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Kanwarpal Singh Bittu, spokesman for Sikh group
"We felt it was our duty to clear the myth [of Bhindranwale's death]"
 real 28k

KPS Gill, former Director General of Punjab Police
"They want to create a platform to get into the Punjab assembly"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 6 June, 2001, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Hardline Sikhs mourn militant hero
Sikh devotees at the Golden Temple, Amritsar
The Sikh community is divided over the issue
By Susannah Price in Delhi

Hundreds of Sikh hardliners have attended a prayer ceremony in the Indian city of Amritsar for the militant leader, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, on the 17th anniversary of his death.

Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale
Bhindranwale was killed in a shoot-out with the Indian army
Bhindranwale was killed when the Indian army stormed Amritsar's Golden Temple, attempting to flush out the armed militants sheltering there.

The hardline organisers said they have now carried out the last rites for Bhindranwale so they could formally declare him a martyr.

But observers believe the Sikh groups involved may want to revitalise their political movement, using Bhindranwale's memory to demand a separate state for the Sikhs.

Community split

Large numbers of plainclothes policemen, along with two magistrates, were deployed at the temple by the local administration for the ceremony.

The Golden Temple
The Golden Temple is the Sikhs' holiest shrine
Those attending the prayers were not allowed inside the most important building in the complex, the Akal Takht, and remained nearby.

They called for Bhindranwale's ideas, which focused on a separate Sikh homeland, to be taken forward.

But the decision to hold the last rites has split the Sikh community because Sikh moderates who are members of the seminary which Bhindranwale headed maintain he is still alive.

The head priest at the Golden Temple did not attend the last rites ceremony.

Earlier, the main Sikh bodies carried out their annual prayers in memory of all those who died during the army's 1984 attack - known as operation Blue Star.

For now, the moderates have achieved their most important objective of avoiding trouble with the hardliners - but there may well be further confrontations ahead.

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See also:

06 Jun 00 | South Asia
Operation Bluestar remembered
29 Mar 00 | South Asia
Sikh head priest sacked
15 Apr 99 | South Asia
Who are the Sikhs?
14 Apr 99 | South Asia
The Sikh Khalsa: Community of the Pure
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