Operation Blue Star is still haunting Sikhs
RELIGION in India is characterized by a diversity of religious beliefs and practices. India is birthplace of four leading religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.
The Indian Constitution, declares the federation to be a secular state with no state religion.
Religious diversity and religious tolerance are established by Indian constitution that defines freedom of religion a fundamental right and holds the state to be a secular state.
But, that concept of Nehrivian secular India is being vanished from the country due to the Hindutva driven policies of Modi government.
Similarly, Unofficially, India privileges Hinduism as state sponsored religion through constitutionally, legislatively and culturally.
Hindu monks are openly and bluntly threatening other religious communities. Muslims, Dalits and Sikhs are the prime target of Hindu monks.
They are facing discriminatory policies of nationalist Indian government under the trio of Modi-Shah-Doval. After Muslims, Sikh community is largest victim of biased policies of Hindu Establishment.
The atrocities against Sikh people were started in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star in 1984 when Indian Army, while acting upon PM Indra Gandhi’s order, violated the sanctity of holiest site of Sikh Golden Temple.
In the fateful year of 1984, the Indian Army attacked Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, as well as 41 other Gurudwaras (Sikh places of worship) throughout Punjab.
The assault, codenamed “Operation Blue Star,” marked the beginning of a policy of gross human rights violations in Punjab that continues to have profound implications for the rule of law in India.
Different areas of the Golden temple were damaged during the fighting and Sikhs felt it was an attack on their religion.
As per official report of Indian government, about 400 people were killed, including 87 soldiers during the operation, which lasted 10 days (01 June to 10 June).
However, Sikh groups denied these figures and argued that thousands died, including a large number of pilgrims who were there for an important Sikh festival, the anniversary of the death of their fifth guru, Arjan Dev.
Similarly, the authentic sources estimates of the total number of deaths during Operation Blue Star range from 5,000 to 7,000.
It is pertinent to mention here that the operation and loss of lives was a tragedy that could have been avoided if – and it is a big if – Indira Gandhi had had the vision to reach a political settlement with the moderate Akali leadership.
Indira Gandhi’s political decision to use the ‘Hindu card’ to gain electoral victories led her to choose a dangerous path of confrontation, first with the Akalis and eventually with the entire Sikh community.
This miscalculation cost Indra Gandhi her life, and left different communities of Punjab and of India in general scarred and polarized.
This polarization peaked with the genocidal violence against the Sikh minority in Delhi and many other North-Indian Hindu majority towns in November 1984 after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh security guards.
Sikh nationalists in Punjab were eventually defeated, at least militarily, by the 1990s, but Hindu nationalism was promoted so powerfully that the Hindu nationalists succeeded within a few decades in capturing the Indian state.
Likewise, the operation had outraged Sikhs around the world, who accused the troops of desecrating the faith’s holiest shrine.
Now, Sikhs are fed up with this approach of Indian government. They are now working actively to accomplish their independent state for Sikhs named Khalistan.
The operation had created divisions between Sikh and Hindus across the world, especially in India.
The Hindu rulers in India are denying Sikh community of their basic rights. Sikhs have been denied important government as well as corporate sector appointment across India.
In the past year, different important senior positions in Armed Forces have taken away from Sikh officers.
The Sikh officers in Indian Army are also facing these biased and discriminatory policies.
Same is happening in civilian bureaucracy where important positions are only for Hindu grabs. Likewise, the situation in Indian Punjab is also not good.
The state of Punjab is leading agricultural state of India, having extensive potential in the sector and providing basic agricultural products to rest of the country.
But, Indian government is reluctant to provide agricultural facilities to the farmers and people of the state.Likewise, the security situation in the state is also worsening day by day.
Recently, young Sikh leaders, who openly challenged PM Modi over his discriminatory policies towards Punjab, have been shot dead in a broad day light in the state.
The recent killing of two prominent faces of farmer’s movement Deep Sidhu and singer Sidhu Moosewalahave triggered severe animosity towards Indian government and Hindu fanatics. Both were popular icons within Youth of Punjab, having huge fan following.
Both Sidhu Moosewalaand Deep Deidhu were not merely a singers but Sikh leaders of Congress and a vocal critique of Hindutva Sarkar of PM Modi too. Rest one can understand who could be responsible for these assassinations.
This is high time for the international community to raise its voice against the discriminatory treatment by Modi government against minorities, especially Muslims and Sikhs.
They should press New Delhi to ensure provision of constitutional as well as religious rights of minorities. The wounds of Operation Blue Star are still there and haunting Sikhs.
—The writer is Islamabad-based expert of Indian affairs.