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1984: Troops raid Golden Temple in Amritsar

VIDEO : Images of defiant Sikh militants

Nearly 300 people have been killed as Indian troops stormed the Golden Temple in Amritsar, held by Sikh militants.

The army's attack was resisted with heavy firepower, and weapons captured included machine guns, anti-tank missiles and rocket launchers.

Reports say 250 dissidents and 48 Indian troops died in the battle, which has raged for two days. Up to 450 Sikhs were captured.

The storming of the temple, or Operation Bluestar, followed weeks of growing tension between the government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Sikhs in the northern state of Punjab, who believe they are being discriminated against by the Hindu majority.

Gandhi first moved forces in to surround the temple in early March, after a long occupation by Sikh extremists led by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

The religious risks of storming the shrine led to a tense stand-off and it appears security forces were hoping the militants would surrender, making a direct attack unnecessary.

In April the government agreed to amend the constitution to enshrine the independence of the Sikh religion.

But while the move was welcomed by the moderate Sikh party Akali Dal, the radical elements in control of the temple were unimpressed.

Speculation of an attack on the Sikh shrine increased following the government's decision on 3 June to impose a 36-hour curfew across Punjab.

Forces have now cleared the outer buildings of the complex but a group of heavily-armed Sikhs - including Bhindranwale - are believed to remain in hiding in the basement of a second building, close to the Golden Temple.

The government said at midnight that all active resistance had stopped, adding that the army's next task would be to "eliminate completely terrorists from the state".

In Context
Sikh leader Bhindranwale was found dead in the temple complex.

By 12 June it was reported that more than 1,000 people had died - 800 militants and 200 troops.

Government ministers later admitted they had underestimated the strength of Sikh feeling about the attack.

Prime Minister Gandhi said: "The necessity now is to heal the wounds inflicted on the hearts of the people."

But the storming of the Sikhs' holiest religious shrine started a chain of events and retaliations which led eventually to the prime minister herself being assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards, on 31 October.


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