OPERATION BLUESTAR : The untold story
At the end of it all, two questions are asked by the Sikhs of Punjab. Was the Army action necessary and unavoidable? Secondly, if unavoidable, could it not have taken a different form, avoiding all the destruction and the blood shed and the brutalities ?
Kirpal Singh, President of Khalsa Dewan, Amritsar, told us – “If the government had been sincere in its efforts in solving the Punjab problem, it would have solved it long ago even before the Blue Star Operation, and there would have been no cause for the Akalis and others to orgainise Morchas of the thousands of the peopl, from time to time, and the extremists would have been isolated and it would have become known as to who were the extremists, what kind of men they were, and what they had been doing. The Government could have negotiated with them. If the Government could talk with Laldenga of Mizos and extremists of the Nagaland, who had been fighting with our military for the last 31 years, then what was the difficulty in talking to the extemi sts of Punjab and asking them what they wanted, what they were fighting and why they were collecting arms?”
Similarly, S.S. Bhagowalia who is the Vice-President of the Association fro Protection of Democratic Rights (Punjab) was extememly forthright, “when the government in 1948 could control and capture Hyderbad from the Nizam who wanted to secede from independent India without any violence and killing of the common people, why this Government could not capture Bhindranwale with tact, without any damage to the Golden Temple? This has created tension and anger amongst the minds fo the people”. Surinder Singh Ragi gave another example – “The Indian Army had captued 93,000 soldiers of Pakistan army in Bangladesh in 1971 without bloodshed. Was bloodshed the absolutely necessary at the Golden Temple to flush out a hundred or so terrorists?”
Hazara Singh Vadale, and employee of the SGPC, echoed a common sentiment. “The way the government of Independent country attacked the Golden Temple reminded us of the medieval time when our religion was attacked and we are persecuted. Thousands of women, children, pilgrims, had gathered here on June 3 for Gurupurab. They had no connection with politics, why they shot down?”
Kirpal Singh elaborating on the excesses committed said: “At the time of Blue Star Act, it could be known how many died of those who were fighting with the military but the fact is that due to Guru Purb Day hundereds of pilgrims had come and were staying in the premises of the Darbar Sahib. There were children and women among them. These pilgrims were unarmed and the military attacked them and killed them. Thereafter the military did not allow their dead bodies to be cremated by the relative nor h anded over the same to them. Their dead bodies were insulted. No effort was made to record their names and addresses. Now it has created a lot of problem. For example, if any deceased has any insurance or bank balance or any land dispute, his heirs require death certificate but in absence of any record of it, they did not get any compensation. Even in the history of military wars, the people are allowed to take the dead bodies from each others territories by showing white flags. When General Dyer killed people in Jallianwall Bagh, he also allowed the dead bodies to be taken by the relatives.”
Shiv Singh Khushpuri, 65 years, a member of the S.G.P.C. from Gurdaspur district, said, “It was the duty of the State to identify the bodies of those who died in Operation Blue Star. Afer the Jallinwala Bagh massacre, the British Government identi fied those killed, handed over their bodies to the next kin and paid Rs. 2000 as compensation for every person killed in the incident. Whereas in Blue Star Operation, the present governemnt of an apparently independent country have not only not identified those killed or missing, rather they are harassing and persecuting the families and friends of those who are reportedly missing.”
S.S. Bhagowailia throws light on the efforts of the Government to suppress information. “The doctors who conducted the post-mortem of the victims of the army action at Golden Temple were simply terrorised. If there were 20 bullets in a body, they were forced to record only two bullet wounds, under the threat of being shot.” This only indicates the extent of massacre that took place and the ferocity with which the Army undertook the operation. The common feeling in Punjab is that it was indeed not an Operation against Bhindranwale and other so called terrorists according to the Government, it was an attack on the Sikhs “to teach them a lesson” so that they would never again raise their head or voice of protest.