12:07 am - Friday August 23, 2019

Operation Blue Star – 6th June 1984 – A Black Day of Sikh History

Continuing on from the night of the 5th June, moving into the early hours of the 6th June, the battle increased in ferocity. According to General K.S. Brar, on June 6, around 4-30 a.m., thirty soldiers managed to get into the Akal Takhat, the ‘Immortal Throne’ which represents the highest seat of Sikh spiritual and political sovereignty. The fighting in the early hours of the morning of the 6th was ferocious, and eyewitnesses including soldiers and General K.S. Brar, testify that although desperately outnumbered the Sikh Fighters fought bravely and “to the last man.”

The army ordered their tanks to fire upon the Akaal Takhat and due to the repeated explosions, the Akaal Takhat was reduced to rubble and the Sikh fighters inside died defending it.

“Photographs of the shattered shrine indicate quite clearly that the Vijayantas 105 mm main armaments pumped high-explosive squash-head shells into the Akal Takht. Those shells were designed for use against hard targets like armour and fortifications. When the shells hit their targets, their heads spread or squash on to the hard surface. Their fuses are arranged to allow a short delay between the impact and the shells igniting, so that a shock-wave passes through the target. Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora, who studied the front of the Akal Takht before it was repaired, reckoned that as many as eighty of these lethal shells, could have been fired into the shrine.

The effect of this barrage on the Akal Takht was devastating. The whole of the front of the sacred shrine was destroyed, leaving hardly a pillar standing. Fires broke out in many of the different rooms blackening the marble walls and wrecking the delicate decorations dating from Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s time. They included marble inlay, plaster and mirror work, and filigree partitions. The gold-plated dome of the Akal Takht was also badly damaged by artillery fire.”
Excerpted from “Amritsar – Mrs. Gandhi’s Last Battle”, (Ninth Ed. 1991).

Brahma Chellaney reported: “At about 9 p.m. on 6th June, entire city of 700,000 was plunged into darkness by a power outage. Half an hour later, Amritsar was shaken by powerful shelling, mortar explosion and machine-gun fire. The big battle had begun. Half the city was up on rooftops watching the battle. Tracer bullets and flares lit up the sky. The explosions at the Golden Temple rattled doors and windows miles away. While the battle was raging, the state-run radio claimed that the city was ‘calm’. Between 10.30 p.m. and midnight, we heard slogans from city outskirts of villagers trying to march to the Golden Temple from three different directions. The slogans-‘Long live the Sikh religion’ and ‘Bhindranwale is our leader’-were heard on each occasion and were followed by rapid army machine gun fire and screams.”
Samiuddin, Abida (ed.); The Punjab Crisis: Challenge and Response (Delhi, 1985), page 62.

The Sikh Fighters fought desperately; one of the officers said, “Boy what a fight they gave us. If I had three Divisions like that I would fuck the hell out of Zia (the President of Pakistan) any day.” Another, “I have seen a lot of action, but I can tell you I have never seen anything like this. [They were] pretty committed. They should have realised that they could not win against the army. If one weapon failed we brought another. When that failed we brought another”. A third put it more succinctly. “The bloody fellows would not let us in'”
Excerpted from “Amritsar – Mrs. Gandhi’s Last Battle”, (Ninth Ed. 1991).

The testimony of one of the pilgrims, explains why the fighters fought so desperately;

“Bhai Amrik Singh (leading Sikh fighter) sent her a message urging her to leave the Temple Complex at once with her group in order to escape being dishonoured [raped] or being shot dead as ‘terrorists’ by the Army personnel, and also to survive to tell the true story of what happened inside the Golden Temple to the world outside.”

She recalls the scenes that she saw when she stepped out of the room, where she and others were trying to survive the firing and bombing; “what did I see but piles of dead bodies, all stacked one over the other. At first I instinctively felt that I wouldn’t manage to go out. All I could see was a ceaseless mound of dead bodies. It seemed that all the persons who were staying in the Parikrama, not one of them had survived.”
Source; Citizens for Democracy; Report to the Nation: Oppression in Punjab (Bombay, 1985).

Unfortunately, the fears of the fighters came true, and when the resistance from the defenders had been overcome, the army killed with vengeance hundreds of pilgrims;

“Grenades and poisonous gas shells were thrown at the men, women and children, who had locked themselves in the rooms, bathrooms and toilets of Guru Nanak Niwas, Guru Ram Das serai and Taja Singh Samundri Hall. Those who tried to come out were pierced with bayonets and shot dead. Some soldiers caught hold of small babies and children by their feet, lifted them up in the air and then smashed them against the walls thus breaking their skulls.”
Harminder Kaur; Blue Star Over Amritsar (Delhi, 1990).

“The civilians who died, about 1500 of them, were piled in trolleys and carried away. A lot of them were thrown into the rivers. The battle was a tragic one. I couldn’t eat anything. Food made me sick. I used to just drink lots of rum and go to sleep.”
The account of a Naik (Corporal) of Kumaon Regiment who participated in Blue Star as quoted in Probe India, August, 1984.

“The army stormed Teja Singh Samundri hall and the rooms in the Parkarma and behaved liked savages, they raped women, looted, killed children, burnt people alive, set the rooms on fire and tied the hands of devotees behind their backs and shot them.”
Eyewitness account of Bibi Pritam Kaur, whose husband and 18 month baby was shot dead. Video interview (available online), interview transcript, reprinted in Punjab Times.

“It was a virtual massacre. A large number of women, children and pilgrims were gunned down.”
As reported by The Guardian on 13th June 1984.

Operation Blue Star - 6th June 1984 - A Black Day of Sikh History

Operation Blue Star - 6th June 1984 - A Black Day of Sikh History

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