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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Flashbacks: Golden Temple attack
Apar Singh BajwarKartar KaurGiani Joginder Singh VedantiTarlochan SinghKanwarpal SinghGurmej SinghBhupinder SinghGurjit Kaur

Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti

Sikhism's senior most cleric - the revered head priest of the Akal Takht - Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti has very painful memories of the first few days of June 1984.

For the soldiers everybody was an enemy, and all those who came in their way were mercilessly shot dead

"It was a frightful scene ... cannons and bombs were used inside the holy Golden Temple Complex, bullets fell like torrents of rain.

"Nobody could possibly have imagined that it would come to this.

"It is not just me but thousands of devoted Sikhs suffered deep emotional scars and these continue to bleed till this day.

"My heart cries when each year, we gather to honour the martyrdom of the hundreds of children, women and men who were brutally murdered by the Indian Army soldiers.

"I was inside the Temple complex right through the mindless massacre. Heavily armed soldiers were position all around and there was constant firing.

"Then late on 5 June evening, they entered with their tanks which targeted the Akal Takht (the centre of Sikh authority).

"Common devotees, employees of the Golden Temple management and the terrorists were treated in the same manner.

"For the soldiers everybody was an enemy and all those who came in their way were mercilessly shot dead.

Troops inside the Golden Temple complex
Troops inside the Golden Temple complex (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

"They broke open doors and killed devotees who were trying to save themselves by hiding in rooms along the periphery of the Temple complex.

"Towards morning there was a short lull in firing followed by loud cries of 'Bole So Nihaal Sat Sri Akal!' (the traditional Sikh battle cry) and then the final, fierce exchange of gunfire.

After that there was silence and army soldiers out everywhere.

"I guessed that [militant leader] Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had been killed.

"When the sun came up, from where I was, I could count just 35 survivors. Everyone else appeared to have perished.

"The events deeply affected me. But what I felt at the time was both indescribable and unbearable. It was the kind of feeling that only a devout Sikh can experience.

"They killed innocent people.

"It is exactly two decades since Operation Bluestar, but the hurt from the event is such that it cannot be forgotten. I believe that it must never be forgotten.

"It is most tragic that it was our own government and not a foreign invader that unleashed this tyranny upon the Sikh people.

"It is even more unfortunate that not a single political party or government has yet thought it prudent to apologise for something that was surely a grave error.

"There has still not been any word condemning Operation Bluestar in our nation's Parliament."

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