The code name given to a massive Indian military action against members of the Sikh community, Operation Blue Star is known world over for its sheer brutality and abuse of power against a minority Sikh community in a large Hindu-led India. In what spanned the duration of an entire week from the 1st of June 1984 to the 8th of June, under the tyrannical leadership of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, nearly 3,000 Sikhs were massacred.
In the first week of July 1982, under the invitation of Harchand Singh Longowal, the President of the Akali Dal; Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale had taken up residence in the Golden Temple at Amritsar to stay under the radar from the Indian police force. Bhindrawale, whose name would be mentioned numerous times over the course of the Blue Star Operation, had converted a part of the Temple into an armory and a headquarter for the Sikh militants.
But news of Bhindrawale’s plans and presence was well known to the intelligence agencies, not just in India but across the world.
The Indian intelligence had details of all trips made by the prominent heads – Shabeg Singh, Balbier Singh, and Amrik Singh. India infact had exact count of all six trips made to Pakistan between 1981 and 1983.
- The Indian Intelligence Bureau had reported details of weapons training being provided at gurdwaras in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
- Soviet Intelligence, KGB, had tipped information to RAW pertaining to the close working between the CIA and ISI on a plan for Punjab.
- Learnings from interrogations revealed that RAW had obtained information that over a thousand specially trained Special Service Group commandos of the Pakistan Army had been sent into Punjab to assist Bhindranwale in his fight against the government.
Possession of all of these information fueled by the despair of failed negotiations led Indira Gandhi’s Indian Government to launch Operation Blue Star.
Army and paramilitary forces brought in from various locations surrounded the temple complex on the 3rd of June 1984 and demanded the release of pilgrims held by the Sikh militants for their own safety, out of the fear that the Indian military forces would have no mercy for innocent Sikh civilians either.
With the Sikh forces failing to budge until 7pm on the 5th of June 1984, the Indian military began the fire show which lasted three entire days. In addition to activities within the temple, a cleanup operation codenamed Operation Woodrose was also initiated throughout Punjab.
Overpowering the Sikh militants, the Indian army eventually gained control of the temple complex apprehending over 1500 militants and causing the death of over 500 people including civilians as well as the militants.
Operation Blue Star has faced immense criticism worldwide, who have unequivocally regarded this to be a one-sided assault against the minority Sikh community.
Five months post Operation Blue Star, in what the Sikh community saw as retribution, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh. As fate would have it, this led to a further massacre of nearly 3000 Sikh innocents across the country.