The 32nd anniversary of Operation Bluestar passed off peacefully amidst tight security at the Golden Temple complex here on Monday even as pro-Khalistan slogans were raised by some radical Sikh groups in front of the Akal Takht ---the highest temporal seat of Sikhs.
No untoward incident was reported from on and around the shrine’s premises, where policemen in civil dress were deployed along with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’s task force to thwart any attempt to disturb law and order.
A complete shutdown was observed in Amritsar with business and educational establishments remaining closed in support of a bandh call given by Dal Khalsa.
The shrine had witnessed clashes last year and a year before during the Bluestar anniversary. Security agencies were on alert, ahead of the anniversary with over 8,000 security personnel, including from paramilitary forces, deployed in Amritsar.
As soon as Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh emerged to read out his ‘sandesh’ (address), some Sikh radicals --- led by SAD (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann --- started raising slogans in favour of Khalistan and Babbar Khalsa militant Jagtar Singh Hawara.
Hawara was declared as the Akal Takht jathedar during the radical ‘sarbat khalsa’ held near Amritsar in November last year.
Apart from SAD (A) activists, members of the radical Sikh group Dal Khalsa were also present inside the shrine in large numbers. Slogans were also raised against the Akal Takht jathedar and the SGPC. Mann targeted the Badal government and accused it of suppressing the voice of Sikhs.
Over a dozen youths, who were allegedly distributing T-shirts having pictures of slain militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale outside the shrine, were arrested.
When radical groups spotted some Akali leaders, including MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, his son and MLA Ravinder Singh Brahmpura, MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha and Harmeet Sandhu near the Akal Takht, they started raising slogans against the government. It resulted in a tiff between some radicals and Akali supporters. Soon after, Akali leaders moved out of the shrine. There were also allegations of manhandling. Amritsar police commissioner Amar Singh Chahal completely denied it, saying, “Nobody was manhandled. We have a CCTV footage to prove Yes, verbal tiff did take place.”
Bluestar wounds still fresh: Jathedar
In his address, the Akal Takht jathedar said the wounds of Operation Bluestar were still fresh among Sikhs. “Even after 32 years, we haven’t been able to forget the attack that took place under the Congress regime. Successive Congress governments and its leaders have told the the Sikh community to forget it (the attack). But how can the community that has suffered so much, forget this dark episode,” said the jathedar.
Later, while talking to reporters, the jathedar said the central government must apologise for Operation Bluestar. He also appreciated Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s apology over the Kamagatamaru incident.
Approach roads to shrine sealed
Taking no chances, security forces had in the morning virtually sealed all approach roads to the Golden Temple. Nakas were set up across the city and no vehicle was allowed inside the Hall gate.