Featured Event Sun 26th May @11am
Discover your Roots in Guru Arjan Dev Ji Gurdwara, DerbyClick here to submit an event.
Operation BluestarThe Truth Behind Operation Bluestar The Truth Behind Operation BluestarOn June 2, 1984, the government of India shrouded a terrifying veil of secrecy over the ENTIRE northern Indian state of Punjab! Foreign news reporters were expelled from the state, and communications with the rest of humanity severed by the government. This mortifying sequence of events transpired in a country claiming to be "the world's largest democracy," and set the stage for what was to follow.For months, the Government had claimed that a small group of "terrorists"-- whose "official" number swelled from 40 before the attack to over 450 in the succeeding months-- was operating from and hiding out in the complex. This apparently transpired despite the pronounced presence of the police, the military, and government spies in and around the open, easily-accessible Golden Temple complex, as well as the tapping of all of its phones.June 3rd was an important religious holiday for the Sikhs, and thousands had gathered in the city of Amritsar to worship in the Golden Temple. As many had come from great distances, numerous pilgrims spent the night at the Temple complex. Knowing this, the Indian Army began heavy artillery fire into the complex on the night of the 3rd. This continued until it moved in during the early hours of the 5th, thus trapping thousands of innocent Sikh pilgrims: men, women, and children. Simultaneously, 38 other Gurdwaras (Sikh Temples) across the state were attacked by the army. What ensued was a deliberate, cold-blooded massacre by a state of its own citizens.Not only were an enormous number of innocent pilgrims murdered, but the majority were mercilessly exterminated AFTER the complex had been militarily secured. The Times of London reported, "Several. . . Sikh militants killed. . . were shot at point-blank range by troops who first tied their hands behind their backs, a doctor and police official said. A Police Superintendent also reported that 'at least 13 Sikhs were tied and shot by submachine-gun-toting soldiers'. . . . The sources say that the militants' turbans had been removed and their hands tied with Yit|. Each of them had been killed with a single shot fired at their forehead." Another police official said "a Ytruck| load of ELDERLY Sikhs who surrendered on the first day of the military operation were brought to the main city police station and tortured there by the army. The soldiers removed their turbans, pulled their hair over their eyes and tied the long hair round their necks. Then they threw sand in their faces," he said. "The old men shrieked, but I helplessly watched all this from my office window."In addition to the slaughter and torture of helpless pilgrims, no provision for the wounded Sikhs-- who were Indian citizens-- was made by the army. The number of prisoners taken was negligible, as the Indian army obviously thought it better to eliminate the thousands of people seized, rather than risk allowing them to reveal the true nature of the actions committed in the name of the Indian people. No effort was made to identify them. No relatives were informed. By failing to turn over the bodies, and cremating them immediately, the Indian government made sure that no autopsies could be performed, and no precise body count made. Large numbers of women and children disappeared during the attack, and are presumed to have been killed by the Indian Army. Despite such atrocities, no commission was ever appointed by the government to delve into this dark episode. It was closed to the light of truth, being a "military matter." The official government figure of civilians and "terrorists" killed was 493. However, it is obvious that a government does not keep track when it slaughters its own people. The number of dead estimated by the independent group Citizens for Democracy was 8,000. Other human rights activists have asserted that the number murdered by the State is at least double that figure. We will never know how many men, women, children, and elderly died at the hands of their own government.After securing the premises of the Golden temple, the soldiers then proceeded to destroy Sikh religious and historical artifacts kept in a museum in the Golden temple premises, including centuries old religious manuscripts and articles belonging to the Sikh prophets. This further provides evidence that the attack was not the simple anti-terrorist action the Indian Government feigns it was, but rather a calculated attempt to strike out specifically at the Sikh community.With all news controlled by the government, conditions were ideal for the planting of fake evidence and the erasure of unpleasant evidence-- a situation vehemently protested by the Press Council of India. In the prelude to the attack, numerous reports by the state-controlled media had filtered into India, in a calculated ploy to consolidate public opinion behind the secret plans soon to be unveiled by the Indian government. The media's venture to generate anti-Sikh sentiment in the nation, with an avalanche of prevarications prior to Operation Bluestar, worked well. This can be gauged by the celebrations of many Hindus after the army's entry into the Golden Temple complex.After the siege, the misinformation from the state-controlled press continued to proliferate. Claims were made, and later retracted or proven lies, of finding numerous materials sacrilegious to Sikhs within the complex (drugs and alcohol), finding jewelry and other valuables, of the Golden Temple itself not being fired upon (it had over 350 bullet marks), not to mention grotesque falsehoods about the number of dead.Taking into account evidence that has surfaced since the event, it appears undeniable that the timing of the attack was calculated to cause maximum damage, casualties, and suffering to the Sikhs. Particularly as the evidence of exceeding government duplicity has been discovered, people of conscience around the world have viewed this not as an attempt to root out a few "terrorists," but as an assault upon Sikh religion itself. This latter belief became horrifyingly concretized through Operation Woodrose, the "mop-up" procedure which followed Bluestar. In this military operation, which human rights activists have denounced as "Genocide in practice," army personnel fanned out across Punjab in an effort to crush the spirit of the Sikh community by humiliating, torturing, and murdering them in front of their families and friends.The political ramifications of Operation Bluestar become readily visible when one realizes that it was planned by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi long before it occurred. It was afterwards learned that army units had been practicing on a model of the Golden Temple complex months before the attack. The assault on the Sikhs' center of religious and political authority was designed to garner votes from the Hindu majority by "disciplining" a tiny religious minority of the voting populace, one that was then leading a powerful, popular, nonviolent protest movement against the political indiscretions of Indira Gandhi. To erase the national embarrassment Indira Gandhi suffered from the Sikhs' airing of their legitimate political grievances, and in searchi of political gain, countless thousands of Sikhs were murdered. And no one was held accountable.© Copyright Sikh Media Action and Resource Task Force, 1997. All Rights Reserved.
Operation BluestarRemembering Operation Bluestar "Blind Men of Hindoostan" Remembering Operation BluestarSatyindra Singh** Rear Admiral (Retd.) Satyindra Singh is a Military historian and commentator. [A-8/29 Vasant Vihar, New Delhi-110057]‘Blind Men of Hindoostan’ is the title of a book authored by General Krishnaswamy Sundarji, published in 1993. On the dust jacket it is stated that Sundarji makes a fictional Prime Minister, his cabinet and the three Service Chiefs discuss the nuclear issue but comes up with a chilling ‘fact’, harder to believe than fiction: India has no coherent nuclear policy and, worse still, does not have even an institutionalised system for analysing and throwing up policy options! I decidedly select this title for my article as I perceive it was nothing less than acute myopia that led the leadership - political and military - to plunge into an action of disastrous proportions - I refer to Operation Bluestar - in June sixteen years ago.One doesn’t have to be a Nostradamus to make a realistic appreciation of a situation and its attendant fallout. But see what the fall-out has been for the nation! Indiae lost a Prime Minister, a Chief of Army Staff, and had a major "mutiny" of the Sikh troops! Over five thousand lives were snuffed out in a ghastly fashion in the Capital and many other towns. What is more, over three hundred Gurdwaras, where Sikhs - and Hindus - collectively worshipped, were desecrated, damaged and destroyed. A whole community was alienated.Many volumes have been written on this and connected subjects, both by Indians and foreigners. We, of course, have the Government’s White Paper - which is anything but white and at best, a pathetic attempt to cover up both sin and crime. Atal Behari Vajpayee said at that time that ‘it evaded more issues than it tackled’. India Today called it as Operation Whitewash.We have many pages in Khushwant Singh’s latest volumes of ‘A History of the Sikhs’, particularly his chapter titled ‘A fatal miscalculation’. And, to quote a few lines by him : "But the government, for reasons best known to it, first let leaders of the ruling party help Bhindranwale to build himself into a leader, allowed its police and paramilitary forces to turn a blind eye to the smuggling of arms into the temple, and then ordered its army to storm it with tanks and heavy guns. Sikhs could be forgiven if they come to the conclusion that Mrs. Gandhi’s government meant to give their community a bloody punch on the nose. They were not likely to forget or forgive anyone who had anything to do with Operation Bluestar."We also have Mark Tully’s volume ‘Amritsar - Mrs. Gandhi’s Last Battle’. Lt. Gen. K. S. Brar, who was actively involved in the operation, has also written a volume which he - mendaciously - terms as, ‘Operation Blue Star: The True Story’.There is a very pertinent volume of the monthly magazine SEMINAR (April 1985), titled ‘Using the Army’ which carries articles by a galaxy of civil and military authors, like KF Rustamji, Lt Gens ML Thapan, EA Vas and SK Sinha and Jaswant Singh, now our Minister for External Affairs. Senior Lawyer and activist, Nandita Haksar has a searching article and there is a succinct summing up of the Punjab problem by author and publisher Ramesh Thapar, in which he brings out what he terms as the ‘badly manipulated and short sighted political management by the rulers.’On the military side, there is a valuable volume ‘Threat From Within’ by Lt Gen VK Nayar, a distinguished soldier and paratrooper who has served with distinction both in the western and eastern sectors. Nayar was the Additional Director General of Military Operations at Army Headquarters in 1984. He records his views with riveting candour and unusual freshness.In his first chapter. ‘Punjab - an Overview’ Nayar starts by starting that "Punjab is a sad story of missed opportunities". He goes on to say that the basic reason for the situation deteriorating has been, instead of being treated as a national problem, it has been handled as a problem of a political party with its parameters dictated by their coloured perception, with a number of people having vested interests At best, the situation was confined to terrorism without dealing with its causes and realising the effects of these actions.In a nutshell, the discernment of the problem was not there, certainly not from the national point of view. He also mentions about the infighting within the ruling Congress I, between Zail Singh and Darbara Singh, and fully in keeping with Indira Gandhi’s policy of keeping of chief ministers on tenterhooks and not permitting them to function effectively. He said that he was amazed at the lack of realisation of the actual situation and concern for Punjab and its people.Nayar also records that it was in November 1983, that some of them in the Army informally started taking cognisance of the situation in Punjab. All available information (not intelligence, as we were not privy to it) was collected and a view was taken. The outcome highlighted two main issues: first, that the manner in which the situation was being handled, would only make it worse and may result in it being dumped on the Army. Second, the army’s involvement would have its ramifications within the army and thereby the need to warn and prevent it.It was, therefore, the Army’s professional and patriotic duty to convey its views to the Prime Minister, as any level lower than that would not be effective. We were firmly of the opinion that the army should not be involved and if inescapable we should be consulted before a decision was taken.The logic and force of our arguments failed to get any response. The total response was, "you have told me !" This raises a vital question, he says. Should the Army keep silent on such issues of national importance, particularly when the Service interests and the interests of its men are involved? Nayar emphasizes that the Service and its head must convey its views to the Prime Minister on issues of national interest, irrespective of whether, at that point of time we are involved or not. We owe it to the nation and to our men.The government doesn’t like "uncomfortable" Army Chiefs. Here it is relevant to recall that Gen Arun Vaidya’s appointment was very controversial, and his being positioned as the Chief of Army Staff by superseding Lieut General SK Sinha on other-than-merit considerations, had hit media headlines. Sinha tells the full story in his "A Soldier Recalls" published a few years ago. Besides Vaidya was a sick man sustaining himself by constant medication, even in office. This was no secret, and confirmed to me by the then Southern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Tirath Singh Oberoi.Sadly and regrettably, over the years there has been a surfeit of pliable military leadership who are "willing to play the game". The like of Sam Manekshaw who had the courage to take on not only the entrenched bureaucracy but also tell Indira Gandhi that the timing proposed by her in 1971 (Indo - Pak war 1971) was not suitable to the army and insisted on what he considered a more suitable time, are rare. Why ‘create a situation’ is the ethos of many of our top brass. Here I quote an incident of World War I. Admiral Fisher reporting on Admral Jellico’s failure to destroy the German Fleet at the Battle of Jutland stated that "Jellico had all the qualities of Nelson except that he does not know when to disobey"!Major General Afsir Karim, a paratrooper and also a course mate of Lt Gen Brar, and a former Editor of Indian Defence Review, in his review of Brar’s volume, says that one wishes Brar’s attempts to explode what he calls certain ‘myths’ had been more convincing. Karim emphasises that Operation Bluestar has been considered a failure for the following reason:Akal Takht was damaged beyond recognition even before Bhindranwale and his followers were killed or captured. Major collateral damage was caused to the Temple complex and there were a large number of civilian casualties as a result of frontal assault on a constricted space.Karim has a telling observation to make regarding the assessment of the number of weapons in the Temple by the police. It is intriguing, he says, that if the police (and the government) really believed that the militants had only two hundred to two-fifty weapons- the majority of which were 12 Bore guns and 303 rifles - where was the need to call in the Army?It needs to be mentioned here that, two centuries earlier, the Golden Temple had been the target of attack, on the Diwali day, in 1736 by the Mughal Army. It was a massacre of such great magnitude that people remembered it for a long time as the ‘Bloody Diwali’.When Ahmed Shah Abdali had raided the Temple, he too had chosen Baisakhi Day to launch his attack in order to inflict the maximum casualties on the Sikhs who gather together in large numbers to commemorate the Birth of the Khalsa. The Jalianwala Bagh massacre at Amritsar also took place on Baisakhi Day. The invasion of the Temple on 05 June 1984 was on the martyrdom day of Guru Arjun Dev. How such unmitigated thoughtlessness was shown beats all reason, logic, thinking and sense of proportion - and much more - unless it was to emulate the Mughals, Abdali, and others.Many, today, who have held the highest positions in the Army condemn Operation Bluestar in no uncertain terms. General Roychowdhury, former Chief of Army Staff has stated, in his interview in a national daily (on 27 April 2000), when asked whether right steps had been taken to tackle the problem of militancy in Punjab, replied; "No, certainly not. I don’t think that right steps were taken. Operation Bluestar was totally unwarranted and a mistaken step. The party in power at Delhi at that time had taken the step more on political consideration."General Sundarji passed away in Jan. 1999, but left behind a partially completed autobiography titled ‘Of Some Consequence: A Soldier Remembers’ He planned to write 105 episodes, but lived only to write 33. It is his wife, Vani who writes that Operation Bluestar changed Sundarji, and his laughter was all but gone.
Sequence of Events
A recapitulation of the 1984 Delhi carnage in which about 4,000 Sikhs were massacred in three days in the wake of Indira Gandhi's assassination.October 31, 1984:9.20 am: Indira Gandhi was shot by two of her security guards at her residence No. 1, Safdarjung Road, and rushed to All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
11 am: Announcement on All India Radio specifying that the guards who shot Indira Gandhi were Sikhs. A big crowd was collecting near AIIMS.2 pm: Though her death was yet to be confirmed officially, it became common knowledge because of BBC bulletins and special afternoon editions of newspapers.4 pm: Rajiv Gandhi returned from West Bengal and reached AIIMS. Stray incidents of attacks on Sikhs in and around that area.5.30 pm: The cavalcade of President Zail Singh, who returned from a foreign visit, was stoned as it approached AIIMS.Late evening and night: Mobs fanned out in different directions from AIIMS. The violence against Sikhs spread, starting in the neighbouring constituency of Congress councillor Arjun Dass. The violence included the burning of vehicles and other properties of Sikhs. That happened even in VIP areas like the crossroads near Prithviraj Road where cars and scooters belonging to Sikhs were burnt.Shortly after Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as Prime Minister, senior advocate and Opposition leader Ram Jethmalani met home minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and urged him to act fast and save Sikhs from further attacks. Delhi's lt governor P.G. Gavai and police commissioner S.C. Tandon visited some of the violence-affected areas. Despite all these developments, no measures were taken to control the violence or prevent further attacks on Sikhs throughout the night between October 31 and November 1.November 1, 1984:Several Congress leaders held meetings on the night of October 31 and morning of November 1, mobilising their followers to attack Sikhs on a mass scale. The first killing of a Sikh reported from east Delhi in the early hours of November 1. About 9 am, armed mobs took over the streets of Delhi and launched a massacre. Everywhere the first targets were Gurudwaras – to prevent Sikhs from collecting there and putting up a combined defence.Mobs were armed with iron rods of a uniform size. Activist editor Madhu Kishwar saw some of the rods being distributed among the miscreants. Mobs also had an abundant supply of petrol and kerosene. Victims traced the source of kerosene to dealers belonging to the Congress party. For instance, a Congress worker called Brahmanand Gupta, a kerosene dealer, figures prominently in affidavits filed from Sultanpuri.Every police station had a strength of about 100 men and 50-60 weapons. Yet, no action was taken against miscreants in most places. The few places where the local police station took prompt measures against mobs, hardly any killings took place there. Farsh Bazar and Karol Bagh are two such examples. But in other localities, the priority of the police, as it emerges from the statement of the then police commissioner S.C. Tandon before the Nanavati Commission, was to take action against Sikhs who dared to offer resistence. All the Sikhs who fired in self-defence were disarmed by the police and even arrested on trumped up charges.Mobs generally included teams attending to specific tasks. When shops were to be looted, the first team that gets into action would kill and remove all obstacles. The second team specialises in breaking locks. The third team would engage in looting. And the fourth team would set the place on fire.Most of the mobs were led by Congress members, including those from affluent families. For instance, a Youth Congress leader called Satsangi led a mob in the posh Maharani Bagh. The worst affected areas were however far flung, low income colonies like Trilokpuri, Mongolpuri, Sultanpuri and Palam Colony.The Congress leaders identified by the victims as organisers of the carnage include three MPs H.K.L. Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar and Dharam Dass Shastri and 10 councillors Arjan Dass, Ashok Kumar, Deep Chand, Sukhan Lal Sood, Ram Narayan Verma, D.R. Chhabbra, Bharat Singh, Vasudev, Dharam Singh and Mela Ram.November 2, 1984:Curfew was in force throughout Delhi – but only on paper. The Army was also deployed throughout Delhi but nowhere was it effective because the police did not co-operate with the soldiers who were not empowered to open fire without the consent of senior police officers or executive magistrates. Meanwhile, mobs continued to rampage with the same ferocity. November 3,1984:It was only towards the evening of November 3 that the police and the Army acted in unison and the violence subsided immediately after that. Whatever violence took place the next two or three days was on a much smaller scale and rather sporadic.Aftermath of the carnage: Most of the arrested miscreants were released at the earliest. But the Sikhs arrested for firing in self-defence generally remained in detention for some weeks. Worse, there was also a pattern throughout Delhi of the police not registering proper cases on the complaints of victims. Instead, the police registered vaguely worded omnibus FIRs which did not deal with any specific incident or person. As if the damage done by such FIRs was not bad enough, the police made little effort to investigate the cases and trace the miscreants. The only acknowledgement of any wrongdoing on their part was the appointment of a committee headed by senior police officer Ved Marwah to probe the role of the police.Two remarkable initiatives that came on the same month as the carnage, in a bid to make up for the failure of the Government, were from human rights organisations and a leading Opposition party. People's Union of Civil Liberties and People's Union for Democratic Rights came out with a devastating expose in a booklet titled, Who are the guilty? The Bharatiya Janata Party contradicted the Government's claim then that only 600 people were killed in the Delhi carnage. On the basis of a survey done by its cadres, the BJP came out with a death toll of 2,700, which is remarkably close to the official tally of 2,733 arrived at three years later.On December 27, 1984, the Lok Sabha elections were held and the Congress party had a landslide victory bagging over 400 seats for the first and so far the only time in the Indian electoral history. The election held under the shadow of Indira Gandhi's assassination and the subsequent massacre was marked by an anti-Sikh sentiment whipped up by the Congress party campaign.In the early months of 1985, two more NGO reports followed: one by Citizens for Democracy headed by Justice V.M. Tarkunde and another by a Citizens' Commission headed by former chief justice of India S.M. Sikri. Both indicted the Government and the ruling party and called for a judicial inquiry.A journalist, Rahul Kuldeep Bedi, filed a writ petition in the Delhi high court seeking an inquiry into the role of the police. PUDR filed a writ petition in the same court seeking a direction to the Government to appoint a Commission of Inquiry. Both the petitions were dismissed.On April 26, 1985, i.e. almost six months after the carnage, the Rajiv Gandhi Government appointed the Ranganath Misra Commission to inquire into "the allegations in regard to the incidents of organised violence" in Delhi.In June 1985, a group of eminent persons and representative of human rights organisations came together under the banner of the Citizens Justice Committee (CJC) to help the Misra Commission unravel the truth.The Misra Commission held all its proceedings in camera and took the help of the CJC to get affidavits from victims.On March 31, 1986, the CJC notified its withdrawal as the Misra Commission kept it out of most of the inquiry holding "in camera proceedings within in camera."In August 1986, the Misra Commission submitted its report to the Government, which in turn tabled it in Parliament in February 1987. The report vindicated the CJC's apprehension that the Misra Commission would whitewash the role of the Government and the ruling Congress party.On February 23, 1987, the Government appointed three committees on the recommendation of the Misra Commission. (1) Jain-Banerjee committee to pursue cases that have either not been registered or not properly investigated. (2) Kapur-Mittal committee to identify delinquent police officials. (3) Ahooja committee to arrive at the official death toll of the carnage.In August 1987, the Ahooja committee determined that the number of persons killed in Delhi in the 1984 carnage were 2,733.In November 1987, the Delhi high court stayed the functioning of the Jain-Banerjee committee because of its very first recommendation, which was to register a murder case against former Congress MP Sajjan Kumar. The petition was filed by one of the co-accused, Brahmanand Gupta.In October 1989, the Delhi high court quashed the notification appointing the Jain-Banerjee committee. The court found that the powers of monitoring of investigation and the institution of new case conferred on the committee were illegal.March 1, 1990: The two members of the Kapur-Mittal committee gave separate reports. Justice Dalip Kapur gave no finding on the ground that the committee had not been empowered to summon police officials to hear their version. Kusum Lata Mittal identified 72 police officials, including six IPS officers, recommending various penalties against them.March 27, 1990: The Delhi Administration prompted by the newly elected V.P. Singh Government appointed the Poti-Rosha committee without the legal defects pointed out by the high court in the case of the Jain-Banerjee committee.August-September 1990: The Poti-Rosha committee sent two batches of recommendations covering altogether 30 affidavits, including the case against Sajjan Kumar. When a CBI team went to his house to arrest him, Sajjan Kumar and his supporters locked up the officials and detained them till his lawyer, R.K. Anand (now a Congress MP), obtained "anticipatory bail" from the high court. Subsequently, the two committee members, Subramaniam Poti and Padam Rosha, declined to carry on in office when their first term expired on September 22.October-November 1990: The Delhi Administration constituted a fresh committee comprising J.D. Jain and D.K. Aggarwal, to take over the work of the Poti-Rosha committee.June 30, 1993: After making recommendations from time to time from among the remaining 1,000-odd affidavits, including 21 affidavits against Congress leaders H.K.L Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar, the Jain-Aggarwal committee submitted a detailed report giving a comprehensive account of how the police scuttled carnage cases at the stages of registration, investigation and prosecution. The Jain-Aggarwal committee also recommendation action several police officials for their lapses.1994: The Delhi Government under Madan Lal Khurana appointed an Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Justice R.S. Narula. The Advisory Committee reviewed the status of the recommendations made the Poti-Rosha committee, Jain-Aggarwal committee and Kapur-Mittal committee. The Advisory Committee also made a particular reference to the failure of the police, which came under the Congress-ruled Central government, to book the cases recommended against Congress leaders H.K.L. Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar.1995: On the basis of the Advisory Committee's report, Delhi chief minister Madan Lal Khurana repeatedly asked the Centre to let the police take action on the 21 affidavits against Congress leaders H.K.L. Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar. It was only when Khurana threatened to complain to the National Human Rights Commission, the Centre sent those affidavits to the Delhi Government.2000: The Atal Behari Vajpayee Government appointed a fresh judicial inquiry into the 1984 carnage under the chairmanship of Justice G.T. Nanavati. The justification offered for it was the failure to punish the guilty. Despite the lapse of over 15 years, the Nanavati Commission received hundreds of fresh affidavits from victims as well as victims, including prominent persons such as I.K. Gujral, Khushwant Singh, Kuldip Nayar and Jagjit Singh Aurora.2001-02: The Nanavati Commission records much damaging evidence brought on record for the first time since 1984. Arguments pending at the time of release of this report.
Operation BluestarOperation Bluestar 'A Mistake' Operation Bluestar 'A Mistake'by Subhrangshu Gupta in CalcuttaOperation Bluestar in Punjab was certainly a mistake which the then political party in power took under political compulsions, the former Army chief, Gen Shankar Roychowdhury, MP, remarked at an exclusive interview with The Tribune in Calcutta.Gen Roychowdhury said militancy in Punjab was the first phase of the proxy war by Pakistan against India. He felt that Operation Bluestar could be avoided and the problem of militancy in Punjab could have been tackled otherwise.The former Army chief said the militancy in Kashmir or the north-eastern states and elsewhere should be handled both at the political as well as the military level. Otherwise, the problem would not be solved, no matter what assurances the US President, Mr Bill Clinton, might have given during his recent visit to India, Gen Roychowdhury observed. The following are excerpts from the interview -Q: Sir, how would you assess the present problem of militancy in the country? Is it out of control?A: No, it is not out of control. Insurgency or militancy as you know affects two main areas of the country - Kashmir and the north-eastern region. In other parts also there are militant activities but not of the same degree as in Kashmir or the north-eastern states. The problems have been tackled by various forces.Q: Are right steps being taken to handle the problem? What do you suggest the right steps to be taken?A: From place to place, the methods of tackling the problem differ. In Kashmir, it is Pakistan's proxy war offensive, the ultimate aim is to detach Kashmir from India. It is, I feel, an attempt by Pakistan to take revenge of their loss in the Bangladesh war in which over 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war were brought captive to India. It is, therefore, a war of revenge. The Government has been taking steps to handle the problems in Kashmir but whether it is right or wrong, time will tell. But the right steps would be to carry out intense military operation in Kashmir in tandem with political and administrative measures. As far as the north-eastern states are concerned, the administration has entered into a peace talk with the NSC and Aksumiva group which is the main insurgent unit in the region. But the talks at present are held up because Mr Muiva himself has been arrested and imprisoned in a jail in Thailand.I would suggest that the problem of insurgency whether in Kashmir or the north-eastern region should be tackled on a politico-military basis. In Kashmir, there should be deployment of adequate minimum force since the jawans will not be fighting a war.Q: In the early seventies, we could hardly hear about problems of militancy, but now it is everywhere, why?A: No, it is not true. The Nagaland insurgency had started in 1953 or earlier and in Mizoram it began sometime in 1961. Mizoram, however, is now peaceful following a peace agreement. In Tripura, insurgency started in the 80s and the problem could not be fully solved.You must note that other than Kashmir, these are basically the expressions of resentment against power. There were cultural and psychological barrier from people to people and place to place. Delhi is far off from the north-eastern region not only in geographical distance but also in perception. The people in this region feel isolated and alienated. But in places, say, in Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Orissa, some interested groups backed by interested parties, are creating problems and their anti-national activities should be crushed firmly, jointly by the Army and the state armed police.Q: Are foreign powers behind the militants? You held the highest post in the Army and you must have informations from your intelligence network?A: It's a known fact that Pakistan is involved in militant activities in Kashmir and a section of people living in the valley have been raising the slogan of Azad Kashmir. But the people living in other areas, say Ladakh, are not making such demand. Militancy or insurgency in Kashmir, I reiterate, is a proxy-war offensive, generated, designed, trained, equipped and financed by Pakistan -the funds coming from extremist organisations in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries and by selling of illicit drugs.As far as the north-eastern states are concerned, there is sufficient evidence of ISI linkage in the extremist activities, which were also strong in Bangladesh during the regime of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP). Now, however, the Hasina Administration has taken steps to ensure that their lands are not used for hostile activities against India.Q: Now let's talk about Punjab which witnessed serious militant insurgency during the 80s. How could a beautiful and peaceful state like Punjab suddenly became the venue of terrorists activities?A: Punjab is located in the closest proximity with Pakistan. The people in the state had certain genuine grievances, which the Delhi Administration for long ignored. And a section of people, particularly younger people, got frustrated for want of opportunities for them. Pakistan took advantage of the situation and came forward with funds and arms for them to launch an armed struggle against India. You should note that Punjab was the beginning of the present phase of insurgency in the country.Q: Do you think as an Army chief that right steps had been taken to tackle the problem of militancy in Punjab?A: No, certainly not. I don't think right steps were taken. Operation Bluestar was totally unwarranted and a mistaken step. The party in power at Delhi at that time had taken the step more on political consideration. However, the situation there has changed. Democracy has been restored in Punjab.Q: Was India right in dealing with the LTTE?A: The LTTE was an internal problem of Sri Lanka and India had no business there. We despatched the IPKF (Indian peace-keeping force) to Sri Lanka to enforce an agreement which the Sri Lankan Government itself did not want. The IPKF did an absolutely thankless job under political compulsion of the Centre. As a result we suffered heavily as the Army could not act under military operation.Q: Sir, you held the highest position in the Army and now you are an MP as an independent with support from the Congress (I) as well as Left parties including the CPM. Any plan to join any particular party in future?A: No, I'm not a member of any party and will remain so in future. No I have no plan or desire to join any political party
Operation Blue Star (3– 6 June 1984) was an Indian military operation, ordered by Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India, under the pretext of removing Sikh separatists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The insurgents, led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, were accused of amassing weapons in the Sikh temple.
The operation was carried out by Indian army troops with tanks 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 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 is considered responsible for seizing historical artifacts and manuscripts in the Sikh Reference Library before burning it down.
The military assault 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, 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. 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.
Operation Bluestar, which began in the early hours of June 6, 1984, was like a dagger through the heart for Sikhs everywhere. Thousands railed against the Indian State, the army, and all those who were connected in any way with the operation. A large number of Sikh soldiers, enraged by rumours that the Golden Temple had been damaged (the temple itself remained untouched, though the Akal Takht was damaged), deserted the armed forces. Author Khushwant Singh famously returned his Padma Bhushan award in protest. Four months and three weeks later, Indira Gandhi paid the ultimate price for ordering Operation Bluestar.
Satwant could feel her clothes sticking to her, the heat was unbearable, she had spent the night tossing and turning trying to get a goodnights sleep. She glanced at her watch, it was 4am, she thought, I need to get up, help milking the cows so Bibi (mother) doesn’t change her mind about letting me go to Amritsar. She quickly rose to her feet and looked into her parents bedroom and saw that Bibi was still sound asleep.