Operation Bluestar – Let’s not forget!

Operation Bluestar – Let’s not forget!

 

 

 

 

That alone is a temple,

where He can be known.

Through contemplation in human body,

one understands His omnipresence.

Don’t look for him outside,

He dwells within the Heart.

The ego-willed cannot appreciate this fact,

in mere worldly pursuits he wastes his life.

He pervades everywhere,

discover Him through reflection.

                                      – Guru Nanak (Page 953, Adi Granth)

 

When an institution exists for its value then it’s bricks are not cemented in mortar but in the belief of it’s ideals.

In the name of Operation Bluestar, from 3 – 8 June 1984, the Indian army, under orders of Indira Gandhi, besieged the Golden Temple at Amritsar. For the first time in the history of India, the army was tasked to attack it’s own civilians, on a day when thousands of devotees throng to the temple to celebrate Guru Arjan Dev’s (5th Guru of the Sikhs) martyrdom day. The reason for attack was to remove Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his 150 followers who had taken shelter in the complex.

The background leading to this event is too complicated to cover in full as it runs from the time of partition of India in 1947, culminating into a political debacle of 1984. The basic issues spanned across    

  • Linguistic division of Indian state territories
  • River water policy across the Indian states
  • Reduction of Punjabi’s in Defense force
  • Restriction of Government industrial investments  in Punjab


Indian politics thrives on divisional themes. Imposition of national emergency by Indira Gandhi from the years 1975 – 1977 in order to retain her power at the centre of Indian politics became the catalyst to her communal based politics that emerged when she regained central power in 1980. In emergency period, Punjab was the only state in India to have openly opposed the national emergency rule imposed by Indira Gandhi, resulting in citizens courting peaceful arrest to demand national freedom under the democratic constitution of India. It is estimated that more than 140,000 people in Punjab offered themselves to be jailed. When she regained central power in 1980, it was her target to leverage communal based policies to break the Punjabi opposition that had voiced so openly against her emergency rule.

It was in 1981 and the people of Punjab, having sensed that Indira Gandhi, who now had majority power at the centre, will again violate human rights as was done in the 1977 emergency, voiced the implementation of “Anandpur Sahib resolution” as the fundamental basis to govern India. This resolution basically demanded that central government should be only responsible for areas like defense, communication, transportation, etc and leave the rest for the Indian regional states to manage for themselves. It is the governance model used by United Sates of America.


To break the voice in Punjab politics, that continued to be a strong force against Indira Gandhi’s governance style, she started implementing the divide and rule, religion based politics. The period thereafter witnessed the downward spiral in Punjab, resulting in the dark phase of the 1980s that my generation witnessed.


It is in this period that Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale emerged on the centre stage of Punjab.

 

The sequence of events moved rapidly out of control. By end 1983, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had moved himself inside the surrounding guest house area of the Golden Temple. Under the national law, when a civilian has to be arrested, it is the police and not the army that has to conduct the job. It is interesting to note that earlier he was once arrested by the police but released in less than 24 hours. So it is worth pondering why Indira chose not to use the civilian defense force but ordered the army to conduct the operation at Golden Temple on a day when innocent pilgrims would be thronging the complex. Her orders to use full military force to finish everyone inside the complex was essentially driven by her divisional political agenda as it’s through this action she would be able to further strengthen her position across India.

 

The destruction of Golden Temple compound was beyond comprehension. Tanks bombarded the Akal Takth. Over 8,000 people (Citizens of Democracy estimate the number at 8,000 but the Government records are at 493) are estimated to have been killed in the attack on Golden Temple, majority being innocent pilgrims. In my visit to Golden Temple in the following months, I saw the structure of Akal Takth in rubble. The central Golden Temple building had bullet marks all around it. Many years later, in the year 2000, the Defense Minister of India, George Fernandez acknowledged that the Indian Army in the 1984 operation had removed rare historical manuscripts and artefact, which no one knows where they have disappeared. In the events following the June 1984 attack on Golden Temple complex, two Sikh bodyguards of Indira Gandhi, assassinated her on 31st October, 1984. Within hours, emergency was imposed in Punjab so that no backlash happens in the state but interestingly across the rest of India, the new leadership of Indira Gandhi’s Congress party executed a pogrom (planned attack against the Sikh community), killing more than 8,000 Sikhs across the country, of which 3,000 were killed in broad daylight in Delhi.


An average Indian lacks the ability to see through divisional politics and Indira succeeded well in her game to divide and rule. If Punjab problem really existed as was blown out of proportion by Indra Gandhi’s divisional political aims, then it is worth asking, where is the problem today? It goes to show the self centered sinister plan of the Indian leadership in this phase of dark history.

 

What Indira Gandhi may not have known is that Golden Temple, has been a centre stage for the Sikh community. It has been attacked many times before and every time the community has responded against the brutal use of force but it has also been forgiving to move on very quickly. Between 1737 and 1767, Golden Temple was attacked six times by non Indian origin people, essentially the Mughal and Afghan forces. However, in 1984 it was the Indian Army that attacked it’s own citizens under the myopic divisive leadership of Indira Gandhi.


Three decades have passed and the Sikhs have moved on just like they moved on earlier in the history. However it is unfortunate that there has been no closure to the events. The missing artefacts and manuscripts have not been returned. The organizers of the 1984 anti Sikh pogrom conducted across India, after Indira Gandhi’s death, remain free. Justice has been denied to the citizens of India.

 

On the third decade of this tragic event, I share a few pictures of the Golden Temple and it’s complex that I made during my visit in 2010.

 

I also encourage you to visit the hyperlinks below of the previous photo series on Golden Temple.

GOLDEN TEMPLE

DOMES OF GOLDEN TEMPLE

YOU ARE ME AND I AM YOU

 

Finally, in link below is a heartfelt poetry by my close friend, Ajay Shukla, on the anti Sikh pogrom conducted in November 1984.

IT WAS JUST A TRAGIC INCIDENT

 

In ending, I would like to reflect on the above verse by Guru Nanak (page 953 of Adi Granth) where he reminds us that the true temple is our human body, where “He” has to be found. Golden Temple is however the external manifestation of the intrinsic belief system of the Sikhs. So deep is the Sikh psyche associated with this institution that post the attack on the complex, when Indira Gandhi got the Akal Takth rebuilt by the Government money, the Sikhs made it a point to not accept her gesture. At the first opportunity, they raised it to the ground and rebuilt it from the community money.

 

May the future generations continue to reflect and talk about history as means of increasing love across communities and build on the ideals of value.

 

1s

Photo : Golden Temple complex

 

2s

Photo : Golden Temple

 

3s

Photo : Golden Temple

 

4s

Photo : Bungas from Parikrama

 

5s

Photo : Golden Temple

 

6s

Photo : Golden Temple

 

7s

Photo : Golden Temple

 

8s

Photo : Motif on floor of Golden Temple

 

9s

Photo : Golden Temple

 

10s

Photo : Golden Temple

11s Photo : A view from Akal Takth

 

12s

Photo : Bungas at Golden Temple

 

13s

Photo : Bunga at Golden Temple

 

14s

Photo : Parikrama at Golden Temple

 

15s

Photo : Entrance to Golden Temple

 

16s

Photo : Bungas at Golden Temple

 

17s

Photo : Golden Temple

 

18s

Photo : Golden Temple in night

 

19s

Photo : Akal Takth

 

20s

Photo : View from Akal Takth

 

21s

Photo : Entrance to Golden Temple

 

22s

Photo : Window in Golden Temple

 

23s

Photo : Pigeons at Golden Temple

41 Comments

  1. Sonil Mehra

    A Divine place well photographed. But its divinity,grace and blessings can never be encompassed in any lens. You have to be there to feel the grandeur and positive vibrations that convert you the moment you bow your head in reverence. I lived through Operation Blue Star – before and after,too (I am a resident of Guru RamDas ki nagri Amritsar) – they were trying times.

  2. Ruchika Singh

    Speechless just too good…Love each and every picture…What detailing, splendid job done.

  3. Harpreet

    Still wounds are deep and fresh.

  4. Beautiful photos of the Temple Amardeep….just glorious.
    Stephanie

  5. Jaishankar AL

    Amar, wonderful photos!

  6. Geetali

    Wonderful photographs.
    I totally agree with what you have written above. I am not a Sikh by birth, but Harmandir Sahab holds a special place in my heart. 1984 was a blot on our history. Hopefully, good actions and good thoughts will wash away the tears.

  7. Harpal Ahluwalia

    Superb photography and moving text………….obviously its right from the heart. God bless

  8. Girish Advani

    _/\_ Dithey Sabhey Thau Nahi Tudh Jeya Batdho Purukh Vidatey Than Tu Sohya Tan Tu Sohya Tan Tu Sohya… _/\_
    Thanks for sharing, GURU ANG SANG SAHAI.

  9. Good photography. Rest….legitimacy of Op Blue star and events leading to it are debatable.

  10. Jasmeet kaur

    Great pics and a superb write up. Your article is well researched and in few words you have managed brilliantly to the factors that led to the holocaust. Have just “dicovered” you and your body of work is truly inpirational. Is it possible to share what events made you take up the tabla.

  11. Praveen

    Your photographs are very good. I am no expert to comment on technical aspects, but they catch the attention from inside. Very pleasing work.

  12. You refreshed memories of the 1984 massacre of the Sikhs in Delhi and all over India. My family and I just reached Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh)railway station when news reached of Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her 2 bodyguards and were hurriedly whisked away and luckily provided shelter at the home of a Hindu business associate. Our Family of 7 persons were not allowed to go out for 7 days. We survived untouched but many others were not so lucky.

  13. Gurpreet Singh Anand

    Undoubtedly …the most troubled times any Sikh post independence lived in …when suo motto the Nation ..,his nation ??? , branded him a traitor and his pysche was hurt willfully by the Government of the Day ,by the institution (The Army ) which had built its laurels for past 75 years on the bodies of its bravest soldiers …sikhs,it turned against them .
    Shamefully it was touted as a victory of good over evil and so accepted by the vast majority .
    The pain is so deep mere reading of the episode once a while stirs up passions ,like none else .
    Yet the quom needs not to let it be forgotton.
    I am thankful to Amardeep for this timely post backed by,as usual,painstaking work behind the camera .Thanks dear ..keep working with the same passion ..Rab Rakha ..Sharing …without permission

  14. Manmohan S Suri(Tony)

    Wounds will never heal. V fresh. Will remain fresh until main culprits & perpetrators are brought to justice. Excellent photography.

  15. Baba Ji

    So beautiful and amazing not seen before this . Grate work veer ji keep it up

  16. Gurvinder Gumani

    You have summed up the deep rooted issue of the sikhs in a very meaningful manner covering almost every cause. But nothing can compensate and heal the wounds of those who have witnessed and experienced this traumatic period. May Waheguru shower all His blessings upon you.

  17. Bandan

    Splendid photography friend. Love it.

  18. sharan sandhu

    The wounds will remain fresh till death :((

  19. adarsh

    Truely, it is was a very difficult period , you have consolidated the facts very well , I have seen the kar sewa that was done to resurrect n return the sanctity of our shrine, the love n dedication that was put in only proved the inner strength of the religion ” Jako rakhe saaiyaan maar sake na koi” ………ur work stands true to the purity n magnificence of the Holy Harmandir Sahib….salutations!!

  20. Ujay

    It is the scar that will stay on every Indian face for ever for what was gone to our silk brother and sisters.
    And also I like to remember my childhood friend GP he and his entry family was killed in Punjab for no reason by terrorist . Why? Can anyone please explain I still can not understand. Today is my best childhood GP birthday he will be 44 years today. GP you and your family will always be in our heart for ever miss you my friend. Mum misses you a lot love you all
    Ujay

  21. Gurdeep Singh

    Most efficiently written account on operation bluestar with photos that pose a silence in them.

  22. Manpreet Singh

    Great article on 1984 and some stunning images of Harmander Sahib in Amritsar!

  23. Harbir Bamrah

    Absolutely Beautiful photos.

  24. Kirtan Singh

    Stunning Photographs of Sri Darbar Sahib…nd account of ‘What exactly happened in 1984’

  25. Harbu Sandhu

    Definitely worth sharing…

  26. Avtar Singh Banse

    A beautifully written summary of the events that led to 1984 and subsequent events reflecting the horrific impact on the Sikh diaspora as well as the nature of Indian politics and questions that have still to be adequately answered…worth spending a few minutes reading and viewing the stunning pictures of one of the wonders of the world…

  27. Harbhaksh Grewal

    Fabulous photographic blog on the Golden Temple on the 30 year anniversary of Operation Bluestar.

  28. Your writing about this harrowing and trajic period is very well done. I like your verse from Guru Granth Sahib.I visited a gurudwara in Punjab(cannot remeber the name),where it was written on a poster hanging on the wall that whoever attacked the Harmander Sahib (the 7attacks with all the dates mentioned), lived only for a period up to 53 days after the attack.

  29. A heart rending reminder of the evil politicians are capable of in their quest for political gain. My son Inderjit was eight at the time of the attack. As we watched on TV the BBC coverage of the attack he said with tears rolling down his cheeks,” why doesn’t someone kill this bitch!”. I burst into tears too, hugged him and said,” don’t worry, someone will!”. This is something that I will never forgive Indira or the Congress. Thank yOu Amardeep. This has to be a reminder for all people of religion that there are the enemies of God are ever present.

  30. Parminder kaur

    beautiful photography of a divine place! Dithey sabey thaan Nani tudh jeiha!

  31. mrignain kaur

    very nice photos of darbar sahib u have captured them in a majestic way .memories of those days r still fresh in our minds

  32. Daljit Singh Sethi

    It is a well known fact that everyone who tried to desecrate Harimandar Saheb met a similar fate. Time is witness to the demise of the entire Gandhi dynasty. The saheeds shall be remembered forever.

  33. Baljinder Singh Bajaj

    Excellent variety of photographs. Lovely write up. Great job!

  34. Harawant Singh

    I remember then when we, in Singapore, had the racial issues (Chinese – Malay riots) in 1960s. The Singapore government was newly formed then, but they did not shed their responsibilities. They stopped the hate.

    After the Golden Temple raid by the Indian army, the Singapore government too acted very fast preventing the problem boiling over.

    That’s the main difference. The government. And I am glad I made the choice to elect them again and again.

    Needless to say, the photography is excellent.

  35. Jodhbir Singh Sandhu

    Excellant photos !
    A devastating period for us but as always we rise stronger from the ashes , more tempered to withstand such brutality .
    REVENGE is part of human psyche but FORGIVENESS by the act of sharing & caring is a bigger vertue we the SIKHS poessess !
    Waheguruji da Khalsa teh Waheguruji de FATEH !!

  36. Antion Vikram Singh Meredith

    Indeed, let us not forget 1984. This is an concise summary of those tragic events with some amazing pics of an incredible place. As someone noted in the comments, there is no lens that can capture the energy and grandeur of the Harimandir Sahib. Yet Amardeep’s photos have come as close as any I have ever seen.

  37. kishore kumar biswas

    All words are to keep silence in front of this feature. It depicts exquisitely the sublime magnificence of a sacred place , a place where the essence of humanity resides. This feature also speaks how politics shamelessly can go against the golden heritage of a country.The disease of present era is that it let the politics play with religion.
    The pride of political ego went to ashes . The Golden heritage , the sacred flame is still burning to enlighten the human soul there .Evil can never destroy a Sacred existence.
    Thanks to Amardeep for sharing this to us.

  38. Niram Singh

    awesome pics

  39. Himadri Banerjee, University of Kolkata

    Your photography reaches the height that I am not able to reach. But I feel that these wonderful photographs communiacte the message of deep compassion for others and for which Sikhism stands to many of us. I congratulate you for you are having such poetic eyes to appreciate the inner vision of Sikhism
    Yes, you are always a Sikh of the Gurus.I look forward to many more wonderful photographies on the Sikhs and Sikhism.

  40. Arjinder Singh

    Your pics speak. Par Excellence.

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