Operation Bluestar – June 1984 .
The climax to the Sikh agitation was the Indian Army’s assault on the epicentre of the Sikh faith: The Golden Temple (Darbar Sahib), and its complex, on the pretext of flushing out Sikh militants. Known infamously as Operation Bluestar, it was ordered by the then Prime Minister of India Mrs Indira Gandhi and its effects were cataclysmic. On 1 June of that year Mrs Gandhi ordered the military operation, ostensibly to ‘flush out’ armed insurgency inside the temple. The attack lasted until 8 June. A curfew was imposed on Amritsar and the media were removed to the borders of the district, thereby eliminating the possibility of any impartial reporting of events. Official reports put the number of deaths among the Indian army at 83 and the number of civilian deaths at 492, with more than 1000 casualties, but independent estimates vary. The former British Foreign Secretary, William Hague stated that, “as many as 3,000
people were killed including pilgrims caught in the crossfire”. Human rights groups have, however, suggested the number of those killed close to 5,000.
A bloody battle ensued between the Indian army and the Sikh militants inside the complex. Thousands of civilians, mostly Sikh pilgrims who were marking the highly significant religious festival of the martyrdom of the 5th Sikh Guru, Guru Arjun Dev, were also killed. Thousands of other Sikhs were rounded up and disappeared in Operation Woodrose, the counter-insurgency operation that followed Operation Bluestar. Several reports have highlighting serious human rights violations that occurred during Operation Bluestar including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, arrests and torture and the mass cremations of dead bodies without proper identification and verification.