OPERATION BLUESTAR : The untold story
Investigation Team : Amiya Rao, Aurbindo Ghose, Sunil Bhattacharya, Tejinder Ahuja and N.D.Pancholi
Duggal’s recollection are vived, almost photographic. “At abut 4 a.m. in the early hours of the morning of June 4, the regular Army attack on the temple started with a 25-pounder which fell in the ramparts of the Deori to the left o f Akal Takht Sahib with such a thunder that for a few moments I thought that the whole complex had collapsed. I along with my wife were then sitting in the verandah of my house adjacent to the Sikh Reference Library. Recovering from the initial shock, we moved into the room and took shelter in one of its corners. Therafter, every second the ferocity of firing increased and it continued unabated till the evening of the 6th June.
As we were on the first floor, and our quarter was open on all sides our position was very vulnerable. The bullets hit our quarters on all sides and some of them pierced through the doors and landed inside the room. To add to our miseries the power and water supplies had been cut. Through a slit in the shutter of a window we saw a large number of dead bodies in the Parikrama of the Golden Temple. They included women and children. We could not leave our room. Coming out in the open would have exposed us to sure death.”
Baldev Kaur’s account of how the Army attack began is similar – “Very early on June 4, while it was dark, there was cannon fire from outside the Golden Temple without any warning. Shots were fired from all sides.”
Bhan Singh is emphatic that no warning was given, no public announcement was made by the Army before the shelling of the Golden Temple started on June 4 – “had the army given a warning at least those pilgrims who had come for the Guru Parb could g o out and then those person who were simply here to participate in the Dharam Yudh Morcha could go out. But no warning was given to the people. The firing was started from all around the complex with vengeance, as if they were attacking on alien, enemy co untry.”
According to the girl student the shelling started at about 20 minutes past 4 o’clock on June 4 dawn and continued without interruption upto 2 o’clock in the afternoon of that day (June 4), and evening of June 5.
Her account is extemely graphic – On June 4 at about 3:30 a.m. we were inside the Harmandir Sahib reciting our prayers. Suddenly, thew was a black-out in the whole of the Goldne Temple complex. The devotees continued to be immersed in worship. A about 20 minutes past 4 o’clock there was a very loud explosion. We felt that the whole of the Golden Temple complex was shaking. I was alone on the balcony overlooking the lake or sarovar. Suddenly something roundish fell in front of me. I was curious. So I ge ntly touched it and pushed it into the water. As it fell, there was a big noise and then the water rose and splashed into the Harmandir Sahib. I started reeling, once tilting on one side and again on the other. Someone pulled me inside. The explosions con tinued. We then realised that the Army’s attack on the Golden Temple had begun.” In a flash she described her companions – “Inside the Harmandir Sahib there were about 50 to 60 persons – soem granthis (priests), ragis (singers), sevadars (employ ees), the rest of them yatris (pilgrims or visitors) like me and my family. I did not see any armed terrorist.”
The Army fired from all sides and did not spare any target in the Temple complex which seemed to shelter people. According to Prithipal Singh, the Sevadar on duty at Akal Rest House, deep inside the Guru Ram Das Serai, the Akal Rest House was shelled f rom the side of Gali Bagh Wali (to the left of the main entrance from the side on chowk Ghanta Ghar) at 5 a.m. on June 4. The bullet marks on the walls, the doors and windows of the side rooms of the Akal Rest House bore silent testimony to the Sevadars s tory, as we listened to him in May, 1985, almost one year after the shooting.
The Harmandir Sahib was not spared by the Army on June 4, just as it had not been by the C.R.P. on June 1. According to the girl student, bulletts hissed past her and her grandmother and aunt when they crawled across the bridge on their stomachs in the ir bid to escape from Harmandir Sahib. She managed to pick up a portion of a shell which had exploded on the bridge near Harmandir Shaib – it was marked 84 mm., and it had two colours, yellow on the upper part and blue on the lower part.
Baldev Kaur’s account suggests that there was no immediate counter-fire from inside the Golden Temple complex. The A.I.S.S.F. member said that “there was some stray firing from inside the Golden Temple before the Army’s entry into the complex” ;. The girl student provides a comparative picture of the magnitude and intensity of firing from outside the Temple and from inside. “The firing that took place from inside the Golden Temple was negligible. On June 1, there was absolutely no firing f rom inside. Wheras on June 4, the ratio what something like this – if a thousand rounds were being fired by the Army from outside, then about one or one and a half rounds were fired in reply by the armed militants from inside the Temple complex.”
Meanwhile, according to Duggal, “the helicopter hovered above and continued to fire from above. Some of these helicopters also guided the firing squads of the Army by making circle of light around the targets. Immediately after these circles, the cannon bell would land on the target causing havoc. We saw a large number of boys blown to pieces.”
According to Bhan Singh, “they (the Army) treated the inmates of the Complex as enemies and whenever there was any person wounded on account of the firing, no Red Cross people were allowed to enter, rather the Red Cross personnel had been detained beyond the Jallianwallah Bagh,” – more that a kilometre away from the main entrance to the Golden Temple from the Chowk Ghanta Ghar side. In accordance with the U.N. Charter of Human Rights, the Red Cross is permitted to go in aid of the wounded rig ht inside the enemy territory, but in Amritsar in June 1984 the Red Cross was not allowed to enter the Golden Temple – a respected and hallowed part of our country- in aid of Indians under attack from the Indian army. It only means that the attack was so brutal and the battle scene so grisly, that there was much to hide from the public scrutiny, even if it be that of a neutral agency called the Red Cross. This also explains perhaps why Press Censorship had already been imposed, the last of the journalists were hounded away and the Press was not allowed inside the Golden Temple upto June 10 when they were taken on a guided tour of the Complex for the first time since the Army Operations began almost a week before.