The story of the Gandhis’ biggest mistake, and how it still haunts Punjab
NB: This is the best summary I have read of Operation Bluestar and the events leading up to it. For readers interested in civic actions following the Delhi carnage of 1984, here is one place to begin: SVA’s 1986 Appeal to the National Integration Council. The story post 1984, of the tortuous years of terror and resistance to communalism of all hues, would have to include names of stalwarts such as comrades Satyapal Dang and Gursharan Singh. (For the record, both of them attended the foundation convention of the SVA in Delhi in January 1989). The Punjab has suffered huge tragedies on account of communalism. Let us hope that a more optimistic spirit will emerge in the next chapter of its history: DS
Over the last thirty years, the debate over Bluestar has played out between two extreme points of view: that of radicals in Punjab and abroad, who dwell on the Congress’s role while overlooking Bhindranwale’s complicity, and that of people in the rest of India, who tend to focus on Bhindranwale with little sense of the Congress’s contribution to the tragedy. Many Indians may believe the events of that June can be consigned to the history books, but their memory remains alive in Punjab. Many Sikhs continue to view the operation, and the figure of Bhindranwale, in a markedly different light from the rest of the country. Without understanding how such distinct perspectives came to exist, it may be impossible to come to terms with the history of Bluestar...
Outside Punjab, the conventional understanding of the alliance between Bhindranwale and the Congress assumes the party was making use of a small-time preacher for its own ends, and propelled him to a position of significance by doing so. But as head of the Taksaal, Bhindranwale already had a certain standing among orthodox Sikhs; with or without Congress support, he was anything but small-time. In truth, the arrangement was one of mutual convenience, and lasted only as long as it served Bhindranwale’s interests..
EVERY SUMMER FOR THE FIRST FIFTEEN YEARS of my life, my family would travel to our village of Khankot. It lay on the outskirts of Amritsar amidst pear groves, now almost subsumed by the march of suburbia. The Golden Temple—or, to use the name most often invoked by the faithful, the Darbar Sahib—lay barely ten kilometres away. A visit soon after arrival was obligatory.
Amritsar: It’s often described as a watershed moment in Indian history—the government of the day ordering a military assault on Sikhism’s holiest shrine, unleashing a chain of events that included a rare revolt in the disciplined Indian Army and the assassination of then Prime Minister followed by sectarian violence. On the 30th anniversary of Operation Blue Star—the military code name for the mission to reclaim the Golden Temple in Amritsar city bordering Pakistan—from a group of armed Sikh militants led by who had called for the creation of a separate Sikh state of Khalistan.