Operation Blue Star: The True Story

15 Nov 2022  Read 586 Views

Despite the emergency of 1975 and Operation Blue Star in 1984, PM Indira Gandhi had been immensely popular amongst the masses. One known fact about her is that portions of the Akal Takht complex in Golden Temple were destroyed as she nodded her head to conduct one of the biggest operations in history, 'Operation Blue Star', which caused serious consequences and casualties in Punjab. This attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar by the Indian Army in June 1984 left the Sikh temple heavily damaged, making her unpopular among Sikhs. 

So, undoubtedly 1984 had been a terrible year that witnessed this Operation, followed by PM Indira Gandhi’s assassination, ultimately leading to anti-Sikh riots. This article discusses Indira Gandhi's assassination, Operation blue star, its cause and consequences and the Khalistan movement in detail.   

What is Operation Blue Star?

Operation Blue Star was conducted for the first time just after the rise of the Khalistan movement in India, a political Sikh nationalist movement to create an independent state for Sikhs within the current North-Western Republic of India. The Khalistan movement began in the early 1940s and 50s, but it actually gained popularity between the 1970s- 80s. Bhindranwale was the leader of Damdami Taksal and was one of the major reasons behind this Operation Blue Star. Bhindranwale as a leader had an influence on Sikh youths. He also persuaded many people to follow Sikh rules and tenets.

During Operation Blue Star, Bhindranwale and Khalistan supporters took control of the Akal Takht complex in Amritsar's Golden Temple. Bhindranwale was considered a supporter of the creation of Khalistan. Operation Blue Star was conducted to eliminate Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale from the Golden Temple complex and take back the control over Harmandir Sahib.

Khalistan Movement

To begin in the early 1980s,  radical separatists led a bloody campaign to chuck out an independent, theocratic Sikh nation called Khalistan (Land of the Pure) in Punjab led by Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and other parts of Northern India. Khalistan’s roots date back to British colonial policies of the late 1800s & in the early 1900s that sought to divide Sikhs and Hindus. The British army recruited many Sikhs to use them against Hindu rulers that rebelled against the British Raj.  Later, after independence, tensions between the state of Punjab and the Centre popped up, resulting in grievances among them.

In 1966, Punjab was divided into the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh along linguistic lines (wherein Punjab became a Punjabi speaking state, and Haryana, Himachal Pradesh as Hindi speaking states). So, this created displeasure amongst many Sikhs that the historic lines of Punjab were being divided ahead after it has already been divided between India and Pakistan in 1947. So, predominantly Hindu populations settled in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

Timeline of Operation Blue Star

Operation Blue Star was held by the Indian Army from 1st to 10th June 1984, aiming to capture Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale & his group of supporters gathered at the Harmandir Sahib Temple Complex (also called Golden Temple) in Amritsar in Punjab. It was the biggest internal security operation to date, and it was carried on with the permission of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’. Insurgency in Punjab began in the early 80s, and it was an armed movement focused on a separate Sikh homeland called Khalistan based out of Punjab in India. Allegedly, it was also said that there were Pakistani elements linked to the Khalistani movement to weaken India.

  • In 1973, Akali Dal (a regional political party in Punjab), which had passed the Anandpur Resolution, demanded more autonomy for Punjab.

  • In 1982, Bhindranwale joined the Akali Dal and launched the Dharam Yudh Morcha to implement this Anandpur Resolution. He also got support from the youths.

  • But after he failed to implement the Anandpur Resolution, he decided to carve out a semi-autonomous homeland for Sikhs in Punjab.

  • He and his supporters started carrying firearms at all times with them, and more violent incidents began.

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  • In 1983, Bhindranwale hid inside the Akal Takht in the Golden Temple complex to avoid arrest & led the campaign for Punjab’s autonomy.

  • To remove Bhindranwale & his supporters, the Army launched the operation on 1 June 1984.

  • Operation Blue Star had two sub-components:

  1. Operation Metal to wash out the militants taking shelter in the Golden Temple.

  2. Operation Shop to clean remaining extremists throughout Punjab.

  • Actually the operation occurred on 5 June 1984 under the command of Lieutenant General Kuldip Singh Brar.

  • The army had full control by 7th June over the Harmandir Sahib complex.

  • Bhindranwale was killed in operation along with many of his men.

  • The official death toll by the Army is 554 Sikh militants and civilians and 83 officers, and soldiers of the military.

  • The operation was completed by 10th June 1984.

Indira Gandhi Assassination

As the Operation took place under the Indira Gandhi government, she was assassinated on October 31st, 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards as revenge for the operation. The assassination was carried out by Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, her 'Sikh bodyguards.' This incident led to the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 in Delhi and other parts of north India. In 1985, the bombing of Air India Flight 182 is alleged to have been an act of revenge for the operation. In 1986, the Chief of Army Staff at the time of Operation General A.S. Vaidya, was assassinated in revenge by Sikh militants.

Many Sikh soldiers in the Indian Army rebelled because of the operation. Many Sikhs resigned from administrative positions in the government. Hence, Instead of ending Khalistani terrorism in Punjab, it is alleged that this operation increased militancy in the state. 

Consequences of Operation Blue Star

Indira Gandhi was assassinated as Operation Blue Star outraged the Sikh community in India due to the attack on the holiest place “Golden Temple”. Another reason was the operation's timing as June 3rd, 1984, was the martyrdom day of Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Singh; therefore, more devotees were present at the temple.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 110 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Curator at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course) & she is a patent analyst. She has pursued advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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