H C Singh

Attack On Golden Temple

It is apt and befitting to explain in brief the importance and sanctity of Golden Temple. Foundation of Golden Temple was laid by a Muslim Saint, Mian Mir under aegis of Guru Ram Das, so that as preached by Guru Nanak Dev, it is one and the same God to whom Muslims call Allah and Hindus call Ram and that all humanity is one and as elucidated in Guru Granth Sahib, Holy Book of Sikhs called perennial Guru after Guru Gobind Singh—AVVAL ALLAHA NOOR UPAYA, KUDRAT KE SABH BANDE EK NOOR SE SABH JAG UPJYA KON BHALE KON MANDE.

During British rule Golden Temple remained assigned to hereditary Mahants. It suited the British rulers so that they could keep watch over the Sikh Gurudwaras and indirectly on Sikhs, so that they do not unite against them and create problems as they valued the support of Sikhs, particularly the Sikh Soldiers who constituted during and upto first World War about 50% of Indian Army and were instrumental in Allied victory in Europe against German Army. It will be noteworthy that on India Gate hundreds of names of Sikh soldiers are inscribed who died fighting in 1st World War, it was a British tribute to valiant Sikh soldiers.

It was only in 1925 that the Sikhs rose to demand the handing over of Gurudwaras like Golden Temple and NanKana Sahib (Birth place of Guru Nanak Dev ji). After prolonged agitation which was absolutely non-violent and in which more than one hundred Sikhs laid down their lives (SHAHID’s) the British relented and accepted the demand of Shromani Gurudwara Porbandhak Committee (the apex body of Sikh’s and handed over the management of all Gurudwaras including Golden Temple to SGPC (organization).On the non-violent agitation of valiant Sikhs, Mahatma Gandhi sent a telegraph message hailing the victory as ‘first decisive battle for India’s freedom won’.

But Indira Gandhi not caring for the sanctity of the Golden Temple and Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent struggle for India’s independence decided to send Indian Army with tanks and mortars to attack the Golden Temple, holiest of holy Sikh shrine, apparently to flush out Bhinderanwale and his militants, whom Indira Government with the assistance of Darbara Singh CM of Punjab and Zail Singh then Home Minister of central Government had made a hero of prominence.

For a while one should close ones eyes and imagine: how Christians all over the world would have reacted if Italian Army had attacked Vatican with tanks and destroyed part of church of Rome. Also how Muslims all over the world would have cried and taken revenge if Mecca, their holiest shrine, where millions of Muslims from all over the world go for “Haj” every year, had been attacked with tanks by Saudi Arabian Army. Lastly how Hindus all over the world have wept if Mathura, Kashi temples in north or Tirupati temple in South had been attacked by Indian Army with all the force of tanks and latest arms?

Golden Temple for Sikhs all over the world is as sacred and sacrosanct as Mecca for Muslims, Rome for Christians and Kashi and Mathura for Hindus. One fails to understand why Indira Gandhi chose to attack Golden Temple after almost year long preparation? Was it to teach Akali’s and Sikh’s a lesson in revenge, for Akali’s opposition to emergency during which out of total of 80,000 arrests all over India as many as 30,000 Akali’s and Sikhs courted arrest? Whatever the reason attack on Golden Temple was most unfortunate and unforgivable.

Indian Army units stationed at all the entry points (gates) of Golden Temple but allowed Bhinderanwalis associates and militants to enter with arms. Army units and armed soldiers could prevent their entry or at least disarm them but, seemingly from orders from Delhi they did not.

On the other hand government cleverly chose a Sikh Major General R S Barar who was asked to contact two senior Lieutant Generals Sunder ji and Dayal as situation in Punjab and in Golden Temple Complex had become very serious and the militants housed in Akal Takhat might have to be eliminated by military action. It is well known that it was Indira Gandhi decision to attack Golden Temple to flush out or kill the militants. Accordingly on 2nd June 1984 Indira spoke on All India Radio about bloodshed saying “ all sectors of Punjab not to shed blood but shed hatred ”. This was just to justify her decision to attack Golden Temple. Accordingly, without waiting any further on 3rd June ‘Punjab’s road, rail and telephone links with the whole of India were cut off so that Punjab was fully segregated and could have no contacts out of Punjab during impeding Army attack. On the other hand, strangely curfew in Amritsar was lifted on 3rd June as it was martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev so that more people could gather in Golden Temple. Sporadic firing stated on 4th by both the Army and militants. But actual Army attack was launched on the night of 5th— the BALCK DAY for Sikhs all over the world for Punjab and for Indira Gandhi and even for whole of india.

As there was multi-directional firing from militants of Bhinderanwale, the army commander asked for and got immediate permission to use tanks. Accordingly about ten tanks entered the premises of Golden Temple and started shooting at Akal Takhat which was virtually destroyed in a couple of hours of firing and fighting. It is estimated that more than 500 Indian Army troops last their lives while most of the militants including Bhinderanwala and Shubeg Singh were killed. In addition more than 3000 pilgrims who had come from adjoining villages to pay homage to Guru Arjan Dev an morlyedom Day (called Gurupurab) also lost their lives in the premises of Golden Temple. The pilgrims included innocent children and their mothers and fathers.

R.S. Barar who was in charge of operation ‘Blue Star’ says ‘ it must be admitted that the tenacity with which the militants held their ground, the stubborn velor with which they fought the battle and the high degree of confidence displayed by them merits praise and recognition’. Another Sikh General who won the battle against Pakistani forces in East Pakistan (East Bengal now Bangla Desh) made startling statement : The Army was used to finish a problem created by the government. This is the kind of action that is going to ruin the army (Qutated by Patwant Singh in his book ‘The Fatal Misealulation’).

Speech of a non-sikh, non-Punjab but a true Indian, caring for all religions, all cultures and provinces, on the attack on Golden Temple is an eye opener. Shri Parvathaneni Upendra spoke on the white paper in Parliament on July 25, 1984 as under:

None of us either the government or the Akali’s or the rest of the opposition has come out with any honour or with any flying colours in this sordid drama. Everyone of us has proved unequal to the task and as an Indian and as a nationalist I feel ashamed and I hang my head in shame at what has happened in Punjab recently, particularly in June. And ultimately for the first time in India’s history the Army had to be sent to a religious institution. Whatever may be the reason to the justification of the same, it is a shameful thing”.

BJP leader, L.K. Advani who, too, is non Sikh and non Punjabi spoke on the tragedy of army attack and destruction of Akal Takhat, on White Paper. He said, “ After all the destruction of Akal Takhat pained not only those who proclaim themselves as Sikhs, but even those like the rest of us”.

Khushwant Singh eminent journalist has written a book ‘My Bleeding Punjab’ on operation Blue Star and genocide of Sikhs after Indira’s assassination. He is emphatic that attack on Golden Temple could be avoided. Khushwant Singh wrote: “It could not have been very difficult for a limited commando action to capture Bhinderanwale dead or alive. At long last when the Government decided to act, it did so at the Worst possible time the death anniversary of Guru Arjan, when thousands of pilgrims were visiting the temple and the worst manner, storming the temple with tanks and armoured cars and blasting the Akal Takhat” He further added ‘ One lesson to be learnt from storming of the Golden Temple is that it was the worst way of handling the explosive situation. Another is that political economic and social problems are not solved by superior gun power but by persuasion, by give and take”. It is noteworthy that Khushwant Singh calls himself agnostic (not religious) and he also returned his title of Padam Shri conferred on him by Government of India.

From the painful reaction on storming of Akal Takhat in Golden Temple Complex and death of thousands of pilgrims women and children who have nothing to do with militant Sikhs or Bhinderanwala, it is crystal clear that deployment of Army, with tanks and armored cars was unnecessary.Had Indira Gandhi used persuasiveness and was determined to solve Bhinderanwala problem peacefully and diplomatically with use of minimum force , that, too, if other alternate way of settlement had failed. But as stated earlier, it was clear that Indira had ‘decided’ to storm Golden Temple without bothering to consider the reaction and consequences. Being a Congress leader and PM representing congress Party, she should have followed, if not fully, to some extent Gandhi ji’s philosophy of non-violence and her father Prime Minister Nehru, listened to the advice of senior civil servants and not her psychophantal ministers who were bound to approve, or keep quiet, to all policy matters and decisions she had made up her mind to take and implement. This has proved to be tragic, for her, for Sikhs and for the nation.

In June 1984, I was a senior government servant, though I heard on radio that Indian Army had entered the Golden Temple complex with tanks and destroyed the Akal Takhat, just opposite the Golden Temple proper. I silently shed tears on hearing the tragic news but could not and did not express or share my agony with any one. As senior Administrative officer of National Institute ( Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research Lucknow), I was virtually and actually head of the Institute in the absence of Director. Before going on tour which was once every month for a week or more, he would come to my room, which was opposite his room, and say “Singh Sahib now Institute is Aap Ke Hawale ie under you”. Being in such a position with full responsibility for the National Institute that had strength of more than 500 technical officers and workers. I supressed my agony and feeling fully and devoted to my duties from 8AM to 8PM. But I did express my feelings in my diary as under:

“This day last month, this time (11PM) something terrible happened in Golden Temple. I as a Government servant would not comment on it but I as a Sikh as an Indian and as a human being feel deeply hurt by the events of the night of 4th and 5th June 1984, May some hidden power, social, religious, revolutionary Marxist or anything save this country and its people.

I had been silently shedding tears every night in my bunglow without telling to anyone in the institute where there were some Sikhs, too.

August 28, 2009 - Posted by | India, Religion, Sikhism | , , , , , ,

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