A day after fighting off and surviving a brutal knife attack in central London on Sunday night, Operation Bluestar commander Lt Gen Kuldip Singh Brar said he is in no doubt that his assailants were Khalistani extremists out for revenge.
File Photo of Lt General (Retd) KS Brar, 78, who led the Operation Bluestar, was attacked and injured in London. PTI Photo
"I couldn't make out what they were saying when these men attacked me - they were trying to slit my throat, we were struggling and it was all over within a minute. But I have no doubt that they were extremists," Brar told HT in an interview on Monday night.
"I cannot imagine anyone else targeting me like this. It wasn't a robbery - they didn't take my wallet or my wife's bag. The motive was assassination. They could have been from the Khalistan Commando Force or Babbar Khalsa."
Sikh devotees pay tribute to the victims of the November 1984 massacre at the Golden temple in Amritsar on Nov 2010. AFP Photo
"After Bluestar, (militant leader Jarnail Singh) Bhindrenwale's men swore to take revenge - and they did. Indira Gandhi and Gen Vaidya were both assassinated. Sundarji and Dayal died natural deaths. I am the only one who's still alive, and they'd rather see me dead."
"Every year on the 6th of June, they hold a Martyr's Day when they renew their pledge to kill me."
Brar revealed that he fought off his would-be killers. Bearded and dressed in black jackets, they surprised the couple as they walked back to their hotel at around 10.30 pm after a meal at Piccadilly Circus.
They set upon him after pushing off his wife on a quiet street, minutes from their hotel off Oxford Street.
But the 78-year-old ex-Army officer gave as good as he got. "One pounced on my wife and pushed her away, two came for me and a third took out a dagger or kirpan. I kicked one guy, boxed the other and grappled with another.
Activists from radical Sikh organizations hold placards displaying images of the 1984 damage to the shrine Sri Akal Takht Sahib and Sikh leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on June 6, 2009. AFP Photo
"But they slashed my neck. Luckily it wasn't deep enough and didn't cut the arteries. I knew how to defend myself - if I hadn't resisted, they would have succeeded."
Astonishingly, Brar was able to laugh off the serious and brazen attack: "If four people could not take on a 78-year-old guy, then they're not that good are they?"
The general was all praise for London's Metropolitan Police force and ordinary people who came out to help.
Senior army officers at the site of the Blue Star military operation to remove Sikh separatists who were amassing weapons in the Golden Temple in 1984 in Amritsar. Getty Images
In the minutes after the attack, as his wife screamed and raised the alarm, staff from a nearby pub rushed out with first aid, pressing towels and sheets over his wounds, which were bleeding heavily by now.
"Hats off to the Met police and ambulance - they arrived in five minutes. The next thing I knew I was on the stretcher. In the ambulance, they gave me a few injections, checked my blood group and took my blood pressure."
Sikh militants march on the streets of Amritsar in Punjab, April 1984. AFP Photo
The couple was taken to St Mary's hospital in nearby Paddington where a Dr Parikh operated on Brar.
After spending the night in the hospital, during which he was checked by a panel of doctors, Brar was discharged shortly after noon on Monday.
Brar was on a private visit to see friends and family."Before going abroad, I always give my itinerary to the local military command in India but I have no idea what happens after that - whether the external affairs ministry is informed or not."
Sikhs militant throw tear gas canister back at the police on June 07, 1984, after the death of the Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in Amritsar, Punjab. AFP Photo
According to Brar, Met Police are confident that they will be able to find the culprits, as the area is well covered by CCTV cameras.
On Monday night, hours before he spoke to HT, police detectives in grey overalls could be seen conducting a forensic search of the area and interviewing witnesses.
As to his immediate plans, Brar said, "I'm getting back as soon as possible."