The 15th Anniversary of Operation Blue-Star
The 15th Anniversary of Operation Blue-Star
Why People Must Take a Stand!
Paper delivered by the Association of Indian Progressive Study Groups, (AIPSG), at a Public Meeting in London at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on June 26th 1999 to mark the 15th anniversary of Operation Blue Star
On behalf of the Association of Indian Progressive Study Groups (the AIPSG), I would like to thank the RCPB(ML) for organising this meeting and for inviting us to participate in this important discussion on the Legacy of Operation Blue Star. We consider it very significant that it is the RCPB(ML) and the British people that are standing up in defence of the rights of people both at home and abroad and challenging the pretensions of the Tony Blairs of this world and their campaign of disinformation.
Operation Blue Star took place in Amritsar, Punjab, between 4th - 6th June, 1984. The reason we have gathered here in London in June 1999 is not so much to reminisce about what took place in Amritsar fifteen years ago, but to discuss what is happening in India and the world today, as we speak. Still more important for us is to deliberate upon where do we stand on what is happening today and how we must intervene into the current developments on the basis of the conclusions we can draw from the legacy of Operation Blue Star. This is the context in which the discussion on Operation Blue Star will be most meaningful.
First of all, Operation Blue Star was the logical culmination of a very long-standing policy of state interference into religious matters. In a very concentrated and brutal way, it symbolized the policy of religious divisions that the Indian State had been practicing throughout India. In Punjab, this can be traced back to the original partition of Punjab between Pakistan and India in 1947 on the basis of Hindus and Muslims, and the subsequent carving out of Haryana in 1968 on a strictly communal basis, dividing Hindus and Sikhs. Operation Blue Star added to the division, supposedly between moderates and fundamentalist Sikhs.
In India, the approach that the ruling circles decided to take in order to emerge out of their crisis was one of open terror, anarchy and slaughter of the people on top of their policy of divide and rule.
Secondly, Operation Blue Star occurred at a time when the entire welfare-state approach, represented in India by the Congress party, and in Britain by the Labour party had run into serious crisis. It came at a time when the Soviet State was entering its final years and began pushing perestroika and glasnost, which actually contributed to its complete demise. It was in the context of this crisis of the welfare state that in the U.S. and Britain, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were brought into power, who sought to solve this crisis with their twin policies of militarisation and social cutbacks. They embarked on an ideological and political warfare against the people of the world, from Grenada to Nicaragua, from Iran to Ireland. In India, the approach that the ruling circles decided to take in order to emerge out of their crisis was one of open terror, anarchy and slaughter of the people on top of their policy of divide and rule.
Operation Blue Star was not something sudden, something unexpected, or as the state tried to present it, as something the Indira Gandhi government was "forced" into doing. It emerged logically out of decades of a policy of division and diversion, and was in turn, to serve that policy in a new and more deadly manner in the years to come. The last fifteen years have shown how this policy of division and diversion has evolved and far from resolving the crisis in favour of the Indian state as the Indira Gandhi government had hoped, it has deepened the crisis further.
Division, Diversion and Interference in Religion
It will help to just take a cursory look at what has happened to the policy of state interference in religion over the past fifteen years. On the one hand, there was a so-called apology that the Congress Party made a year or so ago for having organized Operation Blue Star. But on the other hand, the controversies that are raging in India over the past year relating to the appointment of the Jathedar to the Akal Takht , the intrigue of the Americans into that fight who first granted a visa to Bhai Ranjit Singh to visit the US, and then revoked it, following which he was dismissed as the jathedar by the government of Punjab, make it apparent that this policy of state interference has not ended, but has been elevated to a new plane. The problem is not even limited to India any more, for there are bitter fights and divisions taking place in Gurdwaras around the world, including those here in Britain that mirror those fights in India. There have been the murders of the care-taker at the Surrey Gurudwara in British Columbia, and of the editor of Des Pardes, a Punjabi-language newspaper also in Canada. Similarly, there are the fights for sitting arrangements during langar in the Sikh temples in several different countries where the police have sought hard to characterise the problem as one of "fundamentalists" versus "moderates", and on that basis, to criminalize the differences among people. In conclusion, it is becoming evident that at least here in Britain, as well as Canada, the US, and generally all over the world, the members of the Sikh religion have become the target of state interference by the state agencies of these countries besides the agencies from India and Punjab itself. This is the legacy of Operation Blue Star.
The interference of the State into religion was not invented in 1984 to launch Operation Blue Star, nor did it end with it. The division of India in 1947 was itself the product of a conscious policy of interference of the British State into the religious affairs in order to maintain their colonial plunder, while today the rising war clouds in South Asia also have their origin in the interference of the State in the religious affairs of the people. In contemporary times, Anglo-American imperialism is spearheading the division of people into "fundamentalists" versus "moderates" on the world scale. This policy of division and diversion is in its totality, the single most important weapon that the Indian ruling circles and the world powers use to keep people disoriented from taking up the tasks of renovating the economic and political systems to serve their needs. It is on this issue we all must take a stand. For us to be able to take a stand, we must discuss what is going on in front of our eyes where people are being goaded to fight with each other and be set up for mutual slaughter.
.on the occasion of the birthday of the Fifth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Arjan Dev who himself was martyred while defending the dignity of the Sikhs centuries before. What was apparent then, and what has become clearer with hindsight is that this infamous attack on the highest seat of religion of the Sikhs was intended to humiliate a whole people, to attack their dignity and their struggle.
Slaughter is the only way to describe what took place on June 4th, 5th and 6th of 1984 in the premises of the Golden Temple and Akal Takht when the Indian Army, under orders from Indira Gandhi government, without warning, assaulted the premises with heavy artillery, tanks, Howitzer guns, and other mechanised weapons. The attack coincided with the religious celebrations taking place at the Temple on the occasion of the birthday of the Fifth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Arjan Dev who himself was martyred while defending the dignity of the Sikhs centuries before. What was apparent then, and what has become clearer with hindsight is that this infamous attack on the highest seat of religion of the Sikhs was intended to humiliate a whole people, to attack their dignity and their struggle. What is going on today in Britain, the US, Canada and India with respect to Sikhs tells us that this policy to humiliate people has not ended. We can also say with full confidence that the people have stood up and not permitted anyone to lower their dignity. They stood up in 1984, courting martyrdom defending the sanctity of Golden Temple with guns in hand, they stood up afterwards when Punjab entered into insurgency and defiance which plunged the New Delhi regime into a crisis from which it has not yet emerged. They are standing up now by fighting against the violation of rights that have occurred and occurring in Punjab. It is the present struggle for rights and against state terrorism which has the greatest potential to defeat the politics of division and diversion not just in Punjab but in whole of India and create the possibility for a new India to emerge on the basis of affirming rights of all on a modern basis.
Punjab was, is and will be at the center of the solution of the problems of South Asia. Conversely, the destabilization of Punjab was, is and will be at the heart of destabilization of South Asia. If a war breaks out between India and Pakistan today, besides any other place, Punjab will be the bulls-eye of destruction. Similarly, if the Punjab nation can affirm the right to self determination in today's world, or if the portion of Punjab that is within India or Pakistan can affirm the right of self determination for the Punjabi nationality, it will be an immense contribution for all the nations of South Asia in their struggle to affirm their own rights. The struggle of the Punjabi people prior to Operation Blue Star and afterwards has made it amply clear that promoting anarchy and violence in Punjab is the insurance policy of the ruling circles of India to keep the Punjab problem unresolved and keep the Indian people divided and diverted.
Terrorism, State-Terrorism and Disinformation
Operation Blue Star was a defining event in Indian politics in the sense that it institutionalized anarchy and violence against the people as the preferred state policy and opened the path for such infamies as the destruction of the Babri Masjid, the attack on the Hazratbal, the burning of Churches and Temples in Gujarat, the assassinations of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Longowal and other political personalities, the bomb blasts in Mumbai, Calcutta, Coimbatore, Jalpaiguri etc, the massacres in Delhi, Mumbai, Madurai and so on. There was a clear turning point in that sense during the mid-eighties, almost coinciding with what took place worldwide as the fraud of bipolar division came crumbling down, as the anti-social offensive of the world bourgeoisie intensified, as the search for ways and means to move away from the state monopoly capitalism to free market reform accelerated. The trend ushered in by Operation Blue Star made it possible for the Narasimha Rao government to introduce its privatization and liberalization programs seven years later amidst great anarchy and confusion in the country that had rendered the people incapable effectively resist those attacks. What unfolded in Ayodhya later was only a continuation of what Operation Blue Star had sanctioned, and that infamous legacy carries on to this day.
We know since then that the overwhelming majority of the people who were killed during Operation Blue Star were innocent pilgrims and those who were arrested were released without charges against them ever being filed.
The Bains Commission which the government of Punjab had appointed to investigate the terrorism charge against the detainees established convincingly that there was no evidence of any terrorist activity by the arrested individuals who, if you recall, were called dreaded terrorists, Pakistani agents and what-not,
.it is that disinformation.pretexts to justify their attacks on the people which otherwise cannot be justified.
As the retrogression in the world is deepening and the world powers are embarking upon the path of war preparations, war mongering and war on the one hand while stepping up the anti-social offensive through WTO, IMF, World Bank, modifications to the multilateral agreement on investment to impose MAI on the developing countries and so on, India has unveiled its own initiatives for militarisation and war besides a "second wave of liberalization and privatization". What is happening today in the world and in India are as significant as what happened nearly fifteen years ago. If Perestroika in Soviet Union and Operation Blue Star in India were symptomatic of what was to come then, today it is Operation Allied Force in the Balkans and Operation Vijay in Kashmir that define the way big powers want to enter the next millennium.
In 1984, the Indira Gandhi government claimed that it had no choice but to launch an army assault on the Golden Temple to flush out terrorists. We know since then that overwhelming majority of the people who were killed during Operation Blue Star were innocent pilgrims and those who were arrested were released without charges against them ever being filed. The Bains Commission which the government of Punjab had appointed to investigate the terrorism charge against the detainees established convincingly that there was no evidence of any terrorist activity by the arrested individuals who, if you recall, were called dreaded terrorists, Pakistani agents and what-not, and were even detained in jails far away in Jodhpur in Rajasthan. Is there a conclusion to be drawn that is relevant here for us today? Yes, it is that disinformation is the stock-in-trade of all those who manufacture pretexts to justify their attacks on the people which otherwise cannot be justified. That is what is most likely going on today in Kashmir.
The Kargil Crisis and the Danger of Indo-Pak War
Bombing from the air on your own territory can never be accepted by anyone as much as firing upon pilgrims in a religious shrine can be justified. Such actions are meant to set precedents so that the insurgencies in other parts of the country can be attacked, so that villages can be bombed in the name of attacking terrorist hide-outs, demonstrations of workers can be bombed in the manner British had attacked anti-colonial demonstrations in Peshawar and other cities in the 1930's. This is to continue spreading the big lie that the insurgency in Kashmir is only because of interference from Pakistan, which is the same logic that was given in 1984 when the white-paper of Indira Gandhi supposedly documented the weapons cache it had uncovered from Akal Takht premises which were supposedly supplied by Pakistan. Facts have since shown that it was not the Pakistan government which was behind the murders and mayhem in Punjab but it was the armed police of India, under orders from New Delhi directly, which was carrying out the mayhem both directly and through "anti-terrorist" squads it had organized.
The Indian state cannot hide the fact that its policy of last decade to exterminate the fighters of Kashmir has been a failure and it is resorting to more drastic and more draconian measures to accomplish what it has failed to accomplish to date. Just last year, India's Home Minister was congratulating himself for his government's pro-active Kashmir policy of "showing no false-pity" on the insurgents, was calling for open war against peasant insurgents of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa, declaring them all to be criminal and denying that they had any economic or political causes. Is there not a connection between this latest attacks on pockets of militants in Kashmir and Advani's policy of military attacks upon those fighting for political and economic rights? No matter what pretext is given about cross-border infiltration and so on for justifying the current bombings, it cannot be accepted that the Indian government had no choice but to go for full scale war to flush out pockets of insurgents in remote mountains of Kashmir.
It is also significant to note that the support it has received for this adventurist policy is the same support it had received in 1984, when it assaulted the Golden Temple. It was then the Americans, Germans, British, Russians and others who had openly supported the government of India for that infamy in 1984. It is not a coincidence that today, the same powers are doing the same again, lining up behind the Indian government one by one, starting with Bill Clinton of the US, and Tony Blair being the latest.
This parade of the leaders of the G8 calling for return to status-quo ante in Kashmir is the most revealing and most worrisome development in the last week. It is worrisome because these leaders, in their joint communique issue in Cologne last week, state in Clause 40 that : "In order to improve our ability to prevent crises, it is necessary, consistent with the principles and purposes of the UN Charter, to enhance the capacity to recognize and address the potential for conflict at an early stage. Risks and causes of violent conflicts must be more effectively monitored and the information shared to forestall them".
In the resolution they adopted on regional issues, they specifically identify Yugoslavia, Kosova and Middle East as zones of conflict and then add Jordan, Cyprus, Nigeria and Kashmir as places where they intend to "identify potential for conflict at an early stage". On Kashmir, the statement reads:"We are deeply concerned about the continuing military confrontation in Kashmir following the infiltration of armed intruders which violated the Line of Control. We regard any military action to change the status quo as irresponsible. We therefore call for the immediate end of these actions, restoration of the Line of Control and for the parties to work for an immediate cessation of the fighting, full respect in the future for the Line of Control and the resumption of the dialogue between India and Pakistan in the spirit of the Lahore Declaration."
Is there a link between the first and the second communiqués? Was the visit of US General Mr. Zinni and a host of US State Department officials to Pakistan just two days after this joint communique was signed by Bill Clinton meant to identify "at an early stage the potential for conflict between India and Pakistan"? What does this sudden convergence of views of all the big powers on Kashmir issue reveal about what exactly they are up to?
Imperialism and the Post-Cold War Redivision of the World
All these facts have to be analyzed in the context that the world is in a state of disequilibrium since the end of the Cold War. The big powers cannot just bluff their way to a new equilibrium. In the era of imperialism, a new equilibrium can come either through war or through the victory of the people. If the people do not succeed, then war cannot be averted. In the end, the war will be among the big powers themselves to redivide the world. In spite of all their show of togetherness, it is very apparent that they are all preparing for such an eventuality. The times are not ripe yet for the big powers to go to war among themselves. They are testing their weaponry, their abilities and so on as they move towards such an eventuality inch by inch. The European Union has decided to have its own military alliance side by side with NATO. Russia has started modernizing its defence systems. The US has never stopped arming and rearming itself and its allies.
So far, since the end of Cold War, the big powers have been able to stay together by creating common enemies like Saddam Hussain or Slobodan Milosovic who themselves were one time clients of one or more of these powers and have been demonized since then. They have chosen their targets carefully, in the Middle East and in the Balkan peninsula where the old colonial powers and their empires had clashed before. They have tried to undo what the developments of twentieth century had tried to resolve in these parts of the world. They have sought to establish their old colonial privileges and clienteles in these parts of the world. Does it require much imagination that Asia is the biggest and most prized target of these Eurocentrist powers to undo the advances of the 20th century on the front of formal independence of the Asian countries from the European colonisers?
.the conquest of Asia is on the agenda of the European and American powers of today and their banding together on the Kashmir dispute is the continuation of their banding together in the recent past against Iraq or Yugoslavia. There is no other way you can explain the sudden rush to activism by these powers on Kashmir issue which has been festering for last five decades
What better policy than the tried and tested policy of perennial instability, war and bloodshed to claim their old colonies as new clients? In other words, the conquest of Asia is on the agenda of the European and American powers of today and their banding together on the Kashmir dispute is the continuation of their banding together in the recent past against Iraq or Yugoslavia. There is no other way you can explain the sudden rush to activism by these powers on Kashmir issue which has been festering for last five decades and on which each one of these powers have a sordid history for taking the stand against the interest of the people and of the nation of Kashmir each and every time an opportunity had arisen to solve it.
They cannot hide their sordid history through disinformation, by presenting terrorism as antiterrorism, by presenting aggression as humanitarian intervention and the like. No sooner had the bombs stopped dropping on Kosova, than the US ordered ships away from Adriatic sea and into the Korean waters in the East. The government in Macedonia extended diplomatic recognition to Taiwan almost at the same time the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was bombed. The US has negotiated a new military base agreement with the Philippines government while the Japanese parliament approved legislation to allow the US military to operate from Japanese territory without informing the government of Japan under emergency situations.
What these developments are showing is that the Kashmir policy of the G8 has to be understood within the specific time and place it is situated in. Today, Kashmir is a potential zone of war - all the commentators worldwide say so very openly these days. In reality, that means, the big powers of the world are preparing for a war in Kashmir. Notwithstanding all the disinformation spread about the infiltrators in Kashmir, it is fairy-tale to believe that the US did not have a hand in the appearance of any groups of infiltrators on the Indian side of Line of Control if such a thing has happened. Otherwise, it makes no sense that the US president, after remaining quiet in public for three weeks or so after India started bombing in the Kargil region, one day made a public display of his advice to Pakistani prime minister that the infiltrators should be pulled out. But in the most pathetic manner, Indian government officials are crowing about the support of the big powers to its position. How can this public phone call of the US president be a victory for the Indian government's war policy? If anything, one can only say that Indian government has walked into a trap set for it by the big powers and the pit is so deep that they cannot see any light.
.calling on the people of India to hold political strikes and explain to them what it is doing to foil the plans of international powers to impose war in Kashmir. It can create mechanisms for the people of India to march in their millions on the streets of Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Ludhiana and so on demanding peace. I can assure you that you will see the same in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad right away.
From the view point of the people, one can say that India must deescalate the conflict and force the government of Pakistan to negotiate with it on whatever issues that divide the two countries. The government of India can do so by calling on the people of India to hold political strikes and explain to them what it is doing to foil the plans of international powers to impose war in Kashmir. It can create mechanisms for the people of India to march in their millions on the streets of Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Ludhiana and so on demanding peace. I can assure you that you will see the same in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad right away. People will be able to play their role to ensure that military solution to Kashmir problem and Indo-Pak problem is never considered as a solution either by the regime in Delhi or in Islamabad. Indian government does not look at this as an option, in fact it does the opposite, it looks at military option as the only option and depoliticises the people so that they find for themselves no role in setting the policy for war and peace even though their sons and daughters pay for the policy with their blood and their taxes.
In short, the bombings and shelling in Kashmir are the most provocative things right now which can plunge South Asia into war and let no one rejoice that the G8 is taking up Kashmir issue on its agenda. This is a matter on which all people must take a stand. It is a matter of the same calibre as taking a stand against Blue Star in June 1984 which the British working class, along with other democratic forces of the world courageously took right then, which was exemplified in the meeting organised in Southall on June 9, 1984 where Hardial Bains so clearly spoke on behalf of us all.
And indeed, what can be said of those who conciliated with the Indira Gandhi government at that time? These forces actually claimed that it was the people of India who were communal and that the actions of the Indian army in the Golden Temple were necessary measures to secure the defence of secularism. In fact, it can be shown that the secular-communal divide that is being pushed in India today has its origins in the Operation Blue Star itself and furthermore, the forces most vigorously behind the secular movement today are the very ones who were the biggest defenders of the army action on Golden Temple in 1984. It can also be shown that as the Soviet Union began collapsing in the 1980's and these conciliators could no longer just keep their democratic credentials merely on the basis of repeating the Soviet positions on all national and international issues, they openly adopted the doctrine of "defense of national unity and territorial integrity" of India as their new credo. This India of the big business houses and big landlords became for them the standard bearer of the "secular fabric" and its defence has been their new cause. They have defended the brutalities in Punjab enacted under K.P.S. Gill and Beant Singh under the pretext that the state terror unleashed by them was directed against communalists and terrorists. Similarly, they have defended the massacres of thousands of people by the Indian state and its agencies in Kashmir because the issue there for them is one of Islamic fundamentalism that will weaken the "secular fabric" of their Indian state. They have consistently defended all forms of state terrorism in India in the name of "defence of national unity and territorial integrity" and they are today calling on people to support the bombing and shelling by the Indian military in Kashmir as well.
Social chauvinism was the hallmark of German social democracy during first Word War and it is not a coincidence that social chauvinism is being used to keep people depoliticized and away from looking at real solutions to real problems at a time when the retrogression is pushing the world backwards to medievalism. But the people of India have drawn conclusions from what has happened to this world and what has happened to them. They are drawing new conclusions everyday as the events and phenomena reveal themselves. This is the time to politicize the people so that the program for renewal of the economic, political and national-international life can be taken up earnestly. This is where the struggle of the people of India is at this time and the times are calling for doing those things which will enable people to take a stand in favour of renewal at this time.
A Programme of Renewal for the People of India
The main obstacles facing the movement for democratic renewal in India or in Britain or the US are the depoliticization of the people and the massive disinformation campaign. The coming electoral struggle in India presents a great opportunity to the people to turn the situation around in their favour by actually rejecting the pressure to line up behind the parties who have been responsible for Operation Blue Star, the fake encounters, the massacres of Mumbai and Delhi and so on, rejecting the pressure to defend the "secularism" of the Indian state or the doctrine of national unity and territorial integrity. This means, rather than getting embroiled in the debate over which faction of the ruling circles are communal and which ones are secular, people can discuss and implement their own program for progress of India.
The politics of division and diversion is the politics of keeping such an agenda away from the people. The programme of democratic renewal which the Communist Ghadar Party of India (CGPI) has presented under the title: “hum hai iske malik, hum hai hindustan, majdoor, kisan, aurat aur jawan”, (Workers, Peasants, Women and Youth: We constitute India, We are Her Masters) is a programme that can lift India out of its crisis . Objectively speaking, movements like the one against state terrorism in Punjab, against the Narmada project, against nuclear weapons and war, against WTO and so on are all expressions of the movement of the people for their empowerment for the renewal of India. The growth of these movements in the last