By Sajjad Shaukat
June 5 and June 6 are reminders of the ‘Operation Blue Star’ when Indian military, led by General Kuldip Singh Brar, launched attack on the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs in 1984, to arrest Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the only leader who had boldly been fighting for the genuine rights of the Sikhs. The Indian Army supported by troops and armoured vehicles broke all records of the state terrorism and extra-judicial killings through that barbaric operation.
It is mentionable that at that time, there were only 251 Sikhs inside the complex to protect the Golden Temple, and to resist the well-trained Indian army, equipped with sophisticated weaponry. In those days, majority of the Sikhs were coming to Golden Temple to celebrate Martyr Day of Guru Arjan Dev Ji.
Then the Indian regime used tanks and destroyed the Akaal Takhat Sahib which is right in front of the Golden Temple. On June 6, when all Sikh fighters were martyred along with Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Indian troops entered the temple with their shoes by deliberately ignoring the holiness of the place, showing utter indecency. When the Indian Army felt that only 251 men had prevented them from entering the temple for so many days, they started killing innocent Sikhs who had come there to visit the Temple. The only purpose was to hide their humiliation.
In this regard, in their book, “The Sikh Struggle”, Ramnarain Kumar and George Sieberer writes, “The army killed every Sikh who could be found inside the temple complex. They were hauled out of rooms, brought to corridors on the circumference of the temple and with their hands tied behind their back, were shot in cold blood. Among the victims were many old men, women and children.” However, all visitors were locked up in rooms for two days without any food, water, or electricity and were starved to death. Besides, the Golden Temple remained under the army control for many months.”
The brutality of the ‘Operation Blue Star’ was not confined to the Golden Temple. Indian armed forces simultaneously attacked 40 other historical gurdwaras all over East Punjab.
When Sikhs in other states came to know about the desecration of the Golden Temple and massacre of their brethren, they quickly left for Punjab. New Delhi tried to stop them before they could reach Punjab. Many Sikhs were assassinated on the way and many others were arrested.
According to an estimate, about 50,000 Sikhs were killed within a few days. The whole Amritsar city was sealed and was burnt. A number of tourists either were murdered or arrested. Shops belonging to Sikhs were looted and their houses were set ablaze by Hindu mobs. In most of the cases, Sikh women were molested and some persons of their community were also burnt.
Another tragic dimension of the operation is that historical Sikh artifacts—all the literature written by the gurus was also set ablaze by the Indian army. But New Delhi fabricated a false story by claiming that it was burnt while bombing the Temple.
In the same year of November, two dedicated Sikhs named Beant Singh and Satwant Singh who were posted at Premier Indira Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi, assassinated her. Then Hindu riots erupted in the capital and other cities in which more then 15,000 Sikhs were murdered in broad daylight by the supporters of Indira Gandhi while police watched silently so as to provide the Hindus with free hand to massacre Sikhs.
However, the attack on the Golden Temple and genocide of Sikhs only accelerated the liberation movement for Khalistan as Bhindrenwale became a folk hero.
Meanwhile, after ‘Operation Blue Star’ and the Sikh genocide, Sikhs’ struggle for independence continued, but the Indian government made every effort to crush the same with the state machinery. To maintain its control over the Golden Temple, another attack was launched on the Temple in 1987, called ‘Operation Black Thunder’. This time only Sikh resistance which was natural outcome of the tragedy, was the main target. In that respect, quite a number of people of their community were killed and dead bodies lay inside the sacred place for many days. According to a report, many trucks were loaded with dead bodies and all were burned with kerosene oil. Afterwards, ‘Operation Woodrose’ and ‘Operation Black Thunder-II’ were conducted against the Sikh community, which also assassinated them extra-judicially.
After these barbaric operations, Sikhs organised themselves into an armed power in order to fight the Indian state terrorism. Many Sikhs left India to escape religious persecution. Sikhs have spread out all over the world to keep the movement of Khalistan alive. In this respect, their struggle is still going on.
A renowned scholar, Dr. Sangat Singh in his book, “The Sikhs in History”, remarks, “The Indian government has killed over 1 million to 1.2 million Sikhs. Since 1947, Indian government has also killed 50,000 Christians and 100,000 Muslims. The only way to stop this state terrorism is to create a Khalistan state, where Sikhs and other religious people can enjoy their freedom..
Notably, Indian secret agency, RAW has been targeting worship-places of Sikhs and Hindus besides killing people of their communities through various subversive acts in Pakistan. Under the pretext, the main aim behind is to malign Islamabad. In this context, India media has deliberately been defaming Pakistan in the comity of nations by propagating the issue of migration of Sikh and Hindu families to India, while only a few cases of migration of these minorities from Pakistan to India have occurred. But, in its campaign, Indian media has deliberately omitted the positive measures of the Pakistan Government, taken to safeguard the rights and interests of the Sikh-Hindu minorities.
On the other side, the targeted Killings of Sikhs, Muslims and Christians, and the denial of justice to the victims by the Indian state is a common feature. The tales of brutal suppression of religious minorities in the Indian state are endless. Like Sikhs, Muslim and the Christian minorities in India continue to face daily harassment and threats of death for practicing their faith. Christianity is seen as a threat to Hindu fundamentalists who enjoy the backing of fundamentalist Hindu political parties like the BJP. In 2000, an Australian Christian missionary Graham Staines was burned alive along with his two young sons by Hindu fundamentalists.
Besides, many Christian priests have been killed or severely injured in hate motivated attacks, and nuns have been raped all in a bid to put a stop to their missionary activities of serving humanity. In 2008, Hindu fundamentalists unleashed a reign of terror on the minority Christian population in the Indian state of Orissa. Hindu fundamentalists targeted several churches during Sunday services, and attacked the Christian congregations, and burned down countless churches. Hundreds of Christians were killed and tens of thousands were forced to flee their homes. In many cases, when Christian went to file reports with their local police stations, the presiding officers refused to record them.
Besides, since partition, by availing the opportunity of communal rights, Hindus killed thousands of Muslims with the backing of Indian officials and police. Notably, during the massacre of Muslims in Gujrat, Indian top officials and the ministers supported the tragedy. This fact was also pointed out by the Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch. Participation of Indian rulers and leaders along with Hindu fundamentalists in destruction of the Babri mosque presents another such example.
Similarly, many other groups face discrimination and inequitable treatment in the India which claims to be secular state. In its report, Human Rights Watch said, “about 170 million Dalits (considered untouchables) are condemned to a lifetime of abuse and degradation in India just because of their cast classification. The Dalits and Adivasis face widespread discrimination like decreased educational opportunity; religious discrimination; economic deprivations and targeted violence.”
In fact, Indian government dominated by politicians from the Hindi heartland uses force ruthlessly against any move to free Assam, Khalistan, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu and Tripura.
While, in case of the Indian-occupied Kashmir, Indian army and paramilitary forces have perennially been employing various forms of state terrorism on the innocent Kashmiris such as extrajudicial killings, burning of houses, sieges, curfews and molesting the women so as to crush the war of liberation—instead of implementing the UN resolutions which would result into independence of the Kashmir.
Nevertheless, June 5 and June 6 are reminders of the Sikh tragedy, when the Indian army targeted the Golden Temple through ‘Operation Blue Star’ and massacred several Sikhs.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Affairs