- Posted October 13, 2012 by
Blue Star Memorial To Perpetuate Pain
A raging controversy has erupted over the erection of a memorial in the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, honouring those killed in Operation Bluestar in 1984. The memorial is being built near the Akal Takht.
Predictably, this has polarised opinion within and outside Punjab. Many have expressed their strong opposition to the memorial saying it would rekindle sympathy for Khalistani separatists and their leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who died in the Army operation of June 6, 1984. Those behind the construction of the memorial argue that it is meant to honour the memory of innocent pilgrims who were caught in the crossfire and died.
The recent murderous attack on Lt Gen KS Brar, who carried out Operation Bluestar, in London has heightened worries and apprehensions of efforts to revive Khalistani separatism. Pakistan and its terror-sponsoring agency ISI are believed to be working towards this end.
The recent ceremonial honour for the kin of the assassins of Gen AS Vaidya, the Army Chief who planned Operation Bluestar and was killed after he retired from service by two Khalistani terrorists, has incensed nationalist opinion. The Akali Dal, which rules Punjab in alliance with the BJP, has refused to condemn the SGPC for honouring the kin of Gen Vaidya’s assassins who were executed.
Twenty-eight years after the tumultuous events of 1984, public memory of Operation Bluestar, its terrible fallout and what necessitated the Army action has faded. Here are some facts to place the current controversy in perspective:
What is the controversy?
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) has come under fire for honouring the kin of Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha, Khalistani terrorist who assassinated General Arun Vaidya. The honours were given to mark their death anniversaries.
General Vaidya was in charge of Operation Bluestar in 1984 and was assassinated by Jinda and Sukha in 1986 at Pune, where he was living after his retirement.
The SGPC has been observing their death anniversaries since 1993. Both men were hanged in 1992.
What is the memorial?
The SGPC is constructing a memorial for those killed during Operation Bluestar. The operation was launched by the Army in 1984 to flush out Khalistani separatists led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who were holed up inside the Golden Temple complex. During the operation, Bhindranwale, his deputy Shabeg singh, their armed men were killed. Many pilgrims were caught in the crossfire.
The fallout of Operation Bluestar was the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, and the ghastly anti-sikh program resulting in massacre of more than 3000 men and women.
Lieutenant General Kuldeep Singh Brar, who led the assault on the Golden Temple complex, remains on the hit list of the remnants of the Khalistani movements.
Construction work on the 18-feet memorial is expected to be completed before June 6, 2013, which is the next anniversary of Operation Bluestar. It stands near the Akal Takht. Baba Harnam Singh, the head of the seminary that Bhindranwale once led, is leading the volunteers who are building the memorial.
The SGPC had declared Bhindranwale a martyr in June 2003.
The memorial is being seen as an attempt to revive Khalistani separatism in Punjab. The turning of terrorists into martyrs can, some believe, signal a return to radical sentiments in the State.
Recently, a huge cache of drugs, cash, and ammunition was seized from the Delhi-bound Samjhauta Express. It is believed that the illicit cargo was being moved with the intention of reviving terrorism in Punjab.
Who stands where?
Bharatiya Janata Party: Opposed
Shiromani Akali Dal: Supporting
Punjab Congress: Opposed
Union Goverment: Non-commital, sleeping
Who said what?
Union Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde:
“Punjab has gone through days of terrorism and in view of this, the Punjab Government must do self-introspection before taking a decision on the memorial.”
H S Phoolka: Supreme Court lawyer who fought to bring those accused of killing Sikhs in 1984 to justice:
“The current generation needs to know what happened. If proper legal process was followed, the attitude of people in Punjab and outside would be completely different.”
Lt General KS Brar:
“The Centre has to step in and stop it (the construction of the memorial). Otherwise, we are going back to the early 1980s.”
“You call them martyrs. They are criminals, murderers and terrorists. And you are honouring them? The top politicians of Akali Dal are attending these functions. The Chief Minister is also attending them. The Centre says it is a State subject. If it affects national security and unity, the Centre has to step in and stop it.”
Balwant Singh Rajoana: In death row in Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassination case:
“Instead of scratching the wounds of the Sikh community, the balm of justice should be applied.”
Other Sikh Organisations:
The American Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (AGPC, San Francisco):
AGPC has come forth in support of the so-called martyr’s memorial. It has supported the Panthic bodies that served an ultimatum to the Akal Takht to set up the structure in the Darbar Sahib complex and open a ‘martyr’s gallery’ for the public. The AGPC has said that it was the duty of every Sikh to support the “Sikh martyr” cause as according to Sikh tradition, martyrs have a very high status.
Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar (SADA):
Insisting on the same, the SADA has also given an ultimatum to Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee and Shiromani Akali Dal(Badal). The SADA wants the ‘martyr’s gallery’ dedicated to the Sikh community. If their demands were not agreed to by May 27, Sikh organisations and families of martyrs will take things to their “logical end”, the SADA said in a letter signed by General Secretary Harpal Singh Cheema. Cheema’s letter said that whenever the Golden Temple has been attacked, Sikhs have fought for its honour. The attacks on the temple in June of 1984 count as an attack on the honour of the temple.
Union Government response:
The Central Government has announced that it is sending a team to inspect the nature of the “memorial”. The Punjab Government had assured the Centre that what was being constructed was not a “memorial” to extremists who died in the Operations. The government both at the provincial and central level are just , as usual in India, are trying to put off the issue on back-burner at present. They are forgetting that tomorrow it may be too late.
Dr. Bikram Lamba, a political and business strategist can be contacted at 905 848 4205. Email:email@example.com. .