Lieutenant General (retd) Kuldip Singh Brar, the only surviving commander of Operation Bluestar, fears that the upcoming memorial to the army action in Harmandar Sahib in Amritsar may not only become a rallying point for radicals but also reopen the Sikh community's wounds of the past.
"A larger section of the Sikhs has put the trauma of Operation Bluestar behind, but I am afraid it wouldn't take longer for that section to get smaller and for some of it to get to the side of radicals," said Lt Gen Brar in the course of an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times at his high-security residence here on Wednesday.
The 78-year-old general, who shot into the headlines following an audacious assassination attempt on him in London on September 30 by suspected pro-Khalistan militants, is currently recuperating from the deep gashes inflicted on the neck by his four attackers.
Asked whether a closure on Punjab's traumatic past was possible, Lt Gen Brar, a 1971 war-decorated, third generation soldier hailing from Moga district, struck a note of pragmatism: "Well, it will take a while. Because lots of people have suffered not in Punjab alone but in the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi and elsewhere also. The Sikh community has been hurt and the wounds will take time to heal," he said.
Which is why, he argued, any memorial to Operation Bluestar should never be allowed to come up inside the Darbar Sahib. "Whenever the devotees, especially young ones, would see the memorial, it could inflame passions rather than healing old wounds," he added.
He charged the Akalis and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) with playing with fire by conceding to the radicals' agenda to glorify Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale and his militant followers as 'martyrs'.
He sharply disagreed with the SGPC's contention that the upcoming memorial was to commemorate the killing of innocents during the army action. "There are other ways to remember such deaths but building a monument to militant ideology is not desirable at all for the sake of hard-earned peace in Punjab," he said.
Brar also spoke about how the London attack had changed his life. "It has of course made my life very difficult. I am used to living with perpetual threats from radicals." However, he said he was not asking for more security.
About the British police probe into the attack, Brar said the Scotland Yard had conducted DNA test on his bloodstained jacket and boots and also scanned CCTV footage to track down the attackers whom he had fought back.
"The British police authorities are updating me on a daily basis on the probe and have assured that the perpetrators of the attack would not get away with it," he said, adding that two suspects chargesheeted on Monday were from the Birmingham area where the banned Babbar Khalsa has its headquarters.
For complete interview please read Wednesday's Hindustan Times.