Thirty-two years after Operation Blue Star was carried out by the Indian military, the operation that led to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, all is not forgotten between the Sikhs and the Indian National Congress. Here is what you should know about Operation Blue Star that impacted the socio-political nature of our country.
What is Operation Blue Star?
Operation Blue Star was a military operation carried by the Indian army on the orders of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. It was launched in the premises of Harmandir Sahib or the Golden Temple complex, as it is commonly referred to, in Amritsar to eliminate Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, dubbed a Sikh ‘extremist.’
Bhindranwale had taken refuge at the temple since 1980. In order to capture him and to gain ‘control’ over the Sikh temple, the Congress matriarch is said to have ordered the military action.
Why was it ordered?
Tracing the roots of Operation Blue Star will lead one to the Khalistan Movement. The political movement led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale is said to have begun in 1970s. Bhindranwale firmly believed in an independent state, ‘Khalistan’ for the Sikhs.
The movement gained momentum when Bhindranwale not only started professing the original values of Sikhism but was also able to strike a chord with the Sikh youth in Punjab. In the early 1980s, the proponents of the Khalistan movement, along with Bhindranwale occupied the Akal Takht complex, which incidentally includes the Golden Temple.
When and where did the events unfold?
Operation Blue Star was divided into two parts. Operation Metal, which was the initial part was limited to the Golden Temple complex. While Operation Metal started on June 1st with the CRPF and BSF entering the complex and killing around 8-10 people, the Army gained control of the Harmandir Sahib on June 7th, and the Operation eventually came to an end on June 10th.
But this was followed by Operation Shop, which created an uproar in the state with the military raiding the Punjab countryside in the name of capturing suspects. This was followed by another military action titled Operation Woodrose where tanks, artillery, helicopters, armored vehicles and tear gas was used by the Indian Army throughout Punjab, in order to catch the remaining suspects.
How did the Operation impact socio-politics of the country?
According to a government report, 493 civilians were killed due to the Operation, and around 136 military personnel also lost their lives. Once Operation Blue Star ended, 4000 Sikh soldiers across India staged protests, thus leading to a rebellion against the Central government.
The most significant impact from the operation was the assassination of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her own bodyguards - Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, four months after the incident, on 31st October 1984. Her assassination triggered anti-Sikh riots, with mobs including members of the Congress party participating in the attacks. More than 3,000 Sikhs were reportedly killed across the country.