The Truth Behind Operation Bluestar
The Truth Behind Operation Bluestar
On 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.