Operation Blue Star was a military operation, which was sanctioned by Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister in 1984 when the operation took place. The primary objective of Operation Blue Star was the elimination of terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who was hiding in the Golden Temple, the sacred worship place of Sikhs located in Amritsar. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was allegedly possessing illegal arms and planning a uprising against the government. According to various Sikh scholars, amassing of weapons at Akal Takhat was well justified according to Sikhism precincts. Sikh scholar Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer is of the opinion that the primary motive of Indira Gandhi ordering the military operation to attack Darbar Sahib was to present herself as a great hero to the Indian masses and win the forthcoming elections.
The Army attacked the sacred place with tanks, helicopters, artillery and armored vehicles. Use of these tactics and heavy armory for the attack arouse controversies and both the media and the general public presented serious questions to the government.
The operation had been divided into two sub-operations: Operation Metal and Operation Shop.
Operation Metal involved attack on the Golden Temple premises while Operation Shop involved capturing of suspects from the state of Punjab and outlying territories – It included attack on 38 other Gurdwaras across Punjab. Operation Shop was followed by another operation code-named Woodrose wherein the military stressed upon doing extensive and thorough search operations to round up suspects.
The questionable operations of the government led to tension among the Sikh community worldwide. The community reacted to this and Sikh soldiers withdrew form various ranks in the Indian army, they too resigned from posts in the armed and civil administrative offices. Four months later on 31st October, 1984 – In direct response to the operation, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two bodyguards of the Sikh community. This lead to anti Sikh riots throughout the country and led to more than 3,000 Sikhs being killed in the riots. Operation Blue Star has great historical significance to the Sikh community and it is the greatest Sikh massacre since the Sikh mass holocaust of 1762 by Afghani invader Ahmad Shah Durrani.
Operation Blue Star – Events Timeline
The Indian Army, under the command of General Viadya and Lt. Gen. K Sundarji, carried out the operation. The army made use of 7 Vijayanta Tanks for the operation. The military started off with imposing a state-wide curfew on 3rd June. It also banished and cut off the state from all means of communication and that state transport was also suspended. The electricity supply was also cutoff, in a nutshell all possible methods were used to cutoff the whole state from the rest of the world. The news media was also censored completely and it was to work in accordance with the norms laid by the operation.
After complete cut-off of all means of communication and when things were under complete control, the Army, under supervision of Kuldip Singh Brar, attacked the Golden Temple on the night of 5th June. The conflict went on for around 48 hours and the army had gained full control over the Temple by morning of 7th June. The army was successful in it’s operation and had killed Sikh political heads Bhindranwale and Shabeg Singh. Both the military and the civilians added up to the casualties.
Casualties of Operation Blue Star
According to the report submitted by the Army, casualties figures were as such :
- 83 Members of the military were reported dead which included 4 officer ranks, 16 JCO (Junior Commissioned Officers) and 63 other ranks, while 220 were wounded.
- 492 civilians were killed
According to reports from Indian news agencies and independent generalists, high number of Sikh youths were killed during the military assault. The official figures have since been a topic of controversies as the Media reports suggest a much higher death toll.
Events Following Operation Blue Star
The operation raised an uproar in the Sikh community, and Sikh soldiers across the country stood up in mutiny. As an act of vengeance, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassination on 31 October 1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards. This event raised a fire in throughout India and resulted in 1984 Anti Sikh riots. As news of the Indira Gandhi assassination spread, Sikhs were killed on a widespread scale across the country, with a large number of assaults in the Capital city Delhi. The Indian army too had to withdraw its troops from the Golden Temple later in 1984.
General Arun Shridhar Vaidya, the Army General commandeering the Operation Blue Star was assassinated in 1986 in Pune two Sikh militants who were later hanged on 7 October 1992.
The continued use of Golden Temple as a refuge for Sikh militants led the government to take strict action and in June 1990, it passed orders to have the area around the temple to be free from residents in order to prevent any future discrepancies.
Timeline of Events in Photos
Operation Blue Star Photos
Operation Blue Star Videos
BBC’s Documentary on Operation Blue Star -
Another Full Length Documentary on the same -
More information about the Operation Blue Star and the 1984 Sikh riots would be made available soon.
What’s your take on this, how far was it justified ?