Chandigarh, June 5: Who were the guilty? This question remains unanswered even 32 years after Operation Bluestar, the ghastly and totally botched up army attack on the Golden Temple complex that started on the early morning of June 4, 1984 and continued till June 6 forenoon when Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale led his men out of the Akal Takht basement after ammunition had been exhausted. They too could have escaped from the narrow lanes around the complex but the mavericks preferred to be martyrs. The MMG mounted on an armoured vehicle stationed on one side of Akal Takht opposite Jhanda Bunga fell silent after this entire group was hit, some dead, others injured. The injured were shifted to the hospital, to be released in 1989.
Was this unprecedented army action in independent India was just to flush out armed men of Sant Bhindranwale or it had some deeper motives? Was Sant Bhindranwale the culprit? Was Prime Minister Indira Gandhi guilty? There is still no answer to these questions based upon hard evidence. Both of them were consumed by the politics of violence. Both are martyrs for different sets of people.
It is still not late to set up a judicial probe under Supreme Court supervision into Operation Bluestar and the buildup. The role of the apex court too has been under the scanner during recent years but still, that is the institution that can be trusted.
With his memorial having been raised in the Golden Temple complex near the place where he fell, Sant Bhindranwale has become part of the collective Sikh psyche. Besides men of Sant Bhindranwale, the other major armed group happened to be the Babbar Khalsa whose majority of members escaped on June 5 night from the back lane of the serai area-Gali Baghwali.
The government had an excuse to enter the shrine when Deputy Inspector General of Police Avtar singh Atwal was gunned down while coming out of the Golden Temple from the Ghanta Ghar side in April, 1983. Superintendent of Police Joginder Pal Birdi gathered his force available at that time and waited for the orders from Chandigarh. He was subsequently conveyed the police would not enter the shrine. Apparently, the situation was allowed to build up.
The Sikhs as a community should have reacted when Atwal was killed from a bullet fired from inside the complex and it was subsequently known as to who had targeted him. He had fallen in the entrance. It raised the very basic question about the activities of the armed men who roamed about with a license to kill. It was different when this complex was attacked by the invaders but in this case, it had been turned into a sanctuary for groups of armed people who did not know as to what they were fighting for.
One has to see that situation in the framework of the philosophy that is symbolized by this shrine which is not just a brick and mortar structure.
While the government at the centre allowed the buildup, there is the other aspect that concerns Sant Bhindranwale and his armed associates. Should they have given the excuse to the Indian state to order this abominable action? The issues must be debated in a dispassionate manner and that too in the context of the Sikh doctrine beginning with the teachings of Guru Nanak.
That the situation could have been handled differently was proved subsequently in 1988 in the action that is known as Operation Blackthunder. None had protested when that action was launched to flush out armed gangs who used to operate from the shrine and summon people there for extortion. None has explained as to why about 40 persons were killed in the complex whose bodies were recovered from the debris of Akal Takht that was removed after this operation. The sanctum sanctorum of the shrine was defiled by these ‘Khalistani freedom fighters’ who should have surrendered earlier as they did later.
The inquiry must be based upon hard evidence that should include entire record with the intelligence agencies, the home ministry and the army if the same has not been destroyed. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal should himself take up this issue with the Modi government in which his party is a partner. He should not be known just by his record of being the five time chief minister. Entire record pertaining to the period from 1980 to 1984 must be made public.
It was Badal who had taken a stand in August, 1997 during his meet-the-press programme at the Chandigarh Press Club that such a probe would reopen the wounds. But these wounds have not been healed even after 32 years and his own party continues to attack the Congress on this issue.
Let the truth come out.