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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Flashbacks: Golden Temple attack
Apar Singh BajwarKartar KaurGiani Joginder Singh VedantiTarlochan SinghKanwarpal SinghGurmej SinghBhupinder SinghGurjit Kaur

Bhupinder Singh

On the morning of 7 June, 1984, Bhupinder Singh, a senior functionary of the right wing separatist organization, Sikh Students Federation, was faced with a choice between martyrdom and life.

He chose life.

At one stage we thought we might be shot dead but a good officer intervened and saved us

"We were holed up in our positions when the army tanks entered the precincts of the Golden Temple.

"Early morning a messenger from [militant leader] Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale came and said that we could either seek martyrdom by his side or then find our own escape.

"It had been a night of ceaseless exchange of fire from both sides. Canons fired at the temple raising dust, fire, confusion and fear.

"By the midnight of 6 June it became clear that the army commandos would not be able to bring the situation under control.

"We then knew that military tanks would enter to bolster the offensive.

"We also then knew that nothing would now stop the army.

"But when I escaped into the adjoining bazaar, I was immediately arrested and subjected to abuse and manhandling.

"'These bloody dogs', they said, 'kill them'. The army was herding together all suspects and at one stage we thought we might be shot dead but a good officer intervened and saved us."

No trial

Bhupinder Singh spent the next five years in jail in Jodhpur (in the western state of Rajasthan), detained on charges of sedition and waging war against the Indian state.

Censors examine a Punjab newspaper (Photo courtesy The Tribune)
Censors examine a Punjab newspaper (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

He was frequently interrogated by intelligence agencies. But his case, like those of many others arrested by the army after Operation Bluestar, never ever came to trial.

He was released under the terms of a peace accord signed between the Sikh leadership and the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Bhupinder Singh, whose family had given him up for dead in the immediate aftermath of Operation Bluestar, found himself back home.

"My family had not wanted me to go headlong into the movement. But I was young then, unmarried and nurtured a strong sense of anger against the state for the injustices meted out to the Sikhs.

"I felt that we had been discriminated against."

On his release from jail he found that the movement he had left behind was no longer principled but a rag-tag of internecine quarrels and vested interests.

So Bhupinder Singh is a different man today.

"I am married, have two children, run a business and am no longer interested in politics."

Would he allow his son to join such a movement if it were to resurface?

"My son can make his own choices," he says.




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