Today in New Delhi, India
Nov 19, 2018-Monday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Operation Bluestar anniv: Jathedar’s address peaceful amid pro-Khalistan slogans

Sikh hardliners also displayed portrait of Jagtar Singh Hawara, convict in former Punjab CM Beant Singh’s assassination case, calling him their jathedar.

punjab Updated: Jun 06, 2018 21:25 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Pro-Khalistan sloganeering,jathedar address,Bluestar anniversary
Many Sikh hardliners gathered around the takht to observe the Operation Bluestar anniversary in Amritsar on Wednesday.(Sameer Sehgal/HT)

Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh’s address on the anniversary of army’s Operation Bluestar against militants in the Golden Temple complex in 1984 was marked by members of some Sikh outfits raising separatist slogans for a state of Khalistan, and getting into minor scuffles with the security task force of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), at the prime Sikh shrine here on Wednesday. However, it went off peacefully as compared to the last three years.

After kirtan and ardas (prayers), Takht Kesgarh Sahib jathedar Giani Raghbir Singh conducted the stage. As soon as the Akal Takht jathedar started delivering his sandesh (message to the community), members of some Sikh bodies stood up and started raising slogans such as “Khalistan zindabad”. Some of the protesters also carried a poster portrait of Jagtar Singh Hawara, convicted of former chief minister Beant Singh’s assassination, calling him their jathedar as he was “appointed” during a Sarbat Khalsa (community congregation) held by some hardline outfits in 2015. These outfits have been protesting the Sikh religio-political regime for their alleged surrender to majoritarian forces at the national level.

However, the Akal Takht jathedar expressly thanked Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann, who has been part of the protests in the past but calmly listened to the address this time. His party’s cadres did raise slogans, later, after coming out of the Takht building. Family members of three main militant leaders killed in the army operation, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Amrik Singh and Maj Gen Shabeg Singh, were honoured by the jathedar with ‘siropas’ (robe of honour).

Overall, the function organised by the SGPC remained peaceful and no untoward incident was reported. (Sameer Sehgal/HT)

Fighting slogans with loud kirtan

Separatist sloganeering continued for an hour even after the Akal Takht jathedar had delivered his sandesh. To make the sloganeering inaudible, SGPC had already made arrangements — loudspeakers played kirtan at high volume. The sloganeers attempted to damage the speakers with some sharp-edged weapons. One young man approaching a speaker was caught by the SGPC task force.

A man suffered bruises as SGPC staff caught hold of three protesters. SGPC secretary Manjit Singh claimed that the men caught had shorn hair — Sikhism’s tenets include unshorn hair — but had turbans on. “We handed over two of the youths to police, while one fled,” he said. Jagjit Singh Walia, additional deputy commissioner of (ADCP)-1, said the two men are being interrogated.

Promise with sikhs not kept: Jathedar

In the sandesh, the jathedar said, “Before 1947, Congress leaders promised to give an area to Sikhs in northern India where they will be able to enjoy freedom. Instead of delivering this very promise, the Indian government after independence attacked Sri Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple), Akal Takht and 37 more gurdwaras with tanks and cannons, thereby making the Sikh community feel slavery.” He later said, while interacting with media after the function, that he meant “autonomy” not “freedom”, when asked to clarify.

“The Indian government should also make public the documents regarding army action, as United Kingdom has done, so that the international community can know which countries and agencies were involved in the attack,” he said in the sandesh.

Speaking on the Sikh Reference Library, which was reduced to ashes during Operation Bluestar, he said, “Former defence minister George Fernandes acknowledged that rare manuscripts of Sikh scriptures and other kinds of literature, which was taken away by the army during the operation, is available with the Centre. The Centre should give this rare repository back to the SGPC.”

He also demanded that the government return a spear and revolver of Bhindranwale. “Bhindranwale along with thousands of other warriors bravely fought against the Indian Army, thus upholding the holiness of the shrine.” He also urged Union and state governments to make arrangements for rehabilitation of Sikh soldiers who deserted their units in protest against Operation Bluestar in 1984, and of those detained from the premises of Golden Temple after the operation and kept in jail for years.

Scuffle between members of the SGPC task force and a youth on the occasion of Operation Bluestar Anniversary at Golden Temple in Amritsar on Wednesday. (Sameer Sehgal/HT)

The anniversary was also observed at Damdami Taksal, which was once headed by Bhindranwale, at Chowk Mehta, 40 km from Amritsar.

Also, notably, the “parallel, acting jathedar” Dhian Singh Mand, who read out his sandesh in front of the Takht last year and was supported by the SAD (A), skipped the event here, and issued a sandesh from Bargari village in Faridkot where he is on a fast over alleged inaction in sacrilege cases. “The entire Sikh community across villages and cities must observe Operation Bluestar anniversary every year on June 6 as tribute to the martyrs,” he said.

Complete shutdown in Amritsar

On a call given by Sikh organisation Dal Khalsa, a complete shutdown was observed in Amritsar amid heavy security arrangements.

Markets of the walled city, where great rush is witnessed usually, wore a deserted look.

Due to the bandh call, people avoided leaving home, thereby reducing the rush on roads too. However, many offices of government departments remained open. Medical services were normal as the protesters announced not to affect these services. Educational institutes were closed, and transport was disrupted.

Footfall at the shrine did not go down. Dal Khalsa president HS Cheema thanked the people for responding positively to the bandh call.

(The story has been updated)

First Published: Jun 06, 2018 10:12 IST