Operation Blue Star - Background

On 13th April 1977, head of Naqli Nirankaris named Gurbachan led a procession in Amritsar. Earlier he had declared that "If Guru Gobind Singh can make five beloved one's., he will make seven stars" . Naqli Nirankaris are strongly associated with Arya Samajis and other such organization which came out of need to reform Hinduism, from its age old superstitions and rituals., but these movements instead of targeting common Hindu individuals spearheaded their movement against Sikhism. Arya Samajis and Naqli Nirankaris wanted Sikhs to start shaving and to drop their individuality and assimilate into Hinduism (or their form of Hinduism with rituals like "Havan"). So on this occasion of Vasakhi, Gurbachan Nirankari led a procession in Amritsar. Bhindrenwale at this time was a small time preacher, who would visit villages and preach to youngsters to adopt Sikh practices. Akhand Kirtani Jatha with its leaders set out from Akal Takht to stop Gurbachan Nirankari for his act of "Creating five stars". Gurbachan and his armed accomplice fired at these Akalis and one by 13 Akalis were killed.

After this incident, Bhindrenwale's reputation as a fierce emerging Sikh leader rose tremendously in Sikh political circles. From 1977 until 1983, Bhindrenwale led his agitation against Arya Samajis and other fanatic Hindu organizations who were working against Sikh and ncept of Punjabiat as well as many Sikhs who opposed him for his fanatical views. Many of his followers were young rural Sikhs, who had been disappointed with state and central government due to unemployment, poverty and other problems. After 3-4 years of trial, Gurbachan of Nirankari sect was acquitted by Indian court, even though more then 10 person testified against him in court, it was clearly evident that there were political heavy weights behind him.

Till 1983 newspapers all over Punjab reported daily killings of innocent bystandards by armed brigades of young motor cycle driving terrorists who would suddenly appear and with one burst of machine gun kill few people. Congress Punjab government came out with a law banning the pillion(double) riding of a motor bike. Prominent Arya samaji leaders and news paper publishers of Hind Samachar group like Lala Jagat Narain was killed by unidentified persons and Government of India implicated Bhindrenwale and arrested him at Chowk Mehta in 1982, but he was released in two days. Then, in later half of 1982 he moved to Golden temple complex where he setup his headquarters in Guru Ram Das Sarai. In 1984 he moved to Akal Takht. Indira Gandhi and government of India declared president rule in Punjab and deployed 4 division of Army through out Punjab, in a desperate attempt to flush out Bhindrenwale and his accomplice from Golden Temple complex. Then it all started, I quote from much accomplished book called "Amritsar Mrs. Gandhi's Last battle", by Mark Tully and Satish Jacob "At Seven o'Clock on the evening of 5th June, tanks of the 16th Cavalry Regiment of the Indian army started moving up to the Golden Temple complex. They passed Jalianwala Bagh, the enclosed garden where General Dyer massacred nearly 400 people. That massacre dealt a mortal blow to Britain's hopes of continuing to rule India and was one of the most inspirations of the freedom movement. When Mrs. Gandhi was told that Operation Blue Star had started,she must have wondered whether it would provide the decisive inspiration for the Sikh independence movement, a movement whch at that time had very little support outside Bhindrenwale's entourage and small groups of Sikhs living in Britain, Canada and the United States. Major-General Brar was leading a mixed bag of troops, representative of the widespread recruiting pattern of the modern Indian army, which has broken with British tradition of limiting recruitment to certain 'martial castes'. There were Dogras and Kumaonis from the foothills of the Himalayas, India's northern border. There were Rajputs, the desert warriors from Rajasthan. There were Madrasis from Tamil Nadu, one of the most southern states. There were Biharis from the tribes of central India, and there were some Sikhs. Major Brar had joined Maratha Light infantry 30 years ago in 1954 as a lieutenant. He had fought in Bangladesh under Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora, the Sikh general who was most outspoken critic of the Operation Blue Star."

Sikh defenders of Ramgarhia bungas

Bhindrenwale and his group had moved to Akal Takht, the highest seat of Sikh authority few weeks before Army attack. He had been criticized for this act as he became the only person after Guru Hargobind to live in Akal Takht. He was obviously spearheading the last showdown with Indian army and had knowledge that sooner or later Army would attack and he himself wanted to go down in Sikh history as a martyr and not deserter or negotiator as other Akalis political leaders. He had support of Major General Shabeg Singh, unofficial hero of Bangladesh war., as well as thousands of rural Sikh youth.

Brar's superior officer was Lt-General Krishnaswamy Sunderji, who asked his chief staff Officer, Lt-General Ranjit Singh Dayal, to draw up the plans for Operation Blue Star. Dayal, like Brar was a Sikh, but he had not shaved his beard or cut his hair, and still wore a turban. Dayal was also an infantry soldier, having served in the Ist Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, which was to spearhead the attack on the Golden Temple Complex. During the 1965 war with Pakistan, Dayal became legend by capturing a pass which had previously been thought to be impregnable, and blocking off one of the most important routes from Pakistan-Controlled Kashmir into Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. A frontal assault was impossible and so Lt-General Dayal climbed up the mountains towering over Haji Pir pass and came down on top of the Pakistanis.

Dayal, Sundarji and Brar drew up at twofold plan. The essence of this plan was to separate the hostel complex from the Temple complex so that the hostels could be evacuated without becoming involved in the main battle. To achieve the prime objective to get Bhindrenwale out of the temple complex they had planned a commando operations. Commandos were to be supported by infantry, Tanks were only to be used as platforms for machine guns to neutralize fire on troops approaching the Golden Temple complex, and to cover the Temple exits in case anyone tried to escape. Armored personnel carriers were to be positioned on the road separating the hostels from the Temple complex to keep the two potential battle fields apart.

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  1. Copyright © Mark Tully and Satish Jacob "Mrs Gandhi's Last Battle pages 155-160"