Justice awaited for victims of Operation Blue Star
SINCE the 1980s, with the rise of Hindu nationalism, the scenes began to change for the worse in India as a result of a prevailing mindset that the Hindus are the majority, so they have all the rights, and the rest of the communities either they are Muslims or Sikhs being in minority are bound to live under the Hindu supremacy.
The divisive thought ultimately yielded in hundreds of incidents of communal violence re-writing the history of barbarism and genocide of minorities in India.
“Operation Blue Star” is amongst the most unfortunate instances of a state-sponsored massacre against a specific community.
Every year when June approaches, the memories of the 1984 Sikh massacre tend to haunt the Sikh community across the world.
“Operation Blue Star” was the codename of a military operation against the Sikhs in Indian Punjab from 1-10 June 1984 when the Indian army attacked the Harmandir Sahib commonly known as Golden Temple as well as 41 other temples across Punjab.
The then Indian Prime Minister Indra Gandhi ordered the operation and on June third, the Indian army-imposed shoot-at-sight curfew on the day of the Sikh pilgrimage when the temple was overflowed.
According to the eyewitnesses, there were approximately 10,000 Sikh pilgrims trapped inside the temple premises.
The Indian army launched a full-scale assault against the Sikhs inside the Golden Temple on the 4th of June in which 10,000 armed troops of the 9th division, parachute regiment and artillery units, 700 jawans of CRPF’s 4th battalion and BSF 7th battalion and 150 jawans of Punjab armed police and officers from Harmandir police station took part.
Almost 4000-8000 Sikh pilgrim strapped inside the complex were brutally murdered, many reports also suggest that the actual number of Sikhs killed during the operation is more than 30,000 across the the State of Punjab, thousands of others were forcibly disappeared and later found dead after being served with severe inhuman torture.
Postmortem reports indicated that unarmed people were executed from point-blank range with their hands tied on the back using their turbans.
To hide the actual number of casualties inside the Golden Temple compound, the government hastily used truckloads to transport bodies to the secret crematoria.
However, it took around a decade to destroy the evidence of the Indian government’s viciousness.
The mass execution of unarmed Sikhs had long-lasting repercussions including igniting a wave of violence across the country.
Indra Gandhi who ordered the bloodbath of the Sikhs was also assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards as a retaliation for the Golden Temple massacre.
With utter impunity, the Indian government created a climate of fear in order to dissuade the domestic and international attention from the matter and to prevent the masses from advocating the Human Rights abuses during Operation Blue Star.
To investigate the 1984 Sikh genocide, the Kapoor-Mittal Committee was established as an eyewash to deflect the global criticism.
The Committee identified seventy-two neglectful police officers and endorsed that 30 of those officers be terminated.
However, no action by the government was taken to chastise or dismiss those individuals involved in the operation.
On many occasions, the government closed cases due to a lack of evidence.
Instead of learning from the past, the fascist Indian polity and the security establishment continue to pursue a policy of tyranny, intolerance and oppression toward the minorities.
Religiously motivated mobs of Hindu extremist groups are being used as offshoots to spread the ideology of Hindutva by vandalizing the religious sites of Muslims, Sikhs and Christians.
The minorities in India have also realized that in a country with Hindu dominance, there is no space for their religious, cultural and social rights.
They are still being denied their religious and democratic demands. The Indian government has also exemplified the animosity against Sikhs on several other occasions.
In 2020-21, Sikh farmers demonstrated a year-long protest against the three farm laws,the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act passed by the Modi administration, which according to farmers, was an attempt to worsen their already harsh ecological and economic conditions.
Soon the violent protests spread all across the Indian Punjab and farmers denied any reconciliation until the abrogation of farm laws.
The Indian government used brutal force against the protestors and killed nearly 700 demonstrators.
After facing the wrath of the international press, first authorities tried to malign the democratic protest by alleging the involvement of Khalistani miscreants, then revoked the farm laws bowing down before the farmers’ protests in a humiliating way.
In 2019, when Pakistan in a goodwill gesture opened Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims, the Modi government couldn’t digest the growing soft corner of Pakistan among the Sikh community and accused Pakistan of using the Kartarpur corridor to infiltrate terrorists in the garb of Sikh pilgrims.
In an attempt to create misconstruction among the Sikh community and Pakistan, Indian authorities tried to create countless hurdles in the way of the Kartarpur Corridor.
Infuriated by the Indian state’s oppression against their community, Sikhs from all around the world finally decided to gather at a single platform called Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) and organized the worldwide referendum starting from the United Kingdom in a bid to demand a separate homeland “Khalistan” for Sikhs comprising several parts of Indian Punjab.
The referendum gained massive popularity and momentum, as of now, more than 70,000 Sikhs in the United Kingdom and Italy have already voted in the support of the demand for a separate homeland free of Hindutva sovereignty.
Unfortunately, the Indian government tried every option to malign the Sikh’s democratic practice of plebiscite to part their ways from India and tried to link SFJ with Pakistan.
By targeting the leadership of SFJ, Indian authorities have registered sedition and terrorism cases against them and lodged a protest in front of the UK authorities for allowing the Khalistan referendum to happen.
This psychotic approach of Hindutva followers and the declining state of minorities in India is an eye-opener for the international community and the worrisome situation of the already marginalized minorities in India demands practical actions before any other human tragedy takes place.
The democratic struggle of Sikhs against the autocratic rule of the Indian state must also be acknowledged and supported in order to seek justice for the 1984 genocide victims.
—The writer is a researcher and freelance journalist.