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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 June, 2004, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
Golden Temple attack - your memories
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, centre, with supporters
Militant Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale (centre) with supporters (Photo: Indian Express)
This week sees the 20th anniversary of one of the most momentous events in modern Indian history - the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest shrine of the Sikh religion, by the Indian army.

Operation Bluestar achieved its aims - the militant Sikh separatists sheltering in the temple complex were flushed out.

But the human and political damage was immense.

Later that year Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was to pay with her life when her Sikh bodyguards assassinated her.

That in turn triggered a wave of anti-Sikh rioting that left nearly 3,000 Sikhs dead.

Congress party figures were accused of openly urging Hindu rioters to kill Sikhs.

Now the movement for an independent Khalistan is, for most Sikhs, a thing of the past.

The Akal Takhat building after Operation Bluestar (Photo: Indian Express)
The Akal Takhat building after Operation Bluestar - it was later demolished and rebuilt (Photo: Indian Express)

And Indira Gandhi's daughter-in-law, Sonia, has turned down the chance of being prime minister, offering the post to a Sikh, Manmohan Singh.

To mark the 20th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, BBC News Online has been talking to a range of people in Amritsar at the time.

Here is a selection of your memories and views.

Everyone is talking aout killing of Sikhs during that period. Did anyone knew how many Hindu Punjabis were killed by Sikh Militants in the name of Khalistan? Why isn't anyone concerned? I am a Punjabi, I love my Punjab. I was born there and it is my homeland. We had a big house in Ludhiana which we had to sell during that period when our own Sikh neighbours told us to leave Punjab or else we will be killed. Is anyone concerned about that? I might never go to Punjab again but I still have memories of Punjab inside me. This does not make me bitter against Sikhs. I feel its time to forget and forgive.
Sonu, Uk

The Golden temple operation is history. Do not rake up the feelings of different sections of Indian people, it does not benefit anyone. The BBC should mind its own business and not try to rake up the delicate fabric of Indian society. Do not try to pit the sentiments of the Sikhs against the nation. The Sikhs of India are as much Indian as the Hindus,Muslims,Parsis,Bahais, Christians, Buddhists of India. India is a unique country of many people of different religions and languages. She has withstood the test of time and emerged unscathed. Let her be!
Uma Parvathy, Singapore

1984 should not be forgotten no matter what. It's something the Indian government planned years earlier and then attacked the Harimandir Sahib. I disagree with Mr. Mysore it is not a wound that has been healed. Not all Sikhs feel that way.
Prabhjot Sinmgh, CA,USA

I was a 13 year old in Kerala at the time. Operation Bluestar was the first time I came to know that Sikhism was a separate religion like Christianity. Looking back to the incident, I feel so ashamed of the action by the army and Bhindranwale. Bhindranwale should not have used the Golden Temple as the venue for propaganda. The Army did not have to use the kind of Force, had the Punjab Police acted earlier. But whatever happened is past. The bright side is that the golden temple's fame has doubled after the incident. Lot of people are aware of the Sikh Faith. But the worst act of the era was the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and Other areas after Indira Gandhi's assasination. Progressive governments have not charged anyone who was involved in the riots. I am proud of my home state Kerala where not even a single such incident took place.
Ajit Kurian, Michigan, USA

I think it is useless now raking up the issue, you could do a lot better if you asked viewers comments about the atrocities committed by the thugs holed up inside the temple...
Ajeyendra Singh, India

I visited the Golden Temple a week before Bluestar and my memories of it are that it was more like a fortress than a temple in contrast to the other 6 times I have been fortunate to visit. Personally I lay the blame of what happened at the feet of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala who chose this holy place as a cover for his terrorist activities. Anyone who knows their Sikh history will know that the Sikhs have faced some `real` challenges in the past but not a single Guru or any other Sikh ruler for that matter took their fight to the Golden Temple. I pray that nothing like the events of 20 years ago will ever mark this shrine again.
Pardeep Dhami, Hanworth Uk

I don't know what the BBC wants to stir up by publishing provoking stories such as these. Sikhs are a very integral part of Indian population. We are proud to have a sikh heading the great country in the capacity of Prime Minister. I think if BBC is running out of provocative material, it should dig into the misadventures of the British regime while they colonised India. Massacres like Jallianwala would make "juicy" stories and keep visitors returning to its site.
Rajiv Saddy, Charlotte NC USA

I was 13 years old at that time in the United States and remember the rallying of Sikhs in America to help in any way possible. I recall my parents crying like children, demonstrating in front of the United Nations and Indian Consulate in NYC. I remember seeing limited news stories on what was happening and the massacre of Sikhs in Nov 1984, when all of India turned their backs on the Sikhs. I remember my Sikh friends joining the cause in Washington DC to make the world aware of the human rights violations in Punjab and TADA act. I remember the forming of Khalistan organizations and meeting leaders of the movement. It is most horrific period in India's modern time that unfortunately the world really is not aware of. It was a period that was responsible for changing the perception of Sikhs. Before this time people would make sure they sat their families next to Sikhs on the trains and buses of India for safety. After this period they sat as far away from them as possible and questioned if they were terrorists. The people who are to blame are still living free and even being elected to political offices in India. Does India really care about the Sikhs? 1984 should not be forgotten, it should be an event to learn from.
Satinder Sadhar, NJ, USA

All the comments that I read are generally about the agony of the families who lost their kin and about the mindless killing by Indian Army. Although the loss of life is regrettable, but nobody seems to care to know the other side of the story. Bhindranwale was about to declare a sovereign Khalistan state at the time of the operation. There were reports that Pakistan army would have supported him and crossed border into Punjab to avenge the Bangladesh episode of 1971. The allegience of Punjab police cadres was in doubt. Had the declaration of Khalistan happened, Indian army would have been seen suppressing the ordinary citizens. Frankly speaking I cannot imagine any country which would have allowed that to happen. India is a more benign country that sends army to trouble hit areas only after water has crossed nose. Imagine the same circumstances had repro'ed in ANY other country of the world and the operation Blue Star would have happened much earlier. Just my 2 cents.
bc, Chicago, Us

All the comments are good, informative. It was necessary to cleanse Punjab of those people at any cost. Human lives are more important than any temple or mosque. The militants there were clearing off all the hindus in the state. If there were Hindu terrorists taking refuge in a temple, I would to that matter order to enter the temple and destroy them. It was a bad time, steps had to be taken, I have Sikh brothers now. What's the point of this article? You are not doing any good by posting this thing.
Vikas, Hyderabad

I was about a year old when this happened and I remember nothing about it. BUT the wounds that I got when I heard the stories by my father and relative and what happened during the riots of 1984, Sikhs were burnt alive , and killed brutally and the part that government played in killing of the Sikhs, people who were responsible for the whole tragedy, are still living a happy life under the wings of some politicians, need to be punished, nothing will ever make me forgive those who attacked and but I will be happy when those who responsible get brought to justice
Pritpal SIngh, USA

The events of 1984 are etched on my memory forever. I was a young teenager then living near Delhi. Repeated assurances were given by Government on radio and TV that the Golden Temple will not be invaded. Draconian laws were put in place and total clampdown was enforced on any information coming out of Punjab. Sikhs were forced to speak on TV that everything is OK. We could sense something was not right. Then BBC gave more information. Folk singers smuggled cassettes describing the events in traditional songs. We were saddened and enraged beyond Indian people's comprehension. Rest is History.
Arv Singh, USA

I am Sikh and if the temple is really holy it should not have been used by Sikhs to hide there with guns. They betrayed the rest of us. Indian nationalism should come before religion.
Babs, phoenix

Few would argue against the view that Operation BlueStar was inevitable given the circumstances at the time. The tragedy lies in its timing and the manner in which it was executed. Even as a pure military operation it was horribly planned and incompetently concieved; with hundreds - if not thousands - of unnecessary deaths.
IP, Us

I left India after the 1984 riots. These Hindu troops were way out of control and never differentiated between civilians and militants.
Marpreet, USA

I have felt sad that my holy place was destroyed by the Indian army. I was feeling very mad and angry which I felt like taking revenge. I felt very bad because the walls were broken and the floors and many of my people were dead. Even though that happened I helped the Golden Temple be repaired. It was hard but I never gave up. I felt many things when i heard when Amritsar was attacked by the Indian army. This was my favorite place where i came every week and month to visit.
Harbhajan Singh, USA

Yes I was there. It was a shameful act by the government and very cruel to enter the Golden Temple. However now, with Mr Singh in the PM post, I do hope that people who have been wounded in the past, do feel slightly better, cause as far as I recall (I was 10 years old then), the Sikh community did feel very upset and hurt over the matter. Hope peace prevails,
Rajeev Sharma, India

I was a very junior doctor in Calcutta at the time. There was sadness in Calcutta. Indians - Sikhs or otherwise - respect the Golden Temple. We knew the Golden Temple was being used by militants and that had to end. However, we hated the thought of bloodshed within the temple. Everyone blamed the politicians who had initially supported the extremist movement and allowed it to flourish in order to fulfil their own narrow political interests, until matters got out of control.
Somnath Mukhopadhyay, Dundee, Scotland

I was in their at the time, it was really devastating, luckily i was not in the temple itself. Most people were sleeping at the time, but when we heard troops marching and coming on their trucks, we thought another war with Pakistan was about to start. Sadly, it was a different case. Young children and old people were butchered in the streets. Gun shooting went on for a while... I was only 14 at the time, luckily we locked our home up, but next day, it was blood everywhere on the streets. My pride of being Indian was destroyed, at least Pakistan were sympathetic to us at the time, we were outcasts and considered a disaease because of our beliefs. The Congress party paid the price, their leader died. But it was no-one's victory. The only taste was the biterness of defeat.
Rehmat S ingh, U.K.

I remember the operation Bluestar as an 8 year old. I lived with my parents in India, but as a British National I had to visit the UK every couple of years to renew my student visa. One of these visits just so happened to co-incide with the operation Bluestar. I wasn't allowed to go back to my parents in Punjab. so my one month visit to the UK ended up being a 6 month stay. I remember being told that it's better than being in India, but as an 8 year old I just wanted to be with my parents. I remember talks of my parents who were Hindus being threatened to leave Punjab prior to the actual Bluestar operation, but the sense of community was great and they really found out who their true friends were. Glad all that is over and Punjab has once again returned to it's more peaceful and friendly state.
Neeraj Malhotra, England

I was only seven years old, but I remember the news pictures of the operation. We only had a black-and-white TV at that time, but the Golden Temple still shone through. I think there were also hostages held in the temple. Images from the aftermath of the Mrs Gandhi's assasination are more crisp in my mind, I remember going over to our relatives' home, who had a new color TV. That year marked the end of the "Punjab Violance" ... and images of frolicking farmers in bright clothes and the lush farms of Punjab were restored again. Unfortunately shortly afterwards, the Kashmir situation came to the front; we began to hear less and less of people going to Kashmir and their stories. A lot has changed but when will the violence in the subcontinent end? - Neeraj
Neeraj Pendse, USA/ India

I remember while posted in Delhi, hearing news of the operation on the radio. You just got the feeling, this is not going to go away quietly. No one in India slept peacefully that night, it seemed the cure may have been worse than the disease; Indira Gandhi paid the price for it.
Kirk Hudson, Canada

Some memories need to be forgotten for the good of the society and country at large. Media should not let the people know about these events and celebrate the anniversary of these events with the blood of people. The media can spread both peace and grace, the BBC should choose one of these.
Rajiv Kanabar, Mumbai, India

It was worst all over india, 3000 sikhs were burned alive, their sisters were raped in front of everyone... what happened to Sikhs in India was shameful
Rashminder Singh, Australia

After nearly two decades, the wounds are still fresh for those who lost nearly all or lost someone. For my family we lost 19 members of our family in Delhi during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Though the official death toll is at 3000, many Sikhs believe the toll is much much higher. I happy to see a sikh PM in India now who will hopefully finnaly bring someone to justice for the anti-sikh riots because to this day, no one has paid the price of justice for the repulsive human rights violations of 1984.
Manbir Singh Banwait, Kitimat Canada

As a 5-year old then, I enjoyed the tracer bullets at night, the sound of gunfire, my school closing because of kidnapping threats and the curfews. As an adult now, I regret that the loving people of Punjab had to put up with the atrocities of Bindranwale.
Vijay Mariadassou, USA

I was not there but we Sikhs in Malaysia were targeted as well by the local Tamil (Hindu) community. There were a few incidents of Tamil thugs bashing up some Sikh families and even some whom they thought were Sikhs. I myself got a threatening call. Apparently, some Hindu's had offered cash rewards for every turban that anyone brought forward.
Jaswant Singh Bhatt, Malaysia

That events mentioned here is history. I don't know why it is being brought up again to stir the memory and emotions of people especially that of younger generations who were not affected by it. Is there not enough violence in the world already.
Annie, Us

I was born in 1985, but was taught about 1984 during my upbringing. 3 members of my dad's family were martyred during 1984. One was my dad's sister, who slit her own throat so she wouldn't be degraded by Indian police officers. One was my Dad's brother in-law who was talking milk to Harmindar Sahib (golden temple) as he did every day. He never returned. He must have been caught in the cross-fire or killed by the Indian troops as they were given orders to kill anyone on sight. 3rd is my dad's sister-in-law. She was in Delhi November 1984 at a wedding ceremony. They heard the situation was bad in Delhi and Sikhs were being killed by Hindu mobs on hearing the death of Indira Gandhi, and so her and some of her friends were leaving Delhi for Punjab. We don't know what happened next. We do know for a fact, the Delhi riots were given the ok by the Indian government as police officers in large numbers were in the streets of Delhi and were seen to have done nothing to stop the Sikhs from getting brutally massacred....
TSC, Great Britain

This topic you have raised is none of your business. You are trying to put salt on a wound which has already healed. Stop this nonsense...
Subramanya Mysore, USA

The attack on the Golden Temple and the follow up but less reported Operation Woodrose (the killing of Sikh youth in the countryside of Punjab) was one of the worst crimes against hummanity in modern India. My uncle was in Amritsar during Bluestar and he saw the tanks and heard the bombardment of the Temple by the Indian army. Many Sikhs who were outraged by the attack were killed by the army when they ried to march to the Golden Temple. Only one journalist escaped being thrown out of the Punjab (Brahma Chellaney of Associated Press)and he reported in The Times that Sikh civilians had their hands tied with there turbans and shot. Most of the killing of civilians and the burning of the Sikh reference library by the army took place after the Temple was in the army control.
Davinder Singh, UK

Chris Morris report from 1984
"Bhindranwale sees himself as the Khomeni of the Sikhs"


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