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1984-7 Sequence of Events

dalvindersingh grewal

Writer
Historian
SPNer
Timeline: 1984 Operation Blue Star

I collected the material on Operation Blue Stars, the events leading and following through the available materials, interviews, personal visits, videographing, photographing and observing the changing situation. The Operation has been termed as a sequence to holocaust which was the outcome of three major events, i.e., (a) partition of India in 1947 where Sikhs were devoid of their self-rule of Punjab as against Hindustan for Hindus and Pakistan for Muslims as per the feelings of some; (b) emergency in India and the role of Sikhs especially Tohra and Badal who were an eyesore in the eyes of Indira Gandhi and Giani Zail Singh and feud between Giani Zail Singh and Darbara Singh and (c) subsequent propagation of Sant Bhindranwale by Giani Zail Singh to dominate/dislodge Darbara Singh and dominate Akalis. Hence the time line has been developed from the year 1947 onwards:

  • 2 June 1947: Birth of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale at Rode, District Ferozepur.
  • 15 August 1947: India Partitioned into India and Pakistan
  • April 1971: Anandpur Sahib Resolution passed by Akali Dal
  • November 1973: Sikh High Priests declare Nirankaris renegades and orcastercise them from Sikh Panth since Nirankari Head had declared himself a Guru in line of the 10th Gurus.
  • 26 June 1975: Indira Gandhi declares emergency. Akalis opposed emergency by sending batches for arrest and siding with Janta Dal.
  • 27 March 1977: Government of Janta Dal formed under Parkash Singh Badal as CM.
  • 1977: Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale declared head of Damdami Taksal
  • 13 April 1978: Clash between Nirankaris and Sikhs at Amritsar. 13 Sikhs and 3 Nirankaris killed. Babar Khalsa Head Fauja Sigh was the first to be shot.
  • 24 April 1980: The Nirankari head Baba Gurbachan Singh murdered by Ranjit Singh.
  • 26 July 1981: Decision to start ‘Dharam Yudh Morcha’ by World Sikh Convention at Manji Sahib, Sri Amritsar. Sant Harchand Longowal declared as Morcha dictator.
  • 31 August 1981: Notice to the Central Government to accept listed 45 demands.
  • 7 September 1981: A grand March to Delhi in support of the 45 demands. Haryana Government under CM Harbhajan Lal resorted to Lathi Charge and firing; killing four Sikhs.
  • 8 September 1981 Lala Jagat Narain in his paper Hind Samachar declares S. Gurcharan Singh Tohra and other Akalis as traitors.
  • 9 September 1981: Lala Jagat Narain of Hind Samachar was murdered near Ludhiana.
  • 13 September 1981: Warrant issued for Sant Jarnail Singh in the case of murder of Lala Jagat Narain. The Sant was in Chando Kalan in Haryana at the time of murder. Sant had left for Amritsar before the arrival of the police. Police went to Chando Kalan but unable to find him burnt his two buses containing religious material and the villagers were also harassed.
  • 20 September 1981: Sant Bhindranwala surrenders to police at Chauk Mehta. Before arrest, the Sant appealed to the public to maintain peace. The police however, fired at the gathered Sikhs. A number of Sikhs were killed in the shootout. 4 people were also killed in firing at Jalandher.
  • 22 September 1981: Mrs Indira Gandhi visited Chandigarh and invited Akalis for talks. Akalis demanded release of Sant Bhindranwala without any condition.
  • 29 September 1981: An Indian Airlines plane hijacked and taken to Lahore but returned to India since it was not allowed to land.
  • October 1981: Giani Zail Singh as Home Minister of India announces in Parliament that Bhindranwale is being released since there was no evidence that he was involved in the murder of Lala Jagat Narain.
  • 15 October 1981: Sant Bhindranwala released without any condition. Battle of one-up-man-ship between Giani Zail Singh and Darbara Singh heightened. Giani Zail Singh promoted Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala against Akalis and to upset Darbara Singh.
  • 16 October 1981: Dialogue process started between Akalis and the centre.
  • 31 December 1981: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi announces decision of distribution of Ravi and Beas between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Perceived as discriminatory against and detrimental to interests of Punjab.
  • 5 April 1982: Talks between the two broke down.
  • 8 April 1982: Indira Gandhi laid the foundation stone of Sutlej-Yamuna link canal at village of Kapoori, the border village between Haryana and Punjab in Sangrur District.
  • 8 April 1982: Akalis declared ‘Nehar Roko Morcha’ at Kapoori.
  • 19 July 1982: Bhai Amrik Singh arrested in fabricated cases. Sant Bhindranwalla started Morcha for his release.
  • 4 August 1982: Akali Morcha (dharm Yudh) for river waters and against other discrimination against Sikhs and Punjab shifted to Amritsar. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawala joins his Morcha with Akalis.
  • 11 September 1982: 34 Sikhs going to participate in agitation of Akalis, were killed near Tarntarn when their vehicle crashed into a train.
  • 4-30 September 1982: Akalis proceeding to Delhi to protest during ninth games were insulted by Bhajan Lal’s Government.
  • 27 January 1983: All Akali members resign from Parliament and Assembly.
  • 4 April 1983: Akali Dal resorted to ‘Rasta Roko’. Fired at by police killing 36 Sikhs in Punjab
  • 23 April 1983: DIG Jalandhar Range gunned down by terrorists inside the Golden temple.
  • 17 June 1983: ‘Rail Roko’ program by Akalis
  • 6 August 1983: Bhai Amrik Singh and Bhai Thhara Singh released
  • 29 August 1983:’ Akalis start ‘Strike Work’ (kam roko) Program.
  • 5-6 October 1983: 6 Hindu bus travellers killed near Dhilwan.
  • 6 Oct 1983: Chief Minister Darbara Singh resigns. Governor BD Pande takes over.
  • 10 October 1983: Governor Rule promulgated. Governor directed by the centre to control terrorism in Punjab.
  • Nov 1983: Four new Advisors to Governor appointed who recommended against attacking Sri Harmandir Sahib as envisaged by the centre.
  • 28 November 1983: 4 Hindu bus travellers killed near Naushera Panuan.
  • 15 December 1983: 40 men of Babar Khalsa owing allegiance to Fauja Singh’s wife and also to Akali Trinity moved in to serai complex causing threat to Sant Bhindranwale.
  • 15 December 1983: Sensing trouble from Babbar Khalsa, Sant Bhindranwala shifted from Room no 47 in serai to Akal Takhat on the directions of S. Gurcharan Singh Tohra.
  • 14 February 1984: Punjab Bandh by Akalis. Hindu Suraksha Samiti vandalised model of Sri Darbar Sahib at Railway Station Sri Amritsar in addition to other damages.
  • 14-21 February 1984: Hooligans and goons killed Sikhs and burnt Gurdwaras in Haryana in Panipat, Jind and many other places. In retaliation, Bomb Explosions, attack on policemen, random shooting of bystanders in market places in Punjab.
  • 27 February 1984: Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Parkash Singh Badal, Surjit Singh Barnala and others tore Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. They were put in Chandigarh prison. The central government went into secret negotiations with these leaders till 12 May. External affairs Minister PV Narsimha Rao, the Cabinet Secretary and Principal Secretary PC Alexander were the negotiators from Government side. Elections declared.
  • 9 March 1984: All India Sikh Federation banned.
  • 16 March 1984: Akalis declared boycott of elections
  • 17 March 1984: CRPF opened unprovoked fire on Sikh pilgrims killing three of them.
  • 2-3 April 1984: Harbans Lal shot by militants. The angry crowd with Harbans Lal attacked Sikhs. CRPF sided with Hindus and shot down 8 Sikhs.
  • 6 May 1984: Giani Sahib Singh Head Priest Golden temple solemnises the weddings of six close associates of Sant Bhindranwale.
  • 10 May 1984: The ex-Jathedar of Akal Takhat Partap Singh murdered.
  • 12 May 1984: Sri Ramesh, the Editor of Hind Samachar Group murdered. 165 Hindus and over 260 Sikhs reported killed up to May 1984, Since emergency, a total of the dead were 410 and the injured numbered 1180. (Amritsar: Smt Indira Gandhi’s last battle, p. 147). These included the militants killed in encounters which worked out to be 206.
  • 13 May 1984. Tohra, Badal, Barnala, Randhir Singh Cheema, S. Balwant Singh Ramuwalia and others released from Chandigarh Jail.
  • 25-31 May 1984: 100,000 Indian Army troops are mobilized and deployed throughout Punjab surrounding all the important Gurdwaras including the Golden Temple complex.
  • 26 May 1984: Parleys held between Punjab leaders S. Parkash Singh Badal, Sant Longowal, S. Gurcharan Singh Tohra and others negotiated with PV Narsimha Rao, Pranav Mukherjee and Shiv Shankar of the Central Government. Some of the demands included (a) a commission for consideration through a notification (b) The River water Dispute be handed over to the Supreme Court. (c) Chandigarh be delinked from Fazilka and Abohar and handed over to Punjab. (d) A Linguistic Commission be set up to include Punjabi speaking areas in to Punjab (e) Restrictions be removed from All India Sikh Student federation (AISSF). (f) All those Sikhs who have been arrested on false cases must be released immediately (g) All India Gurdwara Act should be made. Centre backtracked from the demands.
  • 13 May 1984: Akalis declared non-cooperation movement from 3 June 1984 onwards.
  • 25 May 1984: 100,000 Indian Army troops are mobilized and deployed throughout Punjab surrounding important Gurdwaras in Punjab including the Golden Temple complex.
  • 31 May 1984: Lt. General Sunderji launched Western Command with its three corps (II, IX and XI.) in entire Punjab and Chief of Staff of the Command Lt Gen R S Dayal was made the operational in-charge. Infantry Division under Major General Kuldip Singh Brar was ordered to move from Meerut to Amritsar for Operation Blue Star. Maj Gen Brar briefed about the operation on 01 June 1984 (Operation Blue Star: Brar, pp.34-35). XI Corps was given the responsibility of securing the borders from Pakistan and any influx of militants from across the border to assist those in Sri Darbar Sahib. 15 Infantry Division permanently stationed at Amritsar was deployed all along the border in Amritsar Sector. Remaining troops of the three Corps spread all around Punjab. In Patiala Gurdwara, in Sri Darbar Sahib Complex area, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Palki and Rumalas put on fire.
  • 01 June 1984: Thousands of pilgrims start to gather at the Golden Temple complex to celebrate the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev Ji on 3rd June. Police snipers opened fire on Sant Jarnail Singh Bindranwale sittings on the roof of the Langer hall but the shot is missed. CRPF opened fire from 00.40 PM to 8.15 PM (about 7-1/2 hours) on Sri Darbar Sahib Complex including the dome of Sri Harmandir Sahib (32 bullet marks) and Parikarma. 11 Sikhs killed and 25 injured. The killed included four members of AISSF and one member of Babbar Khalsa (Mehnga Singh). There were bullet holes in the Langer building, in the marble pavement (parikarma) surrounding the Golden Temple and on the Golden Temple building itself. It was prodding fire to know the strength of Sant Bhindrawale’s men. There was however, no response from Sant Bhindranwale’s side. The reason could be the instructions from Akal Takhat Jathedar or fire control by Major General Shabeg Singh. Curfew was imposed from 9 PM for 32 hours. Longowal rang up Giani Zail Singh four times but his call was not attended. Governor removed Mr. Sidhu as advisor and Lt Gen RS Dayal and DGP Surinder Nath made Advisors to the Governor.
  • 2 June 1984: Governor BD Pande calls Chief Secretary and Home Secretary Punjab at Raj Bhavan, Chandigarh on at 6 PM and asks for issue of an order to call Army to flush out terrorists in the Golden Temple at Amritsar. Mr Pooni signs the order. The advisors changed with two new advisors. Sant Longowal issued a statement condemning the attack. Jathedar Tohra also wrote a letter to Indira Gandhi. Giani Kirpal Singh Jathedar Akal Takhat and Giani Sahib Singh Head Granthi also issued statements. GOC-in-C Western Command Lt Gen Sunderji arrives at Raj Bhavan at 06.30 PM. Indira Gandhi also gave a speech on TV and Radio Network as a prelude to the operation.
  • 3 June 1984: Martyrdom Anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev ji, Curfew relaxed for 7 hours. Interviews of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Major General Subegh Singh were conducted by correspondents Subhash Kirpekar and later by others with Harbir Singh Bhanwar. Though Sant Bhindranwale was not very sure that attack was imminent but Major General Shabegh Singh was sure that now Army attack was imminent and hence prepared his men accordingly. About 200 militants who probably were not ready to give up fight escaped Bhindranwale’s camp. It may be that they were sent out by Sant Bhindranwale himself since most of them were stated to be having dubious backgrounds. The expected strength with Sant Bhandranwale were around 50-70 men inside Akal Takhat and about 300-400 men deployed in various posts/fortifications. This included parikarama area and the houses adjoining Akal Takhat. In Serai Complex, Bibi Amarjit Kaur had deployed about 150 Babbar Khalsa under Sukhdev Singh. They held Water Tank in Guru Ram Dass area, road connecting SGPC, other residential and office area of SGPC and Sri Darbar Sahib Complex and Baba Atal area. Hence the militants could be between 400 to 550 and not more than that in any case. Being Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s martyrdom day, about 1000 pilgrims landed up in Serai complex a day or two before to celebrate the day. This also included some school teachers and children. Some pilgrims were also stuck up in parikarma area. In Serai complex there were about 1700, who came to Amritsar to participate in ‘Anaj Roko” agitation (preventing the movement of grain) as per the call given by Longowal for a Morcha. Priests and other employees in the complex were around 400. It was assessed that around 3500 to 4000 people were in the complex on the night of 3rd June 1984. A total curfew was imposed from 7.30 PM onwards. All communications including phone lines to and from Punjab were cut. Road blocks prevented anyone from entering or leaving Punjab and all journalists were expelled from Punjab. Pilgrims were trapped inside the temple complex. Milk vendors from the villages who supplied milk to the city of Amritsar were shot dead for violating the curfew orders.
  • 4 June 1984: Elimination process of militants deployed at 2 Ramgarhia Bungas, Water Tank in Ram Das serai, Langar building and Brahm Boota Akhara started by Army under Maj Gen Brar. The army started firing on the temple complex. There was a gun battle lasting 5 hours. Using machine guns and mortars the army fired at militant positions atop the two 18th century towers called Ramgarhia Bungas, and the water tank behind Teja Singh Samundri Hall as well as surrounding buildings. At least 100 were killed on both sides. Heavy firing on to the Darbar Sahib Complex was reported from 4.40 AM onwards. As per Gurcharan Singh Tohra, the firing was much more intense than in 1965 war. Not a single body could move out. No warning was ever heard in the Serai or Darbar Sahib Complex as per Tohra who added that, “If there would have been any warning, we would have saved 600 men of the group which had come for offering peaceful arrest for the agitation.”
  • 5 June 1984: At 7:00 p.m., the invasion of The Golden Temple began with tanks of the 16th Cavalry Regiment of the Indian Army moving to close on to the Golden Temple complex. According to Major General Brar he briefed troops not to use their guns against the Golden Temple or the Akal Takht. Tanks entered Serai complex at 10 AM, and started firing at the complex. Artillery (3.7” mortars) is used to blast off the tops of the Ramgaria Bungas and the water tank. Scores of buildings in and around the temple complex started blazing. One artillery shell landed more than 5 km away in the crowded city. In the narrow alley behind the Akal Takht, paramilitary commandos tried to get into the temple. Meanwhile tanks moved into the square in front of the clock tower entrance. Some troops made to the roof but were turned back due to the heavy gunfire. At 10:30 pm commandos from the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment tried to run down the steps under the clock tower onto the marble parikrama around the sacred pool. They faced heavy gunfire, suffering casualties and were forced to retreat. A second wave of commandos managed to neutralize the machine gun posts on either side of the steps or got down to the parikrama. The Akal Takht was found to be heavily fortified with sandbags and bricked gun emplacements in its windows and arches. From here and the surrounding buildings the militants were able to fire at any commando who could make his way to the sanctum Santorum of Sri Harmandar Sahib. Two companies of the 7th Garhwal Rifles entered the temple complex from the Western gate entrance. After a gun battle they were able to establish a position on the roof of the Temple library. They are reinforced by two companies of the 15th Kumaon. Repeated unsuccessful attempts were made to storm Akal Takht.
  • After midnight tanks were used to break down the steps leading to the parikrama from the hostel side and an 8-wheeled Polish-built armoured personnel carrier made its way towards the Akal Takht. It was destroyed by a Chinese-made rocket propelled grenade launcher. Six or more Vijayanta tanks entered the temple complex crushing the delicate marble inlays of the parikrama and plough their way towards the Akal Takht. Orders arrive and the tanks start firing their large 105mm cannons equipped with high explosive squash-head shells into the Akal Takht. These shells were designed for hard targets like armour and fortifications. When the shells hit a target, their heads spread or squash on the hard surface. Their fuses were arranged to allow a short delay between the impact and the shells igniting, so that a shock-wave passes through the target and a heavy slab of armour or masonry is forced away from the inside of the target armour or fortification. The effect on the Akal Takht was devastating. Over 80 shells were pumped into the Takhat building which pierced through the Darshani Deodhi first and then entered Akal Takhat. The entire front of the Darshani Deodi and the Takht are destroyed and fires break out in many of the different rooms blackening the marble walls and wrecking the delicate decorations dating back to the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Marble inlays, plaster and mirror work, filigree partitions and priceless old wall paintings were all destroyed. The gold dome of the Akal Takht was also badly damaged by artillery fire. At one stage a 3.7 inch Howitzer gun is mounted on the roof of a building behind the shrine and fired a number of times at the beautiful dome. At the other end of the Temple complex, on the easternmost side a battalion of the Kumaon Regiment attacked the hostel complex where many of the innocent pilgrims as well as the temple administration staff were trying to protect themselves. There was no water because the water tower had been destroyed. Over and above June month was the hottest and children cried and the old gasped for water. Some statement of the eye witnesses are given below:
  • They cut our electricity and water supplies. It was very hot in the rooms. There was no water. We had only two plastic buckets of water. Sant Longowal had to place two people as guards over the buckets. Many people would squeeze their undershirts to drink their sweat to quench their thirst." (Bhan Singh, Secretary of S.G.P.C.)
  • Around 1:00 am the Army entered the hostel and administrative buildings and ordered everyone out and made them sit in the courtyard of the Guru Ram Das Hostel. There were about 250 people who came out. At 2 a.m. on June 6 the Army people came to the Rest House. They tore off all my clothes, stripped me naked, my kirpan was snatched, my head gear (patka) was untied to tie up my hands behind my back. They caught me by my hair and took me along with five others - who were all pilgrims - to the ruins of the water tank, there we were told, "don't move or you'll be shot." They kept hitting us with the rifle butts. Then a Major came and ordered a soldier, ‘shoot them’. He then shouted at us, "You must be Bhindranwale's Chelas? You want Khalistan?” I said "I am here to do my duty. I have nothing to do with all this." Six of us were in a line facing the Major, when a Pahari soldier started shooting from one end, killing four of us (with 3 bullets each). As my turn was coming, suddenly a Sikh Officer turned up and ordered, "Stop Shooting". Thus I was saved.” (Prithipal Singh, Sevadar, Akal Rest House)
  • Suddenly there was a big explosion. All hell broke loose. It was pitch dark. People started running back into the verandah and the rooms. I and Abhinashi Singh were sitting next to Gurcharan Singh, the former Secretary of the Akali Dal whom Bhindranwale accused of murdering Sodhi. Gurcharan was shot as he tried to run inside. We realized that soldiers were shooting at us. They thought someone from among the crowd had exploded the grenade. But it was probably thrown by extremists on the water tank overlooking the Guru Ram Das Serai (Hostel). We ran to Tohra's room and told Longowal what was happening. Longowal came out and shouted at the Major. He said, 'Don't shoot these people. They are not extremists. They are employees of the S.G.P.C.' The Major then ordered his men to stop shooting. Later in the morning we counted at least seventy dead bodies in the compound. There were women and children too." (Bhan Singh)
  • Among the dead were 35 women and 5 children. The survivors were made to sit in the courtyard of the Guru Ram Das Hostel until curfew was lifted the next evening. They were not given any food, water or medical aid. People drank whatever water was in blood mixed puddles in the courtyard from the blown up water tank.
  • When people begged for water some soldiers told them to drink the mixture of blood and urine on the ground. (Karnail Kaur, mother of 3 young children trapped in Ram Dass Serai)
  • Many of the young men in the group of innocent unarmed civilians were then shot by the soldiers. I saw about 35 or 36 Sikhs lined up with their hands raised above their heads. And the major was about to order them to be shot. When I asked him for medical help, he got into a rage, tore my turban off my head, and ordered his men to shoot me. I turned back and fled, jumping over the bodies of the dead and injured, and saving my life crawling along the walls. I got to the room where Tohra and Sant Longowal were sitting and told them what I had seen. Sardar Karnail Singh Nag, who had followed me, also narrated what he had seen, as well as the killing of 35 to 36 young Sikhs by cannon fire. All of these young men were villagers. (Bhan Singh)
  • Early on the sixth morning the army came into the Guru Ram Das Serai and ordered all those in the rooms to come out. We were taken into the courtyard. The men were separated from the women. We were also divided into old and young women and I was separated from the children, but I managed to get back to the old women. When we were sitting there, the army released 150 people from the basement. They were asked why they had not come out earlier. They said the door had been locked from the outside. They were asked to hold up their hands and then they were shot after 15 minutes. Other young men were told to untie their turbans. They were used to tie their hands behind their backs. The army hit them on the head with the butts of their rifles." (Ranbir Kaur, School Teacher)
  • The young men and some other pilgrims were staying in Room Number 61. The army searched all the rooms of the Serai. Nothing objectionable was found from their room. Nor did the army find anything objectionable on their person. The army locked up 60 pilgrims in that room and shut not only the door but the window also. Electric supply was disconnected. The night between June 5th and June 6th was extremely hot. The locked-in young men felt very thirsty after some time, and loudly knocked on the door from inside to ask the army men on duty for water. They got abuses in return, but no water. The door was not opened. Feeling suffocated and extremely thirsty, the men inside began to faint and otherwise suffer untold misery. The door of the room was opened at 8 am on June 6th. By this time 55 out of the 60 had died. The remaining 5 were also semi-dead." (Sujjan Singh Margindpuri)
  • By morning light, there is only sporadic sniper fire from the rubble of the Akal Takht. By late afternoon the army was firmly in control of the Temple complex and curfew was lifted for two hours to allow people who were still in hiding to come out. I went to the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) on 5th June around 7:30 in the evening because I had to ensure that religious ceremonies were performed. The moment I stepped on to the parikrama I stumbled across a body. Bullets were flying and I had to take shelter behind each and every pillar to reach the Darshani Deorhi. Another body was lying there. I ran a few yards and reached the Akal Takht. Night prayers start at Harmandir Sahib five minutes after they start at the Akal Takht. I wanted to find out if the path (recitation) had started there. I had a glimpse of Bhindranwale. We did not speak to each other. Around 7:45 I came out of the Akal Takht and ran into the Darshani Deorhi. I ran towards Harmandir Sahib, unmindful of the bullets flying past my ears. I began night prayers. Soon a colleague of mine, Giani Mohan Singh, joined me. Seeing the intensity of the fire we decided to close all the doors, barring the front door. Soon we completed all religious rites. We then took the Guru Granth Sahib to the top room to prevent any damage to the holy book. The Head Priest, Giani Sahib Singh, had given clear instructions that the Guru Granth Sahib under no circumstances was to be taken to the Akal Takht if the conditions were not right. (Giani Puran Singh)
  • Looking through the window-pane from the first floor of the Harmandir Sahib, I saw a tank standing on the parikarma with its lights on. I thought for a moment that it was the fire brigade which had come to collect water from the sarovar (holy pool) to put out the fire which was raging in almost every room. A few minutes later my belief was shattered when I saw the vehicle emitting fire instead of putting it out. By 10:30 or so around 13 tanks had collected on the parikarma. They had come after crushing the staircase from the eastern wing where Guru Ram Das Serai, the Langer and the Teja Singh Samundari Hall are situated. One after another the cannon fire lit the sky. When the first shell hit the bottom of the Darshani Deorhi, creating a hole in it, I saw the room with the historic chandni (canopy) presented by Maharaja Ranjit Singh catching fire. One after another, the big bombs hit the Darshani Deorhi in quick succession. What was once a lovely building was now on fire. The Toshakhana (Treasury) was also on fire. Occasionally a bullet would hit the Harmandir Sahib. We were 27 people inside, mostly ragis (singers) and sevadars (temple servants).
  • On the fifth night, the night of the real assault, mortars started throwing up plaster. My wife and I and my two daughters decided to go down from our flat on the first floor to the office, which is on the ground floor. At this point I thought of surrendering but I was told by a Bhindranwale man, 'One more step outside the complex and you are a dead man'. Faced with this threat to my entire family plus the insecurity of the office room, I decided to move down to a small basement where there was a fridge. An exhaust fan outlet in the basement proved a life saver. I could hear soldiers speaking outside and different instructions from their commanders. Next to the basement was another cubicle facing the Temple where a sewadar used to sleep. I heard the army drag out this man. He was shot. Since extremists had been using all possible openings as pill boxes and grenade launchers the soldiers decided to lob grenades into all such openings, including my fan outlet. The minute I heard the order we all moved under a staircase. Minutes later two grenades came in. The splinters took three inches away from most of the walls. But luckily we escaped. We spent the night under the staircase. Eventually at about 11 am on the 6th my wife noticed an officer standing outside. She called out to him to attract his attention and requested him to rescue us. She told him that she had two young daughters. The officer behaved decently and said, 'Don't worry. I too have two daughters. Nothing will happen to you. Stay put.' He organized chapattis, pickles and drinking water. He eventually let us out when curfew lifted. We had to step over dead bodies strewn everywhere. We were taken to the square in front of the main clock tower entrance. The minute the soldiers saw me, a male member of the group, they positioned their rifles on their shoulders with the barrels pointing at me. I think they were about to shoot me when a Brigadier who recognized me, intervened. We were then led by the soldiers across the parikrama to the library side. A lieutenant accompanied us. Upon reaching the other side he asked me to stand against the wall and lined up a firing squad. He asked me to say my prayers. I requested to say good-bye to my wife and the two daughters. At this point the Brigadier showed up again and shouted at the young officer, 'What the hell are you doing?' The officer said, 'Sir, I misunderstood your order. I thought this man was to be shot.' Now we were made to sit on the ground. My hands were tied behind my back. We were about 70 in that lot. All of us were told to keep our heads down. A slight movement of the head resulted in a sharp rifle butt. We spent the whole night sitting there. Outside the Temple complex the army troops were on a rampage, killing and looting surrounding houses of Sikhs. (Narinderjit Singh Nada, Temple Public Relations Officer).
  • 6th June: After midnight tanks are used to break down the steps leading to the parkarma from the hostel side and an 8-wheeled Polish-built armoured personnel carrier makes it is way towards the Akal Takht. It is destroyed by a Chinese-made rocket propelled grenade launcher. Six or more Vijayanta tanks enter the temple complex crushing the delicate marble inlays of the parkarma and plow their way towards the Akal Takht. Orders arrive and the tanks start firing their large 105mm cannons equipped with high explosive squash-head shells into the Akal Takht. These shells are designed for hard targets like armour and fortifications. When the shells his a target, their heads spread or squash on the hard surface. Their fuses are arranged to allow a short delay between the impact and the shells igniting, so that a shock-wave passes through the target and a heavy slab of armour or masonry is forced away from the inside of the target armour or fortification. The effect on the Akal Takht, the most sacred of the five Takhts, is devastating. Over 80 shells are pumped into the sacred Gurdwara. The entire front of the Takht is destroyed and fires break out in many of the different rooms blackening the marble walls and wrecking the delicate decorations dating back to the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Marble inlays, plaster and mirror work, filigree partitions and priceless old wall paintings are all destroyed. The gold dome of the Akal Takht is also badly damaged by artillery fire. At one stage a 3.7 inch Howitzer gun is mounted on the roof of a building behind the shrine and fired a number of times at the beautiful dome. At the other end of the Temple complex on the easternmost side a battalion of the Kumaon Regiment were invading the hostel complex where many of the innocent pilgrims were in hiding as well as the temple administration staff. There was no water because the water tower had been destroyed and it was very hot. In the early hours of the morning of 6th June we took the holy book down and performed the religious rites that are performed every day, like maharaj da prakash karna (unfolding the holy book) and reciting hymns from the scriptures. The two side-doors were closed and the front and back doors were open. Bullets kept hitting the wall both inside and outside, ripping off the gold surface at various places. Soon after we finished reciting prayers one of our colleagues, Ragi Avtar Singh was hit between 10-11 AM. We pulled him into a corner. Another bullet came and hit the holy Granth Sahib. We have preserved this book. (Gurdial Singh, June 1984 de akhin dithe halat, Gurmat Parkash, reproduced in Sikh Phulwari, June 2018
  • In the meanwhile the pounding of the Akal Takht was continuing. There was no let-up in the fire in other places either. We were thirsty and desperate for water. We crawled to the holy pool to get water for ourselves and for the wounded colleague.
  • Around 5pm they announced on loudspeakers that those hiding in the Harmandir Sahib should come out and that they would not be shot dead. While myself and Giani Mohan Singh remained inside, others walked out with the arms above their heads."
  • Over 300 bullet holes were counted in the Golden Temple itself.
  • With the lifting of the curfew innocent Sikhs thought that by coming out from hiding they would now be safe. Sadly this was not the case.
  • "On the way back to the hotel (afternoon of June 6th) I witnessed a scene at the Kotwali which is blood curdling. This is where some soldiers were kicking some of the 11 suspected terrorists as they knelt on their bare knees and crawled on the hot road surface." (Subhash Kirpekar, Journalist)
  • "The people were taken out of their houses. Men's hands were tied with their turbans. Women's necks were sought to be asphyxiated with their plaits. Then they were shot in the chests. No quarter was shown to women, aged or children; in the eyes of the troops every Sikh was a terrorist. Those who survived died of thirst. Their houses were ransacked, and then put on fire. The area surrounding Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) was full of debris. What happened is beyond description of sight, hearing or words." (Giani Chet Singh)
  • As night fell the Army troops were given the order to storm the remains of the Akal Takht and shoot on site anyone they found inside. The troops encounter little resistance and find dead bodies and the smell of death everywhere.
  • 7 June 1984: In the early hours of the morning the troops discover the bodies of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his closest followers in the basement of the Akal Takht. "The Army officers in-charge ordered me to go home and I remained there until the morning of June 6 when I was summoned early in the morning. When I reached the kotwali [police station] near the temple, I saw the dead bodies of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Gen. Shabeg Singh, Thiara Singh and Amrik Singh lying there...I was asked to identify the bodies because I was familiar with all the dead men having often interacted with them as part of my duties as a police officer. The Army then requested me to arrange the cremations. We performed these, according to Sikh rites, at the nearby Gurudwara Shaheedan...A large majority of those who died inside the Golden Temple during Operation Bluestar were common devotees who had come to the shrine on June 3 on the occasion of the fifth Guru’s Martyrdom Day...Apart from Bhindranwale’s armed followers, I counted a little over 800 dead bodies inside the temple complex. My men and I were also tasked with clearing and cremating these bodies. Army and municipal officials helped transport them to the local cremation ground. While many innocents were killed in the crossfire between the Army and the militants, it is also true that the soldiers deliberately gunned down several devotees. You see they actually believed that anyone inside the temple was the ‘enemy.’ The soldiers had no notion of how they should tackle an unprecedented situation like the one that had developed inside the Golden Temple." (Apar Singh Bajwa, SP of Punjab Police)
  • The day was spent in clean-up operations flushing out any remaining snipers and collecting the dead bodies. Soldiers were openly walking about the temple in their shoes, drinking alcohol as well as smoking. Blood and bodies were strewn all over the broken marble of the parikarma, with putrefying corpses floating in the sacred pool of nectar and the smell of death everywhere. The Darshani Deori the entrance gate of the Golden Temple which houses many priceless treasures was destroyed and looted. Although fighting had now died down, the central library complex was mysteriously burned down. Many priceless manuscripts, some in the Gurus own handwriting were lost forever. A situation which could have been resolved without a shot being fired was allowed to deteriorate to the point where the sacred sanctity of a place of worship was desecrated in the most brutal way with death and destruction. In addition to the followers of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, thousands of innocent pilgrims who had gathered to celebrate a religious festival and those who came to surrender peacefully in support of the agitation also lost their lives in the attack.
The Akal Takht, the symbolic seat of supreme Sikh temporal authority was reduced to rubble. Gurdwara Darbar Sahib was damaged with over 300 bullets. The Sikh Reference Library with precious hand written manuscripts of the Gurus was burned to the ground. Aportion of the Temple treasury Toshakhana with priceless historical artifacts of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was also burned
 
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