Akali stalwarts Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra had refused to go along with gun-totting militants’ desperate exhortations to declare ‘Khalistan’ a few hours before the army stormed Harmandar Sahib to flush out militant preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers in June 1984, reveals a new television series.
This hitherto unknown facet of tense events that unfolded at the Golden Temple in the cataclysmic summer of 1984 has been brought out in ‘Operation Bluestar – the untold story’, a nine-part series telecast by Day&Night, a Chandigarh-based news channel.
While Sant Longowal was the then president of the Shiromani Akali Dal and also the dictator of Akalis’ ‘dharam yudh morcha’ pegged to Punjab’s political demands, Tohra was heading the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee ( SGPC ).
Amidst an impending catastrophic face-off between Bhindranwale’s armed followers and the army, both Akali leaders had stood their ground by turning down the militants’ attempts to make them openly espouse the secessionist demand, according a first person account graphically narrated by Balwant Singh Ramoowalia who was then secretary to Sant Longowal.
Based on testimonies of survivors, eye-witnesses and retired army officials, and a plethora of interrogation reports and official records, the documentary, compiled by senior journalist Kanwar Sandhu, has not only shed new light on the Operation Bluestar, it has apparently demolished a couple of myths associated with the momentous action that changed the course of nation’s history.
The documentary has also given a blow-by-blow account of the fierce battles that forced the army to press in heavy artillery including tanks to neutralise the militants entrenched in Akal Takht. Also , it also brings out the army commanders’ costly blunders, the fall of Major General Shabheg Singh, the 1971 war hero who had teamed up with Bhindranwale after his ignominious dismissal from the army, and the cold-blooded shooting of innocents in the shrine during the three-day operation that resulted in about 700 killings, including 90-odd army personnel.