Operation Blue Star was a military operation ordered by Indira Gandhi in 1984 to flush out militants - led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale - who had taken refuge in Harmandir Sahib Complex, the Golden Temple, in Amritsar.Who was Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale?Bhindranwale was a farmer's son who rose to fame as the leader of the Damdami Taksal in the 1980s. He was known by his followers as Bhindranwale Mahapurkh, the great spiritual man from Bhindran".He soon became an influential leader of the Khalistan movement, which gained momentum under his watch. After the law and order situation in Punjab grew worse at the dawn of the 80s, Harcharan Singh Longowal of the Akali Dal invited Bhindranwale to take up residence inside Golden Temple. It was in this insurgency that the roots of the Operation Blue Star were formed.The motive of Operation Blue Star was to primarily eliminate Bhindranwale and put an end to Khalistani insurgency.
The operationThe entire operation lasted for 10 days - from 1-10 June 1984. The operation unfolded in parts.While Operation Metal was confined inside the temple complex, Operation Shop was targeted at capturing militants in the Punjab countryside. Yet another operation, called Operation Woodrose, by the Indian Army, saw the use of heavy artillery, tanks, helicopters etc.
Timeline of events1 June 1984: The Guru Ram Das Langar building inside Harmindar Sahib complex was attacked by the Indian Army. Around 7-8 people died in this attack. 2 June 1984: Approximately seven divisions of Army were deployed throughout Punjab. A total media blackout was declared which banned all national and international media from Punjab. The transportation to and from as well as inside Punjab was blocked. In many parts of Amritsar, electricity and water supply was blocked. 3 June 1984 : Harmandir Sahib closed to outsiders. 4 June 1984: Another important building, the Ramgarhia Bungas is bombed by the army. Former head of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) Gurcharan Singh Tohra is appointed as chief negotiator with Bhindranwale. The negotiations however failed. 5 June 1984: Brahm Booth Akhara is attacked by CRPF and BSF. 6 June 1984: The Akal Takhat is attacked and destroyed by the Indian army in a bid to kill Bhindranwale.7 June 1984: Indian army declares that it has regained control over the temple complex. 8-10June 1984: The army continues fighting against 4 militants holed up in the basement of a tower and kills them. However militants continued to live inside the complex till the late 80s. A 12-hour operation called Operation Black Thunder ordered by the Indian army in 1986 is said to have flushed out the remaining militants.
AftermathSikh soldiers across the country mutinied in reaction to the Operation. On 30 October 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot down outside her house by her Sikh bodyguards Beant Singh and Satwant Singh. The assassination triggered anti-Sikh riots across the country. In September 1986, Arun S Vaidya, the former general of Indian Army, was killed near his residence in Pune.In 1985, Air India flight 182 was bombed killing 329 people aboard. It was declared to be a retaliation to Indian army's action in Harmandir Sahib Complex.
CriticismThe media blackout in Punjab was heavily criticised. Journalists inside Punjab were reportedly put in a bus and abandoned near the Haryana border.The Indian Army was slammed for committing multiple human rights violations in Punjab during the operation.Brahma Chellaney, an Associated Press correspondent who was the only journalist in Punjab during that time, claimed that the death toll was twice the number reported in the government records.BBC journalist Mark Tully criticised the burning down of Sikh Reference library saying it was an attack on Sikh Culture. The attack was launched during an important Sikh festival - the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan - a move criticised as a deliberate attempt to demoralise the Sikh community.
First published: 6 June 2016, 2:59 IST