The Circumstances Leading to Operation Blue Star

May 13, 2010 by Harbir Singh Bhanwer.
BlueStarAkalTakht (32K)
Akal Takht after Operation Blue Star
Storming of the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine, in June 1984 by the Indian Army - code named Operation Blue Star is the biggest tragedy for the Sikh living all over the world in 20th century. It left an indelible scar on their psyche. The "attack" by the army equipped with mortar -mounted tanks and other sophisticated weapons, was the first on this holy shrine in 222 years, the last having been conducted by Ahmed Shah Abdali in October 1762. The infamous Operation Blue Star evoked strong resentment among Sikhs and resulted in the emergence of militancy in the border State of Punjab. It also left its impact on the Indian polity and created a Pandora's box of problems. The Sikhs neither can forget nor forgive this holocaust.

Despite being a microscopic minority in the country, the Sikhs played a significant role during the freedom struggle of India and made up the largest part (nearly 80%) of the sacrifices. The national leaders of Congress including Mahatma Gandhi and Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru had assured the Sikh leaders time and again that their (and other minorities) interests would be protected in India after independence. During a press conference at Calcutta in 6th July, 1946, Pt. Nehru remarked, "I see nothing wrong in an area and a setup in the North where in the Sikhs can also experience the glow of freedom." At its various AICC sessions , the Congress had adopted resolutions a number of times that the States would be reorganized on linguistic basis and would be given more autonomy in free India.

On August 15,1947, as India celebrated its independence, Punjab witnessed only tears and bloodshed in the wake of partition. Never in the history of the world there was a bigger exchange of population attended with so much bloodshed .The Sikh population was vivisected almost in the middle. As a result the Sikh community suffered far greater losses than the Hindus and Muslims. Almost 2.5% of the Sikh population was brutally massacred in the communal holocaust. Nearly 40% of the Sikhs were forced to abandon their homes and hearths and became refugees. They rehabilitated themselves with sheer hard work and self help in India after independence.

The Government of India constituted a Commission on December 22,1953 to recommend reorganization of the Indian states on linguistic basis. The commission sought suggestions from the public .The Akali Dal submitted a memorandum demanding creation of Punjabi Suba on linguistic basis ,while the ruling Congress , Jan Sangh (old version of the BJP) and Arya Samaj demanded creation of Maha Punjab by merging PEPSU ( Patiala & East Punjab States Union) and Himachal Pradesh into Punjab. The commission submitted its report to the Government in October 1955.The demand for creation of Punjabi Suba was outrightly rejected . On the contrary,the commission recommended the merger of PEPSU and Himachal Pradesh into Punjab. The PEPSU State was merged into Punjab on November 1,1956 but due to the stiff opposition by the Himachalis, the Himachal Pradesh was spared.

VijayantaMBT (11K)
The Indian Army used seven Vijayanta
Tanks during the operation
During the census of 1951 and 1961, a vast section of Punjabi Hindus recorded Hindi as their mother-tongue at the instance of the Jan Sangh , Arya Smaj and certain Congress leaders with Arya Smaji background. The language was given communal colour. After independence, the (East) Punjab Government had replaced Urdu with Punjabi and Hindi as medium of instruction in the schools. The urban Hindus preferred Hindi for imparting education to their children and wards. Regional Formula and Sachar Formula were formulated to impart education in Punjabi within the Punjabi Zone and Hindi in the Hindi Zone, but these formulas were not implemented in letter and spirit.

The Akali Dal waged a struggle for achievement of Punjabi Suba on a linguistic basis and launched Morcha a number of times. Pt. Nehru , the then Prime Minister ,was opposed to this demand and had stated that Punjabi Suba would only be formed over his dead body. He died on May 27,1964. Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri, the new Prime Minister , was then sympathetic to the demand. He constituted a Sub-Committee comprising his three ministerial colleagues to consider it . Another Parliamentary Committee comprising 22 members of Parliament belonging to all parties, headed by Hukam Singh , the then Speaker of Lok Sabha was also constituted. Mr. Shastri died all of sudden in Tashkent (USSR) on January 11,1966. Mrs. Indira Gandhi succeeded him.

The Congress Working Committee in its meeting held on March 9,1966 under Mr. K. Kamraj, the then AICC President, adopted a resolution and recommended to the Government of India that a Punjabi Suba be carved out of the present Punjab State on a linguistic basis. The Jan Sangh launched a vigorous agitation to oppose the creation of Punjabi Suba . Bandhs and strikes were observed all over the State. The State General Secretary , Mr. Yagya Dutt Sharma went on a fast until death. In the meanwhile ,the Parliamentary Committee also submitted its report to the Government of India on March15 ,which also recommended that the Punjabi Zone be converted into Punjabi Suba and a new State of Haryana be formed on the basis of the Hindi Zone while the hilly areas be transferred to Himachal Pradesh . The Committee also recommended that a Commission be constituted for demarcation of boundaries.

The Government formed a three member Commission to determine the boundaries of the Punjabi Suba on the basis of the census of 1961 and taking Tehsil as a unit. In the reports, two members recommended that Kharar Tehsil, including Chandigarh, be given to Haryana, while one member, Mr. S.Dutt opined that Kharar Tehsil including Chandigarh should be retained in Punjab ( Punjabi Suba). The Union Cabinet in its meeting held on June 9, 1966 decided to make the Chandigarh Capital Project Union Territory and to divide remaining parts / villages between Punjab and Haryana. The Parliament adopted the Punjab Reorganization Bill on August 10,1966.

Punjabi Suba, a truncated state, came into existence on November 1,1966. Its Capital ( Chandigarh) and many Punjabi-speaking areas were kept out. Its Dams and Head Works were taken over by the Centre .The Akali Dal launched a new struggle for inclusion of Chandigarh and left out Punjabi speaking areas in Punjab as well restoration on Dams and Head Works. Sant Fateh Singh, the then President of the Akali Dal and architect of Punjabi Suba , went on fast until death twice , and he died on the 74th day of his fast on October 27,1969.

The Akali Dal had emerged a powerful political party in Punjabi Suba . It formed its governments in alliance with certain Non- Congress parties in 1967,1969 and1977 (then on its own in 1985 and 1997).The Akali Governments were dismissed by the Congress Government at the Centre by invoking article 356 of the Constitution.

The Akali Dal Working Committee adopted the Anandpur Sahib resolution in 1973 envisaging more powers to the States. The resolution was endorsed by the party`s general house meeting held at Amritsar in August,1977 and by the All India Akali Conference held at Ludhiana in October 1978.

Mrs. Indira Gandhi ,whose election from Rai Bareli Lok Sabha seat was held void by the Allahabad High Court on June 12,1975, imposed a state of emergency in the country thereby suspending all fundamental rights of the people. Censorship was imposed on media.The Akali Dal launched a Morcha from the Golden Temple complex for 19 months,which was withdrawn in March1977, when the state of emergency was lifted.

As many as 13 Sikhs were maimed by the Nirankaris in Amritsar during their annual Smagam held on Baisakhi Day, April 13,1978, which generated strong resentment among the Sikhs. Jathedar Akal Takht pronounced a Hukamnama on June 10, 1978 directing all Sikhs to socially boycott the Nirankaris.( Bhai Ranjit Singh avenged these killings). Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the then Chief of Damdami Taksal, took cudgel and tried to stall the Nirankaris' weekly Satsang in Nirankaris Bhawan on every Sunday. He succeeded in his mission many times and subsequently emerged as a religious leader of the Sikhs.

The Akali Dal held a World Sikh Convention at Manji Sahib, Amritsar on July 26, 1981 and finalized a charter of demands including the transfer of Chandigarh and left-out Punjabi-speaking areas to Punjab, improvements to Amritsar airport which would allow it to serve as an International Airport , the relaying of Shabad-Kirtan programmes from the Golden Temple on All India Radio, more powers to the States as enshrined in the Anandpur Sahib resolution, and more. This demand-charter was sent to the Prime Minister , Mrs Indira Gandhi urging her to accept all these demands within 40 days. Having received no response, the Akali Dal held a massive protest demonstration in Delhi on September 7.

Lala Jagat Narain, the editor of the Hind Samachar group of newspapers was assassinated near Ludhiana on September 9, 1981. Sant Bhindranwale was nominated in this case and a warrant for his arrest was issued by a court. He courted arrest at Chowk Mehta , the H.Q. of the Taksal, on September 20. Ten persons were killed in police firing while returning to their respective destination after Sant Ji's arrest. The Akali Dal served an ultimatum on the Government stating that if the Sant was not released, and the Akali Dal demands were not conceded to by October 16, the party would launch a non-cooperation movement in the State on October 18. Five activists of the Dal Khalsa hijacked an Indian Airlines aircraft to Lahore while on its Delhi- Amritsar- Srinagar flight on September 29 in protest against the arrest of Sant Bhindranwale and he was released on October 15. The Akali leaders led by Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, then the President of this party, held a first round of talks with Mrs Gandhi on October 16 . A second round with Mr P.V.Narsimha Rao ,the then Foreign Affairs Minister, on October 22 and third round with Mrs. Gandhi on November 22 regarding their demands, but the talks broke down.

With a view to winning the forthcoming Assembly elections in Haryana, Mrs. Gandhi laid the foundation-stone of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal at Kapuri in Patiala district on April 8, 1982.The Akali Dal launched a 'Nehar-Roko Morcha' the same day.

The Amritsar police arrested two functionaries of the Damdami Taksal while they were returning from Khadur Sahib to Chowk Mehta on the night of July 16th . Bhai Amrik Singh, the president of the All India Sikh Students Federation, and a close confidant of Bhindranwale, went to the district court in Amritsar to legally pursue their case. He too was arrested by the police on July 19. Sant Bhindranwale launched a Morcha from the Golden Temple complex the very same evening.

The Akali Dal shifted its 'Nehar Roko Morcha' from Patiala to Amritsar and renamed it the 'Dharam Yudh Morcha' on August 4,1982 to achieve its all pending demands. The Morcha launched by Bhindranwale was also adopted by the Akali Dal. Thousand of Akali workers started courting arrest every evening. All the jails of the State were overcrowded with Akali Satyagrahis. Camp jails were established in various school or other government departmental buildings. Mrs Gandhi resumed talks with Akali leaders through her emissaries or senior ministers a number of times. Tripartite talks involving the opposition parties were also held. Four secret talks were held but to no avail. As soon as any agreement was arrived at between the Akalis and the Government representatives, Mrs Gandhi shifted her stand. Actually she wanted to prolong the Mocha in order to fizzle it out and to win the next Parliament elections by portraying Akalis as separatists and secessionists. The Morcha dictator, Sant Longowal in consultation with the party's senior leaders, announced that the party would launch non-cooperation movements and would not allow the arrival of food grain in the Grain markets if their demands were not met by June 3. Mrs. Gandhi had already made up her mind to send the army into the Golden Temple complex. With the lingering of the Dharam Yudh Morcha for about two years, some violent incidents took place in Punjab. For instance, 6 Hindu passengers of a Delhi-bound bus were ruthlessly killed near Dhilwan on October 3, 1983.The armed supporters and followers of Sant Bhindranwale also shifted into the Golden Temple complex .The Sant himself shifted from Guru Nanak Niwas to the Akal Takht building and fortified it. Certain other buildings in the complex were also fortified.

The fourth and last round of the secret talks between the Akali leaders and the central Ministers was held at Delhi on May 27,1984. This also remained inconclusive.

After outmaneuvering the Akali leaders and systematically depriving Punjab, both economically and politically, the Central Government now decided to execute the final part of its programme by a direct attack on the heart of Sikhism that gives strength and sustenance to the community. The three-fold plan of the Government led by Mrs Gandhi was aimed at, on the political front, destroying the Akali party and its image, economic destruction of the State and erosion of their nerve centre, their sanctum sanctorum. So at her orders, the army stormed the Golden Temple complex on June 3,1984, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjun Dev Ji, and thereby grievously injured the Sikh psyche.

 

Add a Comment

SikhNet Email Lists: Over 33,000 Sikhs all over the world enjoy SikhNet emails. Select the emails you would like to receive.


Unsubscribe