunder.’
Khalistan, land of pure, was a country that Sikh nationalists aspired to make, which would comprise the Punjab of both India and Pakistan. Separatist leaders of Akali Dal like Jagjit Singh Chauhan and others started a donation drive and declared that Khalistan is a separate nation. It is said that not all leaders of Akali Dal were demanding a separate country. Most were only demanding autonomy like Harchand Singh Longwal, who was later murdered by the supporters of Bhindranwale, after he signed the Punjab Accord with Rajiv Gandhi.
In 1973, the Anandapur Sahib resolution was passed and seven chief demands were made in the resolution. The important demands were the transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab, giving more autonomy to states, transfer of certain Punjabi speaking areas from Haryana to Punjab, protection of Punjabis living outside of Punjab and enactment of the All India Gurdwara Act.
Government’s musical chair cost lives
A blunder of Giani Zail Singh and Sanjay Gandhi gave rise to militancy and separatist movement in Punjab, which cost many innocent people their lives. The crux of the issue is that this was done merely for political mileage. As Akali Dal came to power in Punjab and the state election held after the emergency period of 1975-1977, Congress feared of permanently losing ground in the state and wanted to bring in a face which will be as religiously connected to Sikhs as Akali Dal is or even more.
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who came to prominence after his opposition to Nirankari Sikhs, was brought in the mainstream by the Congress leaders, Sanjay Gandhi and Giani Zail Singh to counter the hold of Akali Dal on the Sikh Shrines. This move is still considered as one of the biggest blunders made by Sanjay Gandhi. This move was indirectly responsible for the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the anti-Sikh riots.
Partners in Crime
In 1980, when the Indian National Congress won the elections in Punjab, Chief Minister Darbara Singh was suspicious of the actions of Jarnail Digh Bhindranwale and tried to shed him. Although he was overpowered by the senior leaders like Giani Zail Singh and Sanjay Gandhi. Murder of Baba Gurbachan Singh, Nirankari leader and Lala Jagat Narain worsened the situations of Punjab. Bhindranwale was arrested later to be released on the account of the absence of any proof against him. His fame rose after his arrest and release.
This is when Akali Dal joined hands with Bhindranwale and started Dharm Yudhh Morcha, bringing Anandpur Sahib Resolution back into the picture. They started various agitations while the government cracked down heavily on them. After which the agitators threatened to disrupt the Asian games, in response to which the government started frisking everyone on the Delhi borders, targeting Sikhs who were badly treated and insulted. Even officers of Indian Armed Forces were frisked which further worsened the situation.
An episode of mass killings
In response to this crackdown and frisking, senior IPS officer AS Atwal was murdered and 6 Hindu passengers were taken out and killed. Soon the central government woke up to the scenario and imposed the Presidential Rule in Punjab, removing the Darbara Singh government. By then Bhindranwale had taken the control of Akal Takht. Before operation Bluestar was started, it is estimated that around 300 people were killed in various clashes and terrorist attacks. Later Indira Gandhi tried to negotiate with Bhindranwale which failed.
On June 1, curfew and full communication blockade were imposed in Punjab. On June 3, the anniversary of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, Operation Bluestar was started. This operation was led by Major General Kuldeep Singh Brar, while the side of Bhindranwale was led by Major General Shahbeg Singh, the man who trained Mukti Bahini of Bangladesh in the Bangladesh Liberation War.
The fight Operation Bluestar started on the eve of June 5, 1984 and ended on June 6. Militants were ready to fight a long war and the military suffered heavy casualties. Later, tanks were called in to attack Akal Takht and bring out Bhindranwale and kill his supporters. There were clear instructions to not fire on Darbar Sahib. After the communications were restored, pictures of damages to the Golden Temple complex came out, which caused huge dissent among millions of Sikhs worldwide.
Repercussions of Operation Bluestar
This operation had huge repercussions which involved the murder of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, the mass resignation of Sikhs from the army, Air India flight Kanishka blown up by Sikh extremists, murder of Harchand Singh Longwal, assassination of General AS Vaidya, Chief of Army staff during Operation Bluestar. Major Kuldeep Singh Brar lives a secret life and there have been many attempts to kill him. Many high profile killings continued even after Operation Bluestar until Operation Black Thunder and all the extremists were flushed out.
Today, as people remember Operation Bluestar, they shall remember the supreme sacrifice of the 83 soldiers who died and many others who were assassinated. One shall also remember the anti-Sikh riots which cost 300 innocent lives. Senior Congress leader Sajjan Singh is prime accused of the conspiracy behind this case. Sajjan Singh was recently denied his bail which sought his relief on the grounds of COVID-19.