Some Wounds Never Heal; [ਸਾਕਾ ਨੀਲਾ ਤਾਰਾ] – Harshpreet Singh

  No decision could have been more painful, more fraught with tragic consequences, than the one to launch Operation Bluestar. In June 1984, on the orders of the Dictator Indira Gandhi and her fascist government, the Indian Armed Forces stormed into the Holiest Shrine of the Sikhs’ Harimandir Sahib (Darbar Sahib). Panjab was cordoned off from the entire globe for a brief period, curfew was imposed and all transport facilities via rail, road and air were shut down. The media was gagged and all radio, fax, telegram and telephone connection were snapped in the State making it Zone Zero. On June 3, 1984 the Army attacked the Darbar Sahib as well as 41 other gurudwaras throughout Panjab.The assault, codenamed “Operation Blue Star,” marked the beginning of a policy of gross human rights violations in Punjab that continues to have profound implications for the rule of law in India. The military action at the Golden Temple in 1984 has left a lasting impact on generations of Sikhs, leaving many to try and piece together fragments of painful pasts. It happened 40 years ago but it feels as if it was yesterday – the heart, body and mind still feel the tremors of the emotional earthquake it caused. The force of those tremors intensifies every year when June 6 approaches. Operation Bluestar (saka neela tara), a fancy-sounding code-name given to a dreadful& disastrous military action at the Sikhs’ holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, was launched on June 1, 1984, with a ‘national broadcast to the nation’ by then authoritarian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. State media and other non-state media outlets praised the operation for saving India’s ‘unity and integrity’ from ‘anti-national’ Sikh secessionism. Sikhs never need a third person’s validation to prove their patriotism and loyalty but we all know what we got in return for all the sacrifices we made. The Operation caused death, destruction and sacrilege on a huge scale which has left deep inflicting life long impacts on the hearts of the Sikhs, seeing there once glorified, prosperous and mighty Akal Takht the Highest Seat of Temporal Authority for the Sikhs which was once created by Baba Budha Sahib and Bhai Gurdas Ji on the orders of Guru Hargobind Sahib now reduced to a pile of rubble and stones by tank and artillery shells. Sikhs could never believe that the government would go to such an extent of striking directly at their heart, for a moment every Sikh felt that their position in India; a country for whose Independence the majority of sacrifices had been given by them , had now been stooped far more low than what the Jews felt while living in Nazi-Germany. Indira Gandhi’s political decision to use the ‘Us vs Them card’ to gain electoral victories led her to choose a dangerous path of confrontation, first with the Akalis and eventually with the entire Sikh community. This miscalculation cost Indira Gandhi her life, and left the communities of Punjab and of India in general provoked and polarised. The media and state supporters of that era and now, welcomed the move with open arms and termed the Operation not as an attack but more of a cleansing and clearing process of the Darbar Sahib from what they call “extremists”. To counter them I would like to quote another “extremist” Yasser Arafat the chairman of PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) who in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 1974 said, “One person’s Terrorist is another person’s Freedom fighter”. The difference between the revolutionary and the terrorist lies in the reason for which each fights. For whoever stands by a just cause and fights for the freedom and liberation of his land cannot possibly be called terrorist. Because of government censorship, the Indian Army’s version became the prevalent version of history. According to Government reports, 493 “extremists” were killed and not more than 80 soldiers were martyred. But according to eyewitnesses and civil societies, an estimated amount of more than 8000 people were killed. According to Associated Press reporter Brahma Chellaney, truckloads of bodies were transported to nearby crematoriums around the clock. The practice of “secret mass cremations” was used by the Indian Army to systematically destroy evidence that thousands of Sikhs disappeared and were unlawfully killed by the government during its counterinsurgency operations in Punjab. The timing of the Operation is another questionable doctrine, the government launched military operation during the Martyrdom day (Shahedi Gurpurab) of Shri Guru Arjun Dev Ji , when the complex was overflowing with worshippers. The Indian army was responsible for gutting down historical Sikh relics , some soldiers set fire to Sikh Reference library housing rare Sikh manuscripts and many historical artifacts were lost including handwritten Hukumnamas of Guru Sahibans as well as the Toshakhana( treasury of the Sikh Empire) was looted. There were more than 140 bullet marks on Golden Temple itself, even though the Indian army insisted that not a single bullet was fired towards Golden Temple. “These days it more closely resembles a city of death,” An article of Time magazine described Amritsar in 1984.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *