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Operation Blue Star: Lingering anger?

October 02, 2012 17:43 IST
The anger and hurt caused to the Sikh community by the military action in the Golden Temple in 1984 continue to linger, says senior analyst B Raman.

A BBC website report on the attack on Lt General (retd) Kuldeep Singh Brar, a retired officer of the Indian Army who led Operation Blue Star in 1984, in London on Sunday night, states as follows:

He told Indian TV channels that the attack "was a pure assassination attempt on me".

"Four bearded, tough-looking men wearing black jackets and black clothes pounced on me. One of them pushed my wife to the side; she fell down and started screaming for help. Three of them charged at me; one pulled out a dagger or a knife and tried to assassinate me," Lt Gen Brar said.

"He slashed my neck with the knife, but being an army man, I fought back. I kicked and boxed and warded off the attack, but in the meantime they had already slashed my neck."

"He said it was "obvious" that the attackers were sympathisers of Khalistan, who, he added, had wanted to kill him since Operation Blue Star.

"Even on the Internet, there are so many threats being sent to me to say that there have been many attempts on your life but they haven't succeeded, but the next one will succeed. They've been after me," he said.

The general was attacked on Old Quebec Street in the Oxford Circus area of London on Sunday night by unknown assailants, with no suggestion so far that his attackers were Sikhs, reported BBC.

The police said the four men "are described as wearing dark clothing and long black jackets. They all had long beards".

"No arrests have been made yet," they said.

Gen Brar was one of the senior Army officers who supervised Operation Blue Star, the military operation inside the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984 to flush out a group of Khalistani terrorists, who had taken control of the temple and were indulging in acts of terrorism.

Left with no other alternative, Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister, reluctantly ordered the military raid. The temple was freed from the control of the terrorists, but there were a large number of casualties and the Akal Takht, the holiest part of the temple, suffered considerable damage.

The military action had some tragic consequences, which kept reverberating for months and years after the operation. These included the assassination of Indira Gandhi inside her house by two of her security guards from the Delhi police, the assassination of Gen AS Vaidya, who was the chief of army staff at the time of the operation, in Pune where he had settled down after retirement, some desertions of Sikh soldiers from the Army in the days after the military action and an aggravation of the Khalistan terrorist movement that continued till 1995, after which it started subsiding.

The Golden Temple is the holiest shrine of the Sikh community all over the world. The military action inside the temple, however justified, and the damage to the Akal Takht due to the exchange of heavy gunfire inside the temple, deeply hurt the psyche of the Sikh community.

It goes to the credit of the Sikh community that despite their anger and the insult and humiliation faced over the military action inside their holy place, the massacre of a number of Sikhs in Delhi after the assassination of Gandhi and the perceived reluctance of different governments and the Congress leadership to identify and act against those suspected of involvement in the anti-Sikh violence, they did not allow the terrorists to exploit the situation to drive a permanent wedge between the Sikh community and other religions. The petering out of the Khalistan movement from 1995 onwards would not have been possible had the moderate members of the community not kept away from the terrorists.

The terrorist movement has petered out, but some founders of the movement are still alive and have not reconciled themselves to the end of the movement. Some of them continue to be based in Pakistan and are hoping to revive the movement one day. Fortunately, they have not been able to get any support from the Sikh community.

While the roots of Khalistani terrorism have shrivelled up, the feelings of anger and inner hurt caused by the military action seem to still linger in some individuals, if not sections of the community. That is a possible interpretation of the attack on Gen Brar and his account of it as reported on the BBC website.

A short while ago, a British journalist based in New Delhi called up to ask whether the attack on the general indicated that the Khalistan movement is back.  I will not rush to that conclusion for now. All I will say for the present is that the anger and inner hurt caused by the military action still linger.

The British police have not yet arrested the suspects. Only if and when they arrest them will we know the motive. The motive is of primary interest in analysing the attack and concluding whether it was Operation Blue Star related. Equally important will be the age of the suspects -- if they turn out to be Sikhs, that is. Do they belong to the old generation of Sikhs who had lived through the traumatic days of 1984 or are they from the younger generation?

If they are from the younger generation, that could be a disturbing indication that at least some members of the younger generation have inherited the feelings of anger from their elders.

We should see what we can do to mitigate their anger and hurt. Effective action against those responsible for the Sikh massacres of 1984 in Delhi might help in this regard.

Image:  General (retd) Kuldeep Singh Brar

B Raman