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HindustanTimes Tue,02 Sep 2014

What led to Operation Blue Star? A look back, 30 years later

HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 03, 2014
First Published: 11:57 IST(3/6/2014) | Last Updated: 12:05 IST(3/6/2014)

This Friday marks the 30th anniversary of the controversial Operation Blue Star – the Indian military's operation in 1984 to flush out militants holed up inside the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

We recount the events that led to the assault that killed at least 400 people.
 
A religious leader
On April 13, 1978, supporters of Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale, the chief of Sikh religious educational institution Damdami Taksal, clash with Nirankaris in Amritsar. Thirteen followers of Bhinderanwale, mainly belonging to the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, killed.
Bhinderanwale's popularity soars among Sikhs of Punjab as he tours the state and addresses people along with his band of armed followers.
 
His move to the shrine
In August 1982, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) under Sant Harchand Singh Longowal launches 'Dharam Yudd Morcha' to push their demands, including river water issue, and transfer of Chandigarh and Punjabi-speaking areas of Haryana to Punjab.
Bhinderanwale shifts to the Golden Temple by end of 1983. While Akali supporters court arrest in Amritsar, Bhinderanwale begins to hold court atop Guru Ramdas Langar building, urging Sikhs to take up weapons for fulfilment of their demands. Meanwhile, emissaries of the central government hold secret parleys with Bhinderanwale and Akali leaders, separately, but to no avail.
In March 1984, Bhinderanwale moves from Guru Nanak Niwas in the shrine complex to Akal Takht along with his armed followers. Periodic clashes, some with the use of firearms, take place between Bhinderanwale's followers and other groups inside the shrine complex.
 
Operation begins, he dies
On May 27, government gives Lieutenant General K Sundarji (GOC-in-C Western Command) the nod for an armed operation to flush out Bhindranwale and his followers. On June 3, a curfew is imposed on Punjab.
On June 5, the army under the then Major General Kuldip Singh Brar launches 'Operation Blue Star'. Army meets a lot of resistance, but after all day and all night of clashes, the shrine is cleared of all militants by noon on June 6.
Bhinderanwale's body is recovered from the basement of the Akal Takht, which is badly damaged.
 
Aftermath
The operation causes widespread anger among Sikhs against the government. A few Sikh soldiers desert their army units.
Army then launches 'Operation Woodrose' to quell militancy in the countryside in Punjab. There are reports of Sikh youths leaving their homes and fleeing to Pakistan for training in weapons.
Government gets Akal Takht rebuilt but the Akalis and Sikh clergy refuse to accept this. Later, this structure is demolished and then rebuilt over the years through 'kar sewa'.
 
Death of a Prime Minister
On October 31, 1984, the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, is assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards to avenge the attack on Golden Temple.
 
Riots
Indira Gandhi's assassination leads to anti-Sikh riots in Delhi and elsewhere in the country that kill thousands.


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