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Blue Star anniversary: pro-Khalistan slogans raised, Badal insulted

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 6 June 2016, 20:00 IST
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The anniversary
  • On Monday, 6 June, Punjab observed the 32nd anniversary of Operation Blue Star
  • In 1984, on PM Indira Gandhi\'s orders, armed forces had stormed the Golden Temple to flush out militants
The incidents
  • There were a couple of instances of tensions rising at the Golden Temple complex
  • Some hardliners raised pro-Khalistan slogans, while a priest refused to honour CM Parkash Singh Badal
More in the story
  • Politics continue over the controversial operation
  • A renewed push for a \'fair probe\' into the Punjab militancy

The 32nd anniversary of Operation Blue Star was observed in the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, amidst heavy security arrangements and pro-Khalistan slogans by some hardliners.

There was also a scuffle between hardline Sikhs and members of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), but the latter showed political maturity and restraint.

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Observers feel that the state government had taken adequate measures, keeping in mind the violence during the anniversary over the last two years.

Armed forces carried out Operation Blue Star between 3-8 June 1984, on orders from PM Indira Gandhi

They also say that it is high time that a free and fair probe is conducted into the events that led to the Operation Blue Star, and also its fallout, which took a heavy toll on Punjab.

The anniversary was also observed across the state as various programmes were organised to pay respect to the innocents killed in the operation.

Preparations and their impact

Operation Blue Star was carried out by the Indian armed forces between 3-8 June 1984, to take control over the Harmandir Sahib Complex in Amritsar and flush out the militants, including their leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who were lodged there.

Also read- Operation Blue Star anniversary on 6 June: Punjab keeps its fingers crossed

Heavy security arrangements had been put in place by Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), civil administration and the police in the holy city of Amritsar.

Some of the members in the gathering in the Golden Temple complex raised pro-Khalistan slogans, soon after Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh read out a public message.

While prayers were held peacefully, there was a build up of tensions when some people among the devotees also raised slogans against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Prayers were held peacefully but there was tension when some raised slogans against CM Badal

SAD (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann reportedly steered clear of the crowd after he complained of uneasiness due to suffocation while some of his supporters raised slogans against Badal. The police reportedly detained around two dozen youth for disturbing the event. The men were wearing blue T-shirts bearing the slogan "Sikh Referendum 2020".

Amidst the scuffle between the hardliners and the SAD members, the turbans of a couple of SAD MLAs came off, as they were heckled by supporters of the SAD (Amritsar). The MLAs were later escorted to safety.

Commercial bandh

Meanwhile, the commercial establishment in Amritsar observed a bandh following a call given by Dal Khalsa, whose leaders later thanked the people for extending cooperation and expressing solidarity with the victims of the 1984 army 'attack' by observing a 'peaceful and complete' bandh.

Also read- Operation Blue Star anniversary: Dal Khalsa calls for Amritsar shutdown

The bandh call had been given as a mark of respect to those innocent people killed in Operation Blue Star, and to protest against the loot of the Sikh reference library.

Dal Khalsa members reportedly participated in the prayer meeting at Akal Takht, but boycotted the speech of the Akal Takht Jathedar as they believe him to be a 'disgraced' person rejected by a large section of Sikhs. They slammed Badal for not removing him from the post of the Akal Takht Jathedar.

Earlier, the Punjab police had taken into custody around 130 persons, mostly Sikh hardliners, on the eve of the anniversary. Several other hardline activists reportedly went underground.

The state police had put in place three tiers of security in Amritsar, and both Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal and SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar had issued appeals to all sections to exercise restraint and observe the anniversary peacefully.

Nearly 8,000 police personnel, besides six companies of paramilitary forces, have been deployed in Amritsar for a week at more than 200 checkpoints.

Incidents creating unrest

The anniversary itself was marked by a couple of developments that created unrest. The first was the SGPC's decision to not allow the media in the Golden Temple premises on Monday. The SGPC said that the media often 'interfered' in programmes.

The second instance was that of a Golden Temple priest (Ardasia) Bhai Balbir Singh refusing to honour Badal with a siropa (robe of honour). He had earlier refused this honour to Sukhbir. This was done by him reportedly to air his grievances over the government's failure to address the issue of multiple instances of desecration of holy books in the state. The Badal family are given the honour every time they visit the shrine.

Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh had gone on to hail the ardasia, saying it was the expression of widespread anger prevailing among the people against Badal.

A Golden Temple priest (ardasia), Bhai Balbir Singh, refused to honour Badal with a siropa

"Obviously the sewadar was right as the person responsible for the sacrilege of the holy Guru Granth Sahib does not deserve a siropa. If Badal still retains some grace, he should not allow the persecution of the ardasia," he said.

Bhai Balbir Singh was transferred by the SGPC after the incident, which again came in for criticism.

Badal, on his part, tried to play down the event, saying that as a devout Sikh, he went to Sri Harmandir Sahib for paying obeisance, and not for taking a siropa. He said he is a firm follower of the tenets of Sikhism, and is duty bound to pay obeisance at Sri Darbar Sahib.

Badal also termed the SGPC move on restraining media coverage inside Golden Temple Complex 'unfortunate' and urged the chief secretary of the SGPC to reconsider these orders. He said that such orders were totally against the spirit of democratic nations, as the media was the fourth pillar of democracy.

Demand for probe

Observers say it is high time a fair probe is carried out into the Punjab militancy, including Operation Blue Star, as several questions remain unanswered, including the motive behind the operation and those who were the culprits of events that led to the large-scale violence in this border state.

Prominent political commentator Jagtar Singh pointed out: "It is still not late to set up a judicial probe under Supreme Court supervision into Operation Blue Star and the buildup." He said that the apex court is the institution that can be trusted.

People demanding the probe say it can be based upon hard evidence, which should include the entire record available with the intelligence agencies, the Home Ministry and the army. Badal needs to take up this issue with the Narendra Modi-led government, of which the SAD is an ally.

The issue has been raised from political platforms repeatedly. Recently, it was the union minister for food processing, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who, while holding the Congress responsible for 1984 anti-Sikh riots, said that the files related to the attack on Sri Darbar Sahib during Operation Blue Star should be made public, so that the truth is brought before people.

Ironically, successive governments under her father in-law, Parkash Singh Badal, have failed to deliver on this issue.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 6 June 2016, 20:00 IST
 
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