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Operation Blue Star

  • Category
    History
  • Published
    21st Jun, 2021

Operation Blue Star, carried out by Indian Army in the month of June 1984, is observing its 37th anniversary which was targeted towards elimination of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who was demanding a separate state of Khalistan.

Context

Operation Blue Star, carried out by Indian Army in the month of June 1984, is observing its 37th anniversary which was targeted towards elimination of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who was demanding a separate state of Khalistan.

Background

  • Sikhs have been concentrated in the Punjab region of South Asia.  
  • Before its conquest via way of means of the British, the place round Punjab have been dominated via means of the confederacy of Sikh Misls founded by Banda Bahadur.
  • British India was partitioned on a religious basis in 1947, where the Punjab province was divided between India and the newly-created Pakistan. 
  • Following the 1947 independence of India, the Punjabi Suba movement, led by the Akali Dal, sought the creation of a province (suba) for Punjabi people.
  • The Akali Dal's maximal position of demands was a sovereign state (i.e. Khalistan), even as it’s minimum requirement became to have an self reliant nation inside India.

Analysis

What was the Anandpur Sahib Resolution?

  • The Punjabi movement galvanised considerable political support for the Akali Dal and after a brief split, the party came together under Parkash Singh Badal’s leadership, giving the Congress a tough fight in the 1967 and 1969 assembly elections.
  • The 1972 election, however, proved to be blip in the Akalis’ rising political graph. Congress came to power, which led Shiromani Akali Dal to look inside themselves as introspection.
  • The venue for this introspection was the Anandpur Sahib Gurudwara, where the party adopted a resolution that would serve as a blueprint for the party’s future agenda.
  • The resolution called for autonomy for the state of Punjab, identified regions that would be part of a separate state, and called for the right to draft its own internal constitution.
  • With the Anandpur Sahib resolution, the Akalis tried to create the perception that Sikh religion could not be separated from Sikh politics.
  • Positioning itself as the sole guardian of the faith and religion served as a politically meaningful narrative for a party seeking to overthrow Congress in Punjab.

Who Was Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale?

  • Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale – a religious scholar who’d been travelling across Punjab advocating a return to the Khalsa or a more orthodox form of Sikhism.
    • He targeted Hindus and so called ‘modernised’ Sikhs, who went against their customs and tradition, for example those who cut their hair and consumed alcohol.
    • His message appealed to the Jat farmers, who had lost the gains of the Green Revolution to the big landowners.
    • He also found buyers among artisans and lower-caste workers who wanted to regain a social and economic position.

Why Was the Indian Army Called in?

  • At first, other options were discussed. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was on the verge of approving an undercover snatch-and-grab operation to kidnap Bhindranwale.
  • Almost two hundred commandos were trained for this operation, but when she asked how many civilian casualties were to be expected, there was no answer.
  • And so, Operation Sundownwas rejected.
  • Perhaps the reason for suddenly sending in the Army, Amarjit Kaur writes in ‘The Punjab Story’, was the threat to kill all Congress (I) MPs and MLAs on 5 June and the plan to begin mass killings of Hindus in villages.

What Did Operation Bluestar Entail?

  • Between 1-3 June, 1984,
    • Rail road and air services in Punjab were suspended.
    • The water and electricity supply to the Golden Temple was also interrupted.
    • A full curfew was imposed in Amritsar and the CRPF patrolled the streets.
    • All entry and exit points to and from the Golden Temple have also been completely sealed.
  • On 5 June 1984, the first phase of the operation was launched. A frontal attack was carried out on the buildings within the Golden Temple complex. The trained fighters offered strong resistance to the Indian army. The army was unable to advance towards the Sanctum Sanctorum, which allegedly housed Bhindranwale.
    • In other parts of Punjab, the Army had launched a simultaneous operation to round up suspects from villages and Gurudwaras.
  • On 6 June, tanks rolled down the staircase right up to the parikrama – the perimeter that encloses the lake on which the sanctum sanctorum is built.
  • Tanks bombed the exterior of Akal Takth and although it suffered external damage, the building remained standing. The bodies of Bhindranwale and their commanders were recovered.
  • On June 7, the Indian army took control of the site.

Conclusion

Operation Bluestar coincided with the annual commemoration of the martyrdom of the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev, which led to a large number of pilgrims flocking to the temple complex. Because of this, many innocent civilians were killed in the crossfire between the Indian army and the terrorists.

Four months later, on 31 October 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards.

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