OPERATION BLUESTAR : The untold story
Investigation Team : Amiya Rao, Aurbindo Ghose, Sunil Bhattacharya, Tejinder Ahuja and N.D.Pancholi
June 7, 1984
Giani Puran Singh’s account throws light on how and when Bhindranwale was killed: “Time passed away and at 7:30 a.m. on 7th we were taken out of the complex and informed that the bodies of Santji, Gen Subeg Singh, Bhai Amrik Singh, h ad all been found. When asked as to where were the bodies found, the reply was that Santji’s body was recovered from between the 2 Nishan Sahibs while Amrik Singh and Shubeg Singh’s bodies had been found behind the Nishan Sahibs. The news carried by the m edia said that Santji’s body had been recovered from the basement in Akal Takht. We were not shown these bodies but were led to our residences by the military. The head priests who also came there were informed that the bodies of Santji and others had bee n found. In fact, if the bodies had been found, we would have been called for identification but instead we were threatened to be shot lest we tried to go near the rooms where they had been kept. Moreover, if found, the body would have been embalmed taken to Delhi and kept for some time before finally dispersing it. The White Paper’s version of the events is distorted and not convincing. For example: “By the morning of June 6, the troops had effectively engaged all gun positions at the Akal Takht and were able to enter the Akal Takht. Room-to-room engagement commenced till it was cleared by 12:30 p.m. on the afternoon of June 6, except for resistance continuing from the ground floor and basements. On the afternoon of June 6, 200 terrorists surrende red including 22 from Harmandir Sahib.” Giani Puran Singhy who was one of the 22 has clearly said that the 22 persons who had surrendered from inside Harmandir Sahib were ‘some devotees and others the employees of the Gurdwara’. Thus there were no ar med terrorists inside the Harmandir Sahib- 50-60 persons-cited by the girl student and the same figures-of 22 persons-given by all other eye-witesses and also the White Paper. The fact that the girl student accompanied by 27-28 persons left the Harmandir Dahib on the afternoon of June 4 amidst the firing and took shelter in the Akal Takht explains the descrepency in figures.
The White Paper also claims that “On 8th June 1984, the terrorists hacked to death an unarmed army doctor who had entered a basement of the Akal Takht to treat some casualties.” Giani Puran Singh’s account gives an accurate description of thi s incident: “There were 4 Singhs in the basement of the BUNGA JASSA SINGH RAMGARHIA who were giving a tough fight to the forces. They had also pulled down 3 personnel of the army who had ventured close-one of them was a so called doctor. They were sw iftly put to death., The authorities wanted these people to surrender but they wanted some mutually responsible person to mediate. I was then asked to mediate but first of all I asked the army offices of a guarantee that none would be shot only arrested a nd later law would take its own course. They were not ready for this and wished me to talk to the Brigadier who too was noncommittal. They then asked me to inquire if the three army personnel were alive. The reply received was that no live personnel was t here in the base-At this the Brigadier asked me to leave and that they would themselves deal with them. These men in the basement fought the whole day, that night and also the next day when Giani Zail Singh came to visit the ruins of Akal Takht. Some thou ght that they had also aimed for Giani but it was not so. These people did not know that Giani was coming. If they knew before hand, they would definitely put a bullet through the ‘tyrant’ but they were totally cut out from the outside world. A colonel of the commandos attempted to flush out these men in the basement with a gun and light arrangement but as soon as he entered the basement, a burst of LMG wounded him and it was later learnt that he had succumbed to the injuries in the hospital. 2 cannons we re employed to fire at the Bunga, gaping holes were formed on the Parikrama end but the men within were safe. I saw from the roof of Harmandir Sahib that two grenadiers, had been put on the grenade shooter and a continuous barrage of grenades was being po ured but they still survived. Burnt red chilly bags, chilly powder and smoke granades were thrown in; one of them came out to be greeted with a hail of bullets while the others finally were silenced on the 10th.”
Similarly the White Paper’s account of the amount of arms recovered seem to be patently exaggerated. We may not accept the A.I.S.S.F. members version that there were less than 100 arms, mostly obsolete .303 guns from the II World War and some stenguns, on the ground that it may be a partisan account. At the same time it is not possible to belive the White Paper’s version – “A large quantity of weapons, ammuniton and explosives was recovered, including automatic and anti-tank weapons. A small facto ry for the manfacture of hand grenades and sten-guns was also found within the precincts of the Golden Temple.” If this modern arms factory had been discovered inside the Golden Temple before the Army Operations began there would have been no room fo r doubt or controversy. But making such a claim after the Army operation was over. Only there was the Army to testify. In contrast, our eye-witness have repeatedly pointed out that the terrorists had a small number of men and limited arms which had to be used sparingly. Would the resistance have collapsed so abruptly, if there were hundreds of terrorist manning a modern arms factory, as claimed by the White Paper.
The White Paper’s figures of the number of people killed or injured at the Golden Temple during the Army operations, seem to reflect gross under-estimation and understatement. The White Paper’s figures of the casualties on account of the Operation Blue star alone are:
1. Own troops killed 83
2. Own troops wounded 249
3. Civilians/terrorist killed 493
4. Terrorists and other injured 86
5. Civilians/terrorists apprehended 592
Our eye-witness accounts point out two unmistakable facts:
(a) There were thousands, perhaps ten thousand people, consisting of pilgrims, S.G.P.C. employees, Akali volunteers came to court arrest, and terrorists present inside the Golden Temple complex when the Army started firing at the Golden Temple from all sides on the dawn of June 4.
(b) The battle lasted nearly 56 to 60 hours from 4 a.m. on June 4 to about 4 p.m. on June 6. The firing was almost incessant and continuous and, despite the White Paper’s several claims, had no constraints. It was a most fierce battle.
Therefore, not hundreds but thousands could well have died during the operations, and thousands maimed or injured. The girl student had seen stacks and stacks of dead bodies piled up all over the parikrama very early on the morning of June 6. Joginder Singh estimates that at least 1500 dead bodies were lying on the parikrama. Bhan Singh saw hundreds of people dying before him on June 6. Harcharan Singh Ragi saw hundreds of people including women and children, being shot down by Army commandos, as they came out to surrender on the afternoon of June 6 outside the Golden Temple on the Ghanta Ghar side. We may hesitate to accept exact figures such as A.F.D.R. Vice President S. S. Bahagawalia’a estimate of 2009 killed including about 400 Hindu Bhaiyyas or t he AISSF members estimate “that 7 to 8 thousand people were killed” or Surinder Singh Ragi’s confident assertions that ‘during the Army operation at least 7000 people were killed on the parikrama and another 1000 dead bodies were recovered from various rooms.” These are all impressions. There is no reliable estimate because the Press was not allowed.
Nevertheless the clear conclusion emerges that hundreds and hundreds of people were killed during the Army Action on Golden Temple in June 1984 most brutally. It was indeed a mass massacre mostly of innocents. The post-mortem reports (see Annexures 7 & amp; 8) speak of the Army’s brutatlities in very clear terms- (i) Most of the dead bodies had their hands tied behind their backs implying that they had not died during the action, but like Sevadar Prithipal Singh’s temporary companions lined up before th e firing squad, all of them must have been shot after being captured and (ii) At the time of the post-mortem, the bodies were in a putrid and highly decomposed state–they had been brought for post-mortem after 72 hours implying a totally callous attitude towared the injured and the dead.
Even after June 6, many died due to negligence, while under the detention of the Army and many others were killed in Army camps. According to the AISSF member: “On the evening of 7th June 1984 I was brought to the Army Camp and locked in the Arms Rooms with 28 persons. It had no ventilation and there was no water. 14 died of suffocation including Sujan Singh, a member of the SGPC.” According to a former MLA, Harbans Singh Ghumman, 37 Sikh youths were killed on one of the Army camps at Amritsa r between June 16 and June 18, 1984. He had been personally concerned about this incident at that time as he had learnt that this youngest son, Randhir Singh, was also being detatined in one of the military camps at Amritsar.