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Blue Star was too little, too late

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by Archived_Member16, Nov 9, 2009.

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  1. Archived_Member16

    Archived_Member16
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    November 08, 2009 - "Hindustantimes"

    Blue Star was too little, too late
    Vir Sanghvi

    Life can sometimes come full circle. On that fateful night in 1984 when the Indian Army seized control of the Golden Temple, I was part of a tiny minority who regarded the operation as a disaster.

    I remember going for dinner that evening to the Indian Express penthouse at Nariman Point in Bombay to find my host Ramnath Goenka and his houseguest, Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia virtually whooping with delight. Neither of them was any kind of fan of Indira Gandhi’s in normal circumstances, but that night they sang her praises.

    Theirs were not isolated views. All over the country there was jubilation at the success of Operation Bluestar. News magazines wrote cover stories with all the gravitas and maturity of a Commando comic. On Doordarshan, General Brar was projected as the conqueror of the Golden Temple and discussed the operation with the swagger of General Eisenhower describing the success of D-Day.

    Many of us are so guilty about the terrible violence of November 1984 that we have blanked out what went before.But I had my reservations. While it was then considered blasphemous to say anything bad about the Indian Army (and perhaps it still is), I thought the military had screwed up big time. The overconfidence of army commanders had led them to underestimate the opposition they would encounter in the temple and their hubris had cost the lives of hundreds of jawans. Worse still, they had taken tanks and Armed Personnel Carriers into the temple, destroying the Akal Takht and badly damaging the Harmandir Saheb.

    All this was certain to hurt Sikhs and inflame sentiments. Now, to hide the extent of the army’s ineptitude the government was telling lies (“not a single bullet hit the Harmandir”), covering up the avoidable casualties (the innocent pilgrims who were caught in the crossfire because the army decided to attack on a Sikh holy day), and overplaying the extent of the victory.

    My view then — as today — was that first of all, we should think twice before using the army in such situations. (A few years later, the National Security Guard (NSG) was asked to clear the Golden Temple again in Operation Black Thunder and it did a clean surgical job.) Secondly, you should never unleash a media blitz that projects the Indian State as the conqueror of a holy shine. And thirdly, in the aftermath of Bluestar, we needed to assuage Sikh sentiments, not glory in some bogus victory.

    Twenty-five years later, I have not changed my mind.

    But I think everybody else has.

    If you saw the assessments of Indira Gandhi’s reign on October 31 on TV channels, you will have noticed that it has now become obligatory to refer to Bluestar as a big mistake (“her biggest blunder” even) and many Sikhs now hold forth about how so many innocents were murdered by the Indian State because of Indira Gandhi’s callousness.

    Some of this stems from ignorance. Many TV journos were either not born or were children when Bluestar happened. And some of it is because we subliminally link Bluestar to the pogroms in which Sikhs were massacred after Mrs Gandhi’s assassination.

    In fact the truth is that as much of a disaster as the military operation was and as badly as government (and the popular media and the educated middle class) behaved in its aftermath, there was no alternative to Bluestar.

    It was a mess. It was regrettable. But it was necessary.

    We forget how bad things were in Punjab in the early 1980s. The Congress (in the shape of Giani Zail Singh with the blessings of the Centre) had propped up an obscure preacher called Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to serve as a foil to the Akalis.

    To the Congress’s horror Bhindranwale turned into a monster. He claimed that Sikhs were second class citizens in India and demanded a separate nation called Khalistan.

    His followers and other militants spread a trail of terror all over Punjab, specifically targeting Hindus. Buses would be stopped. Hindus would be separated from Sikhs and shot dead in cold blood. Prominent Hindus were assassinated. Funds were raised through robberies and extortion. Women were kidnapped and kept prisoner for the sexual gratification of militants. Bombs were placed in public places to kill innocent civilians. Moderate Sikhs were threatened and murdered.

    All this was carried out from the Golden Temple where Bhindranwale had taken control of the Akal Takht. Either because he had supporters in the police and administration or because the cops were scared, nobody stopped the shipments of arms that regularly entered the temple. Bhindranwale had made it clear that the violence would continue till an independent country called Khalistan was created.

    Faced with this intolerable situation, Indira Gandhi blew it.

    The problem was not that she acted with haste or brutality. Quite the opposite.

    The problem was that she did too little for too long.

    She put her faith in talks, allowed the killings to go on and funked sending the police into the Golden Temple. Even when a police DIG was murdered in full public view at the temple she refused to send the forces in.

    When she did act, it was almost too late. And the operation was botched.

    The real criticism of Bluestar is not that the forces of the Indian State entered the Golden Temple in 1984. The real problem is that they did not go in much earlier and take out Bhindranwale and his gang of terrorist murderers.

    It astonishes me that the reality of the Punjab militancy has been swept under the carpet along with the murders of Hindus and Sikhs. Of course, the army screwed up the operation, and, of course, the Congress must take the responsibility of bringing Bhindranwale to public attention.

    But how can we talk about the operation only in terms of “a murder of innocents”? How can we forget that Bhindranwale was a forerunner of Osama bin Laden in that he was a fanatic who turned against the people who had discovered him? Why do we hear so little about the terrorism that led to Bluestar and the horrors of that phase in our history?

    The trouble is that the middle class has done an about-turn. Many of us are so guilty about the terrible violence of November 1984 that we have blanked out what went before. Just as we were unreasonably delighted about Bluestar when it happened, we now seek, as unreasonably, to dissociate ourselves from it.

    But let’s see sense. Murderers under the leadership of a violent fanatic threatened the unity of India for no good reason (at least in the case of the Naxalites we can understand the grievances), killed innocents, drove a wedge between Hindus and Sikhs and destroyed law and order in the Punjab.

    It was a terrible time. And I hope that nothing like it happens again. But if it does, we must not hesitate to use force to take out the murderers. And we should do it as soon as possible.

    That’s the real lesson of Bluestar.

    The views expressed by the author are personal.
     
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  3. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    I think Vir Sanghvi is a hypocrite among other titles that i could use. He has been quoted elsewhere to say let us put all of this behind us and move on. But this is an editorial view that systematically overlooks much of the history leading up to Blue Star, and it sounds like it was made up just for an RSS key-note address at a dinner party at a swank hotel. One of those dinner parties where everyone at the head table gets an award and gives a speech.

    Thanks for giving us yet another choice morsel for debate!
     
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  4. roab1

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    this guy is so obvious.
     
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  5. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Et tu Brutus
    Jagmohan Singh “Sikhs are going through unprecedented pain in the last one week. Indians are still mocking at them. My sense of rage and empathy for the victims, which has enveloped me in the last one week, has brought out two open letters –each a response to the tease by various sections of Indians” says Jagmohan Singh, the editor of World Sikh News.
    This one is to the political editor of Hindustan Times, Vir Sanghvi, who has shown not only crass insensitivity, but has also given vent to his revengeful and malicious intent against the Sikh community in his latest column.

    Jagmohan Singh, in his open letter asks the Sikhs not allow this to pass easily. “Vir Sanghvi must be made to realise that like the Congress killers of November 84, the BJP-RSS collaborators in the November 84 genocide attacks, he too would not be allowed to go scot free. He should be flooded with emails and letters and complain to the Press Council of India protesting his unsubstantiated accusations against the Sikhs. He should be prosecuted for his senseless allegations.”


    Dear Vir Sanghvi

    I had expected this but hoped that it would not see the light of the day. I had hoped that after 25 years, things would perhaps be different. Alas! You proved me wrong.

    Actors, cricketers and high profile media persons can get away with anything in this country, they are conscious about it and they take full advantage of this. Someday, somewhere, they will have to account for this, answer about their role to their own conscience, to society and to God. Your name has been added to the list of those who have publicly shown their insensitivity to pain and agony. You have in crafty language resorted to wilful vilification and stereotyping of the Sikhs.

    In the last one week, I have been scanning the papers to see if some columnist would write about how his conscience was still hurting him. I looked for stories by some investigating journalist who would have courageously interviewed some genocide perpetrator, who could say, “I am ashamed of my deeds.” Sadly I did not come across any. Save the occasional story of the pain of some widows, the Sikh case, the case for justice was conspicuous by its absence in the Indian media.

    In the last one week, I discerned a clear and vast design by the state, with the fourth estate happily in tow, engaged in attempts to obliterate memories. The state knew that Sikhs across the world would recall the memories of 1984, cry aloud for justice and therefore it had prepared itself and the media to counter it. The Indian state is in a perpetual denial mode for the last 25 years.

    As a true Indian, you were not to be left behind.
    In the last one week, I discerned a clear and vast design by the state, with the fourth estate happily in tow, engaged in attempts to obliterate memories. The state knew that the Sikhs across the world would recall the memories of 1984, but the state, in denial mode for the last 25 years, was determined to undo it as much as possible


    Thanks to the advertising blitzkrieg on Mrs. Indira Gandhi and her deemed role as the saviour of the country (which according to you made media baron late Ramnath Goenka and BJP stalwart late Rajmata Vijay Raje Scindia very happy in June 1984), has been highlighted with full page advertisements in most newspapers of the country. In a shameless piece, written in your personal capacity, though you are the political editor of the Hindustan Times, you have written a nasty tale of grand lies and malicious slander to malign the Sikhs. You have rubbed salt on the wounds of the Sikhs -wounds which are still not dry, wounds which do not show any signs of healing.

    On 7 November, when the Sikh world was going through the memory recall of November 1984, you write on Operation Bluestar in the Counterpoint (Bluestar was too little, too late) column of Hindustan Times. Why? Whom are you trying to please? What are you trying to project? What are you trying to recall? What is the underlying message? What is your newspaper trying to suggest? Are you doing a quid pro quo for the ads that your paper got in the name of Indira Gandhi? If that is too small a reason for the media empire that runs Hindustan Times, then can you vouchsafe or provide evidence for every sweeping assertion that you make in your article?

    Describing the situation in Punjab, pre-June 1984, you make the absolutely disgraceful sweeping statement, “Women were kidnapped and kept prisoner for the sexual gratification of militants.” Though you mean that they were kept in Harmandar Sahib, you have stopped short of elaborating it, isn’t it? Why? You thought that Sikhs would have forgotten that this allegation has not been made anywhere except in the unsubstantiated White Paper of the government of India in 1985. There is no doubt that we, the Sikhs are naive and have still to fathom the extent of hatred towards Sikhs by you and other Indians like you. However as a journalist and as an editor, could you please enlighten us on how many such women were found and where? What are their names? Has your paper or any paper verified what the government had then said? Have any of your investigative journalists verified this? Why on earth did you mention this, except that you wanted to malign the Sikhs in the eyes of the general Indian reader who reads your paper and to subvert the sense of guilt, if there is one amongst those who would read about the memories of November 1984?

    Let me ask you something more. Can you tell me how many Sikh girls and women were sexually assaulted and abused on the nights of 31 October, 1 November onwards in and around the Indian capital city of Delhi? Can you still find out? Can you tell me why there has been no commission set up so far to look into the crimes against women during those dark days? Does this disgust you? Does this disgust any Indian? Does this disgust Indian women, except the likes of Madhu Kishwar?

    You write, “The trouble is that the middle-class has done an about-turn. Many of us are so guilty about the terrible violence of November 1984 that we have blanked out what went before.” The Sikh nation will not be as dishonest as you. We will tell you, if you want to listen, what went before, what went on during November 1984 and what has not happened since. Actually, we have more than adequately said this, but no one is willing to listen. But I ask you, “Where is the guilt? Who are the guilty who have been punished? Why are the witnesses to the pogrom only Sikhs? Is Delhi a city of the blind or by some quirk fate of destiny they were blinded in the first week of November 1984? What about the issues which comprised the Punjab problem? Have they all been resolved?
    You have written a nasty tale of grand lies and malicious slander to malign the Sikhs. You have rubbed salt on the wounds of the Sikhs -wounds which are still not dry, wounds which do not show any signs of healing.


    The Sikh world is shocked at your column. I am pretty certain that you and Hindustan Times will have not only have to apologise for this but also be prepared for a long court battle as you have defamed and maligned the entire Sikh community, not just Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, whom you have consciously and deliberately painted as a villain, but have fully exonerated the perpetrators of genocide, simply by excluding to write about them.

    The rude food that you write about regularly, which you perhaps eat too, seems to have gone to your head. The silence of the Indian establishment and your article is the rudest blow to the Sikhs this week. This whole week, widows of November 1984 have been wailing, civil society has been benumbed with what happened 25 years ago and whatever remnants of civil society remain, were engaged in their own small but determined ways to recall the pogrom of November 1984, chilling as it was and painful, frustrating and distressful as it is today.

    You and your paper wanted to recall the times prior to June 1984 when Sikhs were grieving about November 1984. You have the temerity to say, “It was a terrible time. And I hope that nothing like it happens again. But if it does, we must not hesitate to use force to take out the murderers. And we should do it soon as possible.” I am shocked beyond words. Do you know the corollary of this? November 1984 may have rendered some conscientious people with a sense of guilt, columnists and intellectuals like you and the population at large has absolutely no sense of shame or remorse. Sikhs definitely pray that November 1984 must not happen again; don’t you think it is time Sikhs also use force to take on the murderers who are scot free for the last 25 years? Don’t you think it is too long that they have allowed the wheels of justice to move at a snail’s pace? Do you think that long ago, they should have resorted to violence in Delhi as a retribution for November 1984 and whatever they would have done would be justified, as per your logic?

    Ask yourself again, who is the Frankenstein’s monster. It could be you and every ‘patriotic’ Indian.

    Jagmohan Singh

    The writer is the editor of World Sikh News. He may be contacted at jsbigideas@gmail.com
     
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  6. AusDesi

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    I think he's right in terms of taking out millitants early. Thats still not being done. Naxals have been around for 30 years. Now that they are getting too big, the govt will take a hasty action and do something terrible.
     
  7. roab1

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    somebody send him the tribune cliping where it said circumstanial evidence did not point towards the sant being responsible for killing of hindu passengers, rather it pointed towards state players (some prisoners i think) in disguise of militants. send him a copy of the book 'operation black thunder' written by 'sarabjit singh' who led the operation and wrote in the very first few pages he saw a young hindu couple seeking blessings at Akal Takht a day before the operation [blue star] which was occupied by the sant. in my opinion this guy is intellectual terrorist. army should target people like him.
     
  8. dalbirk

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    Aus Desi ji ,
    I have come across a book KYON KEETE VISAH by Narain Singh written by the late author in Feb , 1985 . This book is free from any political leanings & as it was written so close after 1984 events , it is full of REAL EMOTIONS only . It describes the events preceeding 1984 very very accurately , the best I have come across . I strongly recommend all those who are interested in behind the scene events leading to Bluestar to kindly go through it . It is published by Singh Brothers , Amritsar . Any body interested in copy can PM his/her address & I'll do the needful
     
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  9. Randip Singh

    Randip Singh
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    Vir Singvi, what a first rate idiot!

    He states:

    He forgets to states that it was Sanjay Ghandhi (Indira Gandhi's son) who funded Bhindranwala. In effect it was Indira Gandhi who started this all of in Punjab in the first place.

    Bhindranwala was refered to as Indira Ghandi's Frankenstein, why? ...because when he realised he was being used, he turned on her.

    www.outlookindia.com | Rahul? Rahul Who?

     
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  10. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    The criticiser of Vir Sanghvi call him Dog of Congress as he use to mainly write pro congress articles
     
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  11. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    This is exactly the point that is deliberately obscured. You should post this everywhere you read these obscene articles.
     
  12. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Today I was reading comments in Hindustantimes and only comments which were in praise of Sanghvi are published.We call politicians twin faced but these journalists are let me show you what he had written in one of his articles.

    497 Vir Sanghvi, Two Parties, two faces?
    But while the RSS had alienated the Muslims with this approach, Indira Gandhi had found a new twist. By targeting Sikhs, she had managed to evoke Hindu passions and still retain the Muslim vote. As Hindus began praising the Congress, the hardliners in the BJP argued that Vajpayee had turned the new party into a pallid remake of the Congress while handing the Hindu vote to Indira Gandhi on a platter.

    As if all this was not enough, a second factor then emerged. On 31 October, two Sikh guards assassinated Indira Gandhi. Anti-Sikh riots (or more accurately, pogroms) broke out all over India and in several cases the angry Hindu mobs were led by Congress leaders. By the time an election was called in the winter of 1984-85, everything that could go wrong for Vajpayee’s BJP had gone wrong. The Hindus had lined up behind the Congress. The RSS had turned its back on the BJP. There was a sympathy wave following Indira Gandhi’s assassination. And Rajiv Gandhi’s charisma dominated the election.

    To Vajpayee’s horror, his party won two seats in Parliament. He lost his own election.
     
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