Lt Gen Kuldip Singh Brar, the man who commanded Operation Blue Star to flush out Khalistani militants from the Golden Temple 28 years ago, was stabbed and wounded by suspected Khalistani extremists in central London on Sunday night.
The assassination attempt was the first major attack on the life of an Indian public servant on European soil since the 1984 murder of diplomat Ravindra Mhatre in Birmingham by Kashmiris. It is certain to lead to renewed calls by New Delhi for Western governments to crack down on anti-Indian militants.
Brar, 78, and his wife were walking to their hotel after dinner in the busy neighbourhood of Marble Arch, when around four unidentified men attacked him. After pushing his wife away, they stabbed him in the neck and face. Alerted by his wife’s screams, passersby called the police and ambulance who rushed the retired army officer to hospital.
Bleeding profusely and in a serious condition, Brar was kept overnight in hospital before being discharged on Monday morning.
“Police were called at approximately 10.40 pm to Old Quebeck Street to attend to a man who had been assaulted. Officers and ambulance discovered a man in his 70s suffering from injuries caused by a knife,” a spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police said. British police do not give out names until charges are pressed. .
Brar was hospitalised in “a serious condition” but his injuries were not believed to be life threatening. No arrests have yet been made and Scotland Yard have launched an investigation into attempted murder. The Indian High Commission, which sees the attack as a clear assassination attempt, will be pressing British authorities for swift action.
Brar is high on Khalistani extremists’ hit-lists but was without any personal security as he was on a private visit. Despite his advanced age, he is thought to have fought back, kicking his assailants, who were bearded but not turbaned.
Britain-based militants take a frighteningly close interest in Brar’s movements. In July 2011, Gurjeet Singh of the Sikh Federation (UK) posted an online alert identifying Brar.
“K S Brar has been seen in London near 9 Portman Square. He is reported as having entered a branch of Barclays Bank, where he confirmed his ID,” the organisation said in a web post. “The Sikh Federation (UK) will be asking, is K S Brar temporarily living in the UK and exploring what actions can be taken against him.”
Although this is not the first bid on Brar’s life – he admitted to several assassination attempts in a 2004 interview – it was clearly a brazen attack. Old Quebec Street is a stone’s throw from the plush shopping districts of Bond Street and Oxford Street in the heart of London, where weekend nights tend to be busy.
The streets of central London are well covered by CCTV surveillance cameras.