OPERATION BLUESTAR : The untold story
Investigation Team : Amiya Rao, Aurbindo Ghose, Sunil Bhattacharya, Tejinder Ahuja and N.D.Pancholi
JODHPUR DETENUES- WERE THEY WAGING WAR?
One of the purposes of “Operation Bluestar” according to the White Paper, was to flush out the terrorists from the Golden Temple complex. Hundreds of people who were arrested from the Golden Temple after the army action and detained by the Ar my were charged as terrorists”. 379 of the alleged ‘most dangerous terrorsits’ were forced to sign a common confessional statement and thereafter served a common charge sheet that they were all Bhindranwale’s closest associates and comrades-in-arms e ngaged in ‘waging war against the State’. They were, therefore, detained under the NSA and are now being tried at Jodhpur under the Terrorist-Affected Areas (Special Courts) Act of 1984. As we were curious regarding the extent of danger these hardcore ‘te rrorists’ posed to the State ‘with the intention to establish a State independent from the Government of India to be known as Khalistan”, we visited the homes of some of the Jodhpur detenues and met their families or relatives. The evidence collected established beyond doubt that none of the Jodhpur detenues we succeeded in profiling are ‘terrorists’ but rather all of them are completely innocent, ordinary persons, whose only crime was that they had all gone to or were coming from the Golden Temple-a s devotes or pilgrims visiting the golden Temple for the Guru Parb on June 3, 1984 or farmers gone to the Temple to deliver village donation of grain to the S.G.P.C. or students gone to pay obeisance at their holiest religious shrine, the Harmandir Sahib before their examinations or interviews. The following are the case studies of the Jodhpur detenues:
1. RAMINDERPAL SINGH (Pet name: Happy), aged 20 years, son of Harcharan Singh Ragi, whom we have met already. When Harcharan Singh Ragi and Information Officer Narinder Pal Singh’s families came out of the basement on the 6th of June, they were all arr ested from outside the Golden Temple and taken to the Army Camp. In the words of Harcharan Singh Ragi- “I was release on June 18. My wife and daughter were released on June 22, but not the boys. Again, on July 13, my eldest son was released but not R aminderpal, my second son. He was taken to Amritsar Jail from where he took his frist year examination between August 8 and 22. Then he was shifted to Nabha Jail on August 31, 1984. On March 10, 1985, he was taken to Jodhpur Jail, from where he is taking the second year examinations now. There was no charge-sheet against any of us. But Raminderpal was falsely imlplicated as having been arrested from inside the Golden Temple and charged ‘with waging war againt the State.’ He was put under the Amended NSA, which disregards the recommendations of the Advisory Board My son has been charged with “waging war against the State”. But he is one of the gentlest and known for his courteous behaviour. He used to play hockey at the district level when he was at school. He is fond of reading, can play the harmonium and he is a good singer. Often he used to accompany me in the golden Temple during our Kirtan sessions. He was a serious student and in December 1983 when there was a strike at Khalsa College, he left it in disgust and studied at home. What he earned doing overtime singing kirtans in Harmandir Sahib, he spent it for lessons in mathematics. His closest friends are Hindus. An ideal boy, so innocent, today he is in Jodhpur Jail accused as an ‘extr emist’.
With great sadness, his wife said, “One who spent his life in struggle, how could he bring up his children as ‘extremists’?
2.KANWALJIT SINGH – We have met Kanwaljit before we left his story at the point when he sent telegram home on the night of June 3, 1984. Operation Blue Star started thereafter. Kanwaljit was arrested by the army from the Serai and was taken to an Army Camp where he was tortured and interrogated. “Why did your come to Golden Temple? Where have you come from? Did you have arms? Did you come to fight?’
Meanwhile, Kanwaljit and Manjit’s families in Delhi had no knowledge about their whereabouts, Kanwaljit’s mother visited Amritsar in the late June 198 to inquire about her son. His father and brother did not go as it was feared that any male Sikh who w ould go to Amritsar to inquire would be arrested. At Amritsar, Kanwaljits’s mother saw a list of those killed, injured, and arrested during Operation Bluestar with the S.G.P.C. In the list of those who had died, there were only 3 or 4 names, that of Bhind ranwale, Amrik Singh and so on. The mother saw Kanwaljit and Manjit’s names in the list of those arrested.
She was told that Kanwaljit was being detained in an Army Camp. She went to the said Army Camp in July with her sister. She was not allowed to meet her son. She went twice more in July to the Army Camp but was not permitted to see or meet her son.
The Government first informed Kanwaljit’s family on September 15, that he had been transferred to the Nabha Jail. They could have an interview with him twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In Nabha Jail, Kanwaljit and many others were made to sign a common confessional statement and served a common charge-sheet alleging that he and his companion, were armed terrorists, that they were followers of Bhindranwale and that they had gathered to wage war against the Indian State in order to establish a se parate State of Khalistan by violent means.
They were then transferred to Jodhpur Special Court. He has been put under NSA, detained for 2 years. Whereas in Nabha Jail, all relatives were permitted to visit, at Jodhpur only parents were allowed to visit once a week.
Kanwaljit was brought to Delhi on April 11, 1985 to take his examinations to reappear for B. Com. (Hons.) II year. The parents were allowed to meet him at Tihar Jail only after a lot of harassment and objections.
Kanwaljit is a man of few words. He does not mix much and has few friends, Manjit being the closest. Kanwaljit used to go to the NDMC Stadium at New Delhi every morning for swimming. On returning he used to play carrom and chess with Manjit and read ch ess books. Chess is his first love and he was winning awards in chess competitions. In 1982-83, he came second in the Khalsa College (Evening) Class tournament. In 1983-84, he again came second in the Inter-class Chess Tournament. He received a magnetic c hess set as a prize from Raja Bhalinder Singh, who was President of the Indian Committee of the Asiad Games, 1982. He used to participate in various chess tournaments in Delhi and rarely missed prize chess matches between well known chess masters.
There is a photograph of Kanwaljit receiveing a prize from Raja Bhalinder Singh. He looks simple, innocent and so straight-forward and honest. He is not an Amritdhari. Lately, he was very keen to find a job and that is why he was to attend an interview with the National Institue of Bank Management at Delhi on the morning of June 3, 1984 and again take an examination in the afternoon for the State Bank of India Regional Recruitment Group. He has also applied to the Railway Service Commission to take the written examinations for recruitment to non-technical popular categories such as signallers, ticket collectors, train/office clerks, etc. He was to appear for this examination on 26 February 1984 but it was postponed. It was to be held again on September 9, but this time Kanwaljit was under detention.
Kanwaljit enjoys a very good reputation. Mr. Shyam Lal Garg, Member of the Delhi Metropolitan Council from Tri Nagar and Mr. Sahib Singh Verma, Member of the Municipal Corporation from Lawrence Road, West Delhi, have both certified that Kanwaljit was p ersonally known to them and that he was just a student and never participated in any party or political activity.
3. BHUPINDER SINGH, aged 22 years, s/o Jiwan Singh r/o Vill. Rayya Tehsil Baba Bakala, P.S. Beas, Distt, Amritsar – Interview with the father, Jiwan Singh:
“I came here during partition from Sargodah, Distt. Multan, which is now in Pakistan, I have 3 sons and 2 daughters. I have a business of paints, steel trunks and agricultural implements. I have no agriculture land. I am the Pradhan of Akali Dal ( Longowal) unit in village Rayya.
My youngest son Bhupinder used to manufacture steel almirahs. He had taken part in the Rasta Roko movement, putting up posters, etc. but was not arrested then. But during the Constitution agitation of 1983 he was arrested and mercilessly beaten but he was released due to the intervention of Bhai Amrik Singh of the AISSF. That was his first contact with AISSF. And is was only after his brother, Tejender Singh’s arrest in a false case for which he was jailed and the case went on for 7 months, that Bhupin der started visiting Darbar Sahib. After his brother’s arrest, because of the harassment of the police, he was careful and often he used to sleep out.
Finally, he himself was arrested at Kathiwali Bazar on June 6, 1984 after he had escaped from Golden Temple on June 3. He was taken to an Army Interrogation center from where he was taken to Nabha Jail. The army subjected him to inhuman torture. When h e was in Nabha Jail, he was taken to Ladha Kothi in Sangrur for 18 days. When I saw him, I could see that he had been terribly tortured but he wouldn’t tell us. There I learnt from him that he had taken Amrit and was doing Path daily, which he said gave h im strength.
In all Bhupinder has been implicated in 8 cases, each of which is false:
(i) Today he is Jodhpur jail because he is supposed to have been arrested from the Golden Temple for ‘waging war against the State’. But the police know that he was picked up from Kathiwali Bazaar outside Amritsar.
(ii) The Nirankari murder case of village Khabbe Rajputana near P.S. Mehta of 1979-80, when Bhupinder was just a school boy. It is obvious that this case has been planted on him retrospectively.
(iii) Another Nirankari murder case of village Ghanupur Kaleke, P.S. Chaherta, near Metha Chowk of 1980. (iv) Mannawale Railway Station, Flying Mail Murder Case of Sub-Inspector in 1982. (v) Encounter of an ‘extremist’ group with the Railway Protection Force at Rayya Railway Station.
(vi) Nirankari Bomb case of Rayya – Bhupinder was at thome at 4-5 p.m. when the bomb exploded. Bhupinder’s name was not there in the initial list of suspects but was added later.
(vii) Sadhuram Bomb Case – which occurred at 10 p.m. when Bhupinder was actually at home. (viii) Dhyyanpur Bridge Expolsion case in which Bhupinder’s name was added to the list of the three accused. At this point, Jiwan Singh brought out the photograph of his son Bhupinder.
AN AMAZINGLY GENTLE AND INNOCEN FACE FOR SUCH A SUPPOSEDLY HARDENED CRIMINAL.
Bhupinder’s mother has given up eating certain dishes which the boy was fond of. Very gently, she told us that the food the boys get in jail is so bad.
Jiwan Singh continued, and went on to narrate the harassments that he and his family have undergone:
“After the Operation Bluestar, the CRP visited my house 3 times in 24 hours and raided it but found nothing. They abused my wife and daughters and daughter-in-law.
After a couple of days, the Punjab Police came and took me and my eldest son Gurvinder Pal to Jandiala, P.S. and released us after a couple of days. Another couple of days, the Punjab Police came again and took away two of my sons Gurvinder Pal and Tej inder for interrogation and detaind them at Rayya P.S. for 20 days.
But we were not to have peace. A couple of days after Gurvinder and Tejinder’s removal, came the army, who took me, my son-in-law and the son of my brother-in-law to the Army camp at Sathiala College, Baba Bakala. We were made to sit in the hot sun. We were terrorised and then released.”
The old man said with the great bitterness, “We are gulams (slaves). Whenever they made signs, we are taken.”
4. Kashmir Singh s/o Gajjan Singh, r/o Vill & P.O. Baba Bakala, P.S. Beas, Distt. Amritsar, aged 50 years – Interview with Smt. Jasbir Kaur, 45 years, wife of Kashmir Singh.
“My husband went to Darbar Sahib for the Guru Purb. He did not return for about a month, when I learnt from a policman who came to tell me that he had been arrested and was in Nabha Jail. I went to see him on 20.7.84 and heard that he had been pic ked up from Bazaar Kathian on June 6.” (Obviously, he too like Bhupinder Singh of Rayya who was arrest from outside the State’ a middle aged small farmer hardly owning one and half acres of land and four small children to feed and not belonging to an y political organisation. He was too dangerous to move about freely and knew so much that he had to be repeatedly tortured at Ladha Kothi. “He was taken twice to Ladha Kothi and tortured for 12 days each time by the well known methods.”
“I met him again on October 31. Since then I have not been able to see him since I am too poor to afford it.”
5. RAM SINGH, s/o Late Makhan Singh, r/o Vill & P.O. Baba Bakala, aged 30 years – His uncle Sulakhan Singh (who looks after the family) was interviewed:
“Ram Singh is the only son of widow. He has only 1/9 acre of land, belongs to a poor peasant family. He has studied only upto class 8 and was employed in a small capacity in the Government depot. He is a bachelor.
He had gone to Darbar Sahib for the Guru Purb. He was arrested from Golden Temple charged, with ‘waging war’, taken to Amritsar and Nabha Jails and is now in Jodhpur jail. There was never any case against him. He was extremely well-behaved. He is total ly innocent.
The police have been coming and repeatedly interrogating his mother and uncle.
6. GULZAR SINGH s/o Late Arjun Singh, r/o Vill & P.O. Baba Bakala, aged 33 years – Interviewed his uncle Rattan Singh, a granthi.
They have a joint family. Gulzar is married and has a little girl, aged one and a half years. He is a preacher and does the Akhand Path in the Gurudwara. He went to Golden Temple for Guru Purb and was arrested from there and chrged with ‘waging war aga inst the State’.
Gulzar is a simple person. He studied in a orphanage in Amritsar.
7. MANJIT SINGH s/o Bawa Singh
8. RANDIR SINGH s/o Mangal Singh
9. RANDIR SINGH s/o Bahadur Singh
r/o village Dehriwal, Kiran, P.S. Kalanpur, Distt. Gurudaspur.
These 3 young boys took the village donation of grain to Darbar Sahib for the Guru Purb but were arrested and charged with ‘waging war against the State’ and are now proclaimed as terrorists and lodged in Jodhpur Jail. 10. BAKSHSISH SINGH, s/o Hon. Cap t. Ram Singh, r/o Vill. Butala, P.S. Dhilwan, Distt Kapurthala, aged 43 years.
Interview with Bakshish Singh’s sister, Smt. Hardev Kaur, a widow with two children.
“My brother Bakshish Singh was a manager of Punjab & Sind Bank branch at Guru Ramdas Serai, Golden Temple, Amritsar. He was receiveing a salary of Rs. 3000 per month. He was a devout Sikh, had taken Amrit and used to preach in the villages and exhort people to take Amrit. He was very generous and used to help people.
Our mother is 65-year-old and father is ill and now in Patiala Hospital. We have no land.
On June 7, 1982 my brother had organised a religous meeting at the village, but he did not speak. Early the next day he was arrested for the first time in his life, on a false report that he was propagating Khalistan. He was detained at P.S. Dhilwan an d then sent to Interrogation Center, Amritsar for one week, where he was severly beaten. Later he was taken to Kapurthala jail and was released only afer 1 year between June 1983 and May 1984 when Bakshish rejoined his work at the Punjab and Sind Bank, Am ritsar.
On June 1, 1984 Bakshish had gone to the Golden Temple with his wife for her treatment for tumour and they were in Guru Ram Das Serai, from were both were arrested on June 6. His wife was taken to Jallandhar jail, kept therre for 22 days and then taken to Hospital and operated upon.
Bakshish Singh was first taken to Amritsar Jail and after two months in Nabha Jail and after 7 months there, and mercilessley tortured at Ladha Kothi were he was kept for 15-20 days, ant then he was shifted to Jodhpur Jail on January 11, 1985. We have not met him since then.
The family is so impoverished that Bakshish’s two sons could not continue their studies. The elder son (Iqbal) along with his mother are in Patiala Rajindra Hospital suffering from mental depression. The Bank had not paid Bakshish Singh anything and ha s shown him as absent. We have about 5 to 6 acres of land for the entire joint family.
We are being constantly harassed. Earlier the Army used to come and interrogate us and now the polcie visit us every other day.”
We have here documented for the first time eye-witness accounts of what really happened when the Indian Army attacked the Golden Temple complex in the first week of June 1984. It is one of the most gory and tragic chapters in the entire history of mode rn India. The brutalities, the killings, the desecration and destruction of their most sacred place, has left a most bitter memory and feeling of deep resentment in the mind of every Sikh.