Mohammad Ali Baig
WHY Indira Gandhi chose a Sikh known as Major General Kuldip Singh Brar to storm the Golden Temple — the holiest place in Sikh religion? How saint Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale turned into a terrorist from being a close and trusted associate of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi? Was military operation and killing of thousands of innocent Sikhs the last resort? How and why 1984 is still the blackest year in the history of modern India? These are among the numerous questions a common follower of the Sikh religion still asks from the Republic of India and Indian Army.
The Operation Blue Star was a deliberate military operation out of the necessity carried out by the Indian Army on the direct orders of the then PM Indira Gandhi in the first week of June 1984, to kill or capture Sikh saint named as Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale and to clear the Golden Temple of lightly-armed Sikh devotees. The operation was a desperate attempt by PM Indira Gandhi to use Sikh elements in the Indian Army in such a way that may result in a twofold effect. First, Sikh General’s actions would yield in hatred within the Sikh community and its people would be divided either in its favour or against it. Second, to give the world a secular view – in which a Sikh General of the Indian Army; carried out a military operation against the people of its own religion at the holiest Sikh Temple.
Many Indians say that perhaps Indira Gandhi chose Maj. Gen. Kuldip Singh Brar – a Sikh, for Operation Blue Star so he would be able to fully understand the sanctity and holiness of the Golden Temple Complex and would refrain from desecrating the Akal Takht. Well, it sounds the perspective of a few people who intentionally intends to paint the ‘planned massacre’ as an inadvertent or unplanned escalation of the battle between Indian Army and Sikh devotees. Even for the sake of argument, if one considers this perspective – another thing comes to one’s mind, that isn’t PM Indira wanted to create a fuss or rift within the Sikh community by deputing a Sikh Indian Army General to do the dirty work? The latter makes sense in relation to the former. How ridiculous the assertion may look, it still has strong footings since the Operation Blue Star was prepared in such a hasty manner that exhibited serious military flaws as well as lack of operational brilliance in its execution.
It still is a surprise for the students of Indian politics that once Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale was a close associate of Indira Gandhi and he did campaign for her so that Indian National Congress may become able to form its government in Sikh-dominated Indian state of Punjab. Thanks to the print and electronic media archives, that one can see and observe Bhindrawale and Indira together campaigning for the Congress. Otherwise, Indian Hindu-dominated media would have painted an entirely fake and malicious picture of Bhindrawale and his devoted followers. Indira was well aware of the influence and respect Bhindrawale possessed in the hearts and minds of the Sikh people and being a believer of Realism she was desperate to either turn that devotion in her favour or simply eliminate it by any means possible. After using Bhindrawale and his followers, it was the time to get rid of them. It was the basic reason that he turned into an enemy of the Indian state from being a spiritual leader and Indira’s ally.
Operation Blue Star saw some heinous crimes committed by the Indian Army. Interestingly, Indian Army retired Major General Shabeg Singh was among the thousands of Sikhs killed during the massacre. Maj. Gen. Shabeg Singh was the one who fought exceptionally in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War and was responsible for the arming and training of ‘Mukti Bahni’(a terrorist group). But surely, Shabeg was unaware of the fact that soon he was destined to become a victim of Indian Army’s duplicity and hypocrisy. Shabeg and the rest of Sikhs were brutally murdered, since their only crime was the demand of freedom and provincial autonomy.
Today, every honest and sensible soul mourns for the Sikh victims of Operation Blue Star. Gen. Kuldip Singh Brar survived many assassination attempts and still lives with the guilt. Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale’s ‘Babbar Khalsa International’ still operates outside ‘Democratic India’ since there is no place in India for Sikhs who demand rights and freedom. The United Nations, European Union and various organizations of human rights must have to investigate the dilapidated and worse human rights conditions in India for Sikhs and other minorities including Muslims and Dalits. It is the moral obligation of Pakistan and the world to support the Babbar Khalsa International and the Indian Sikhs in realization of the independent state of Khalistan – the ultimate destiny of Sikh people.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.