OPERATION BLUESTAR : The untold story
1. EYE WITNESS ACCOUNTS OF THE ARMY ACTION
Who were the eye-witnesses to the Golden Temple episode?
1. Devinder Singh Duggal – In charge of the Sikh Reference Library located inside the Golden Temple complex. Duggal is an acknowledged authority on Sikh history. He used to reside in a house adjacent to the Sikh Reference Library, was present there between May 28 and June 6, 1984 and hence (in his own words) “an eye-witness to some of the atrociities committed by the Army during its attack on the Golden Temple”. About fiftyish, Duggal now lives with his lecturer-wife in Jallandhar, where we interviewd him. His eyes become moist and his voice quivered as he described the assault on the Golden Temple.
2. Bhan Singh – Secretary of the S.G.P.C., short, slim, in his mid fifties, Bhan Singh is a man of few words. He was present in the Golden Temple Complex during the Army attack and was arrested at dawn on June 6 along with Longowal and Tohra from the Guru Nanak Nivas which now houses the SGPC Office, where we met and talked to him. His account begins from June 3, 1984.
3. Giani Puran Singh – one of the priests at Harmandir Sahib.
4. Girl Student – Grand-daughter of SGPC member, she preferred to remain anonymous. Aged about 20 years, she goes to college at Amritsar. She went to the Golden Temple on May 29, 1984, with her grand-parents and an aunt, to fulfill a vow, and was there until June 6. We met her in Amritsar in the house of a widowed victim of the November 1984 Delhi violence.
5. A.I.S.S.F. Member – about 25-years old, he would not give his name, son of a police officer, he was visiting the Golden Temple in June 1984 for the Gurupurab and was there from June 1. He was arrested by the Army on June 6 but released in October. He was rearrested soon after and had been again released a little before we met him. Remarkably calm and soft spoken, he said that there were about 100 fighters with Bhindranwale inside the Temple Complex and less than 100 arms, mostly, 303 guns of the II World War. Extremely handsome, he is a member of the All India Sikh Students Federation.
6. Prithipal Singh – A young (24 years) Sevadar at the Akal Rest House, inside the Guru Ram Das Serai, Golden Temple complex, where mostly distinguished guests stayed. He was on duty throughout the period of the Army Operation. He narrated how he had a hair-breadth escape, even after being lined up before the firing squad on June 6, after he had been arrested, stripped naked and his hands had been tied behind his back with his turban. He showed us the bullet-ridden walls of the Akal Rest House, where we spoke to him.
7. Joginder Singh – and empoyee of the S.G.P.C. whom we met at the Golden Temple.
8. Surinder Singh Ragi “Patnasahib Wala” – Head Ragi (singer) at the Harmandir Sahib, we met the young man (about 35 years) outside the Information Office of the Golden Temple, He was in the Kesari (Sochre) roles of a priest. He was on duty at the Harmandir Sahib during the Army action. He is an extremely popular singer of ‘Shabads’ from the Gurbani and his tapes are on great demand. He spoke to us with great conviction. “The Guru taught us to resist atyachar (represssion), not to do atyachar”.
9. Baldev Kaur – an Amritdhari woman in her mid-thirties, she had come to the Golden Temple on June 2, 1984 for the Gurupurab with her husband (Puran Singh who is now in Kapurthala Jail) and three children from her village Khanowal in Kapurthala district. She was so calm and fearless when she described her tribulations. She is facing severe economic hardships, cultivating only two acres of land, having no regualr source of income since her husband’s arrest more that 9 months back.
10. Harchan Singh Ragi – one of the Hazuri Ragis who sings at the Harmandir Sahib, he is in his late fifties. With serene eyes and flowing white beard, he has an endearing touch. He was on duty at the Harmandir Sahib singing ‘kirtans’ when the Army shelled it very early morning on June 4. Born into a Hindu Brahmin family, he was orphaned at the time of partition and then adoped and brought up by Amrik Singh, the blind Head Ragi of the Golden Temple who was killed inside the Harmandir Sahib on the morning of June 5. We met him at the Information Office of the Golden Temple, and he lives just above it. Raminderpal Singh – an innocent boy – one of his sons, is detained at Jodhpur Jail as a ‘terrorist’.
Some of the details of the life in Amritsar at the time of the Army action, were provided to us by the relatives of a few of those who were captured from the Golden Temple after the army operation, as ‘terrorists’ accused of ‘waging war against the State’ and who are now being tried under the Special Courts (Terrorists) Act at Jodhpur Jail. It is the Jodhpur detenues who are eye-witnesses to the Army operations in Amritsar in June 1984, not the relatives we met. But some of their evidence was passed on to their relatives in the course of brief meeting in jail from time to time. We met the relatives of:
(a) Kanwaljit Singh – A 20-year-old student of Khalsa College (evening) Delhi, whose father (Satnam Singh) runs a provision store at Lawrence Road, Delhi. Kanwaljit Singh visted the Temple with his friend on June 2, wanted to return to Delhi the same afernoon, but found that the last train had left Amritsar. And so he was forced to stay at the Guru Ram Das Serai inside the Golden Temple Complex. After Army action, he was arrested by the Army from the Serai and later chargesheeted with 378 others as ‘terrorists’ and detained under the N.S.A. We spoke to his youger brother, Inder Mohan Singh, at Delhi.
(b) Jasbir Singh and Randhir Singh – Two brothers who went to Golden Temple, separtely, on June 3 to pay their respects. As Jasbir Singh was coming out after fulfilling his vow on June 3 at about 1:30 p.m. on the side of the Chowk Ghan ta Ghar, he was detained along with other youths by the C.R.P. The C.R.P. made them take off their shirts, tied their hands behind them and made them sit on the hot road outside the Information Office. Randhir Singh was staying in a room in Guru Ram Das Serai, belonging to their uncle (a member of the SGPC) from where he was arrested on June 5. Randhir was injured by bullets on his leg. We spoke to their father, Harbans Singh Ghumman, about 55 years a farmer and former MLA belonging to village Ghummankala , district Gurdaspur