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Operation Bluestar

by Vikas Kamat
First Online: May 01, 2006
Page Last Updated: May 09, 2017

On the night of June 5, 1984 the Indian Army stormed the Golden Temple complex to flush the Sikh dissidents who were opposed to the Indian rule in the state of Punjab, and were demanding a separate nation which they named Khalistan. This important event in Indian history and its aftermath is remembered here as "Operation Bluestar".

Background

The dissidents (also referred to as extremists, militants, terrorists, and even as freedom fighters) had been heavily funded from abroad (by the Sikh community which supported the cause, and by the neighboring Pakistan which wanted weakening of India), and had taken to violence with hijacking of aero-planes, kidnapping, use of guns, and taking over Sikh places of worship.

There was tremendous pressure on Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India to take action, because the violence was destabilizing India.

The Operation

The Sikh militants (my father always objected to the term "Sikh Terrorists", he'd say "terrorism has no religion, and was a religion of its own"), led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, refused to surrender and instead used heavy fire power on the Army. The commanders of the operation had to bring in tanks to support the commandos, and were met with anti-tank missiles fired from within the temple complex.

The fighting continued for several days, and many civilians and pilgrims got caught in the crossfire. Many extremists died in the conflict and a large quantity of ammunition was discovered shocking the nation. The city of Amritsar was cut off from rest of the world, and later figures put the toll on thousands, including many soldiers of the Indian Army.

The Bloody Aftermath 

Many Sikh soldiers started abandoning the Army in protest of Operation Bluestar. Many efforts were made to stop the exodus.

Five months after Operation Bluestar, on October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi,  who had ordered the crackdown, was assassinated by her bodyguards, who practiced Sikh religion, apparently in revenge for attack on Akal Takht.

The assassination was followed by much more violence, against Sikhs by the members of the ruling Congress party. Thousands of Sikhs were killed and their property burned in parts of India, especially in the capital New Delhi.

Eventually the damaged temple, including the Harmandir Sahib was repaired by Sikh volunteers. Indira's son Rajiv Gandhi then forged a peace agreement with the moderate Sikhs, and prevented further violence.

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