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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

Into The Temple, With Boots On

Operation Bluestar was a bloody, avoidable desecration

Into The Temple, With Boots On
HT
Into The Temple, With Boots On
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Not a blaring horn was heard, not an overladen, toiling truck, nor an ambling bullock cart were seen along the Grand Trunk Road on the morning of June 5, 1984, hours before the army entered the Golden Temple complex. The only bus between Amritsar and Punjab’s border with Haryana was the one I was travelling in. It was carrying all the Indian and foreign journalists rounded up by the police in Amritsar and expelled from Punjab to prevent us reporting on Operation Bluestar. The whole state had been put under curfew. In the villages we passed through, even the domestic animals seemed to be observing this curfew. The only trains moving were carrying troops.

We already knew a major military operation was under way because the day before, we had managed to listen in to a joint police-and-army radio network. We never imagined the operation would involve an armoured assault on one of the most sacred shrines in the temple complex and cost the army at least 332 casualties, the figure given in the government’s white paper on the subject.

The army never intended that the capture or killing of Sant Jarnail Bhindranwale and his men, who had occupied and fortified the Golden Temple complex, would become such a major operation. When he was briefing the press after the operation, General Krishnaswami Sundarji, who was commanding the operation, said, “I was told to flush out the extremists from the Golden Temple with no damage, if possible, to the Harmandir Sahib (site of the sanctum sanctorum) or the Akal Takht (by then Bhindranwale’s fortress). I was told to use the bare minimum of force required for achieving this object and that I was to minimise casualties to both sides.” As it was, squash-head shells fired by tanks reduced the Akal Takht to little more than rubble...

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