Chandigarh, April 25: Union Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal brought to the centre stage one again the most botched up army action in independent Indi that was Operation Bluestar, the army attack on the holiest of the holy Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple complex, in June, 1984 in Amritsar. Rather than ending militancy, this operation triggered the more bloody second phase in which thousands of people were killed while hundreds of others just disappeared without any trace. After waiting for years, their families have reconciled to the situation.
Operation Bluestar can’t be treated in isolation from the total design as in case it was part of the politics only of then prime minister Indira Gandhi, militancy might not have resurfaced with greater intensity. The demand for Khalistan was formally raised by the militants only about two years after Operation Bluestar on April 29, 1986 that provoked then Akali Dal chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala to send police into the complex that amounted to justifying Operation Bluestar.
Harsimrat is part of the Union cabinet and as such, her responsibility does not end merely by making the demand to make the record public pertaining to Operation Bluestar. Even this part should be welcomed provided it is acted upon. It would definitely unravel the deadly politics leading to that tragic period and not just the army action. Harsimrat must take it up on priority with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The build had been continuing for a long time and it was not a sudden operation as Lt General (retired) Kuldip Singh Brar, then Major General who commanded the operation, would like people to believe. The papers released by the British archives have reinforced this line that the action was well thought out.
The central team comprising ministers and some bureaucrats held about two dozen meetings, including secret ones, with the Akali leaders, the last secret meeting being on May 26, 1984 that was attended by Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Parkash Singh Badal and Surjit Singh Barnala from the Akali side. It may be mentioned that now President of India Pranab Mukherjee was one of the members of the team negotiating with the Akalis. It is the March 28 meeting that is more mysterious. As part of the series of these secret meetings, one was held at Chandigarh on March 27 attended by Badal, among other Akali leaders. The very next day, he was flown to Delhi alone for a meeting with P V Narasimra Rao on March 28. He was brought back to Chandigarh for a meeting on March 29. As these meetings were going on in Chandigarh, it is mysterious as to why he alone was flown to Delhi and what transpired at that meeting. Badal has been in denial mode about these meetings although Tohra was on the record as to what transpired in May 26 meeting that ended with the announcement, “Sorry, Madam does not agree”.
Equally significant is the over-reaction of the so-called ultra nationalist media in Delhi linking this demand raised by Harsimrat to release of “terrorists”, the SYL Canal and the issue of barring Sehajdharis from voting in the election to the general house of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. Among those who have raised concerns over this demand includes Brigadier Israr Khan (retd) who was also part of the Operation.
It may be recalled that at one time, the media, particularly in Delhi, used to dub even Akalis as “terrorists” with the term “Akali terrorists” in use too frequently. This section of the media has once again launched vilification campaign within no time. Media should learn to behave. It is the same media that played up morphed video to malign top educational institution like the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
It is this media that has been attacking poor tribals fighting for their rights in the jungles of Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal as Maoists thereby justifying every excess committed by the security forces. A section has taken up arms but entire population can’t be painted with the same brush. This has happened in Punjab earlier and this is happening in Kashmir. The media would not expose the designs of the multinationals to mine natural resources in these areas by displacing these poor people who have been living there for thousands of years, neglected by the government even after independence.
Brigadier Israr Khan should enlighten people at least on the timing of Operation Bluestar as it coincided with martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev when thousands of people were in the shrine.
The truth must prevail, howsoever bitter it is. Of course, truth too can be relative at certain levels but still, each and every paper relating to Punjab militancy in general and Operation Bluestar in particular must be made public.