The audacity of incompetence

The first of this three-part series concluded yesterday, saying the rise of Bhindranwale and his death with Operation Blue Star was a phase of madness. Now, an argument for why we must never forget it.

Written by Shekhar Gupta | Published:June 4, 2014 12:31 am

 

There were Vijayantas to the left of the sarovar, firing from just a couple of hundred yards. There were Vijayantas to the left of the sarovar, firing from just a couple of hundred yards.

Nobody can reconstruct the 72 hours of Operation Blue Star in 3,000 words. Or even in 30,000. Books have been written about it by the finest reporters, notably the BBC’s Mark Tully (Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi’s Last Battle, co-authored with Satish Jacob). Mark was the unofficial but undisputed dean of the reporters’ corps for two generations, and please do read this book for diligence and detail. Books have been written by the generals who led the assault. I’d pick my dear friend Lieutenant General K.S. “Bulbul” Brar’s Operation Blue Star: The True Story (UBS, 1993) for the army’s side of the story, told as honestly as possible for a partisan, albeit an exceptionally honourable one. There was also a recent series of TV documentaries put together and anchored by my old comrade and friend, Kanwar Sandhu, currently executive editor of The Tribune. Check it out for its brilliance, depth and honesty. Even I contributed my bit in some detail, with a 27-page chapter, “Blo­od, Sweat and Tears”, in The Punjab Story, published by Roli in 1984. There is no real mystery about the operation, how it started and ended. But there are others that endured for decades, and some are still unresolved. Let me talk about some of those.

One, in fact, was resolved just last year, in the memoir (From Fatigues to Civvies: Memoirs of a Paratrooper, Manohar, 2013) written by Lieutenant General V.K. “Tubby” Nayar, whom I first met when he commanded the 8 Mountain Division at Zakhama in Nagaland, and who later honoured me by inviting me to speak at the release of his book. He was the deputy director general of military operations in 1984 and reveals, in his memoir, how the codename Bl­ue Star was chosen. Contrary to specul­a­t­ion over the years, it had nothing to do with the way traditional or devout Sikhs dress, or their colour preferences. Tubby sa­ys he was driving home, exhausted after a long day in the ops room, a codename yet to be found, and the signboard of a refrigeration shop caught his eye. It was selling Blue Star, a prominent fridge/ AC brand. Let’s go with it, he decided. We still don’t kn­­ow where the names of two other rela­t­ed operations  —  Op Woodrose to sweep the rest of the state clear of militants and ma­­­­intain order and Op Metal to specifica­lly catch or kill Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and members of his inner core team —  came from.

The greatest mystery of these 30 years, however, is how and why, with such elaborate planning, the army brass miscalculated on Blue Star so horribly. It is tempting to say they were arrogant and underestimated the task, but that would be unfair. More than 70,000 troops had been called to Punjab, tanks, APCs and all. Vijayanta tanks had been lined up along the final approaches of the Golden Temple much before the first shots were exchanged between the army and the militants. The media was cleared out even before the militants, all telephone lines cut and the state put under not curfew but martial law for the first and hopefully last time in our history. There was no underestimation of the task but I dare say now that there was a touching belief that the militants wouldn’t fight, and if they did, their resolve would be broken in a couple of hours. All the bandobast, therefore, was to stun them with a display of firepower, a strategy of shock and awe, decades before it was given that name in Iraq by George Bush junior. Each of the generals involved, Brar, Western Army Command chief of staff Lieutenant General Ranjit Singh Dyal, Army Commander K. Sundarji and his chief, General Arun Shridhar Vaidya (later assassinated by revenge-seeking Sikh gunmen while driving his Maruti 800 after retiring in Pune), later admitted to this miscalculation to some extent. There was a firm belief that Bhindranwale would not fight, he would surrender or try to escape.

Just how serious this misreading was, I first learnt from a senior Intelligence Bureau officer who spoke to me in some horror after spending the first few hours with army commanders. He said he tried to tell them that Bhindranwale and his people would fight to the finish, but was not merely overruled but mocked. In fact, one of the generals pointed at some of his black-dungareed commandos, who were getting kitted out and briefed, and said, “Have you seen these bhoots (devils) of mine? The terrorists have to merely see them and they will surrender with their tails between their legs.” My IB friend, a wonderful professional and a patriot, retreated from the argument sort of fatalistically.

The first assault by the commandos ran into trouble. One set of audacious generals had overlooked the fact that they weren’t up against some armed rabble but a small army of faithfuls led by someone just like them. In fact, a fellow general as bright, if not brighter, than all of them. Former Major General Shabeg Singh had served with each one of those serving, he had received his fame organising and training the Mukti Bahini during the Bangladesh war and was a master of guerilla warfare. He earned infamy later as he was accused of irregularities and dismissed a day before retirement. But as most human beings do, he never believed he was guilty but was  victimised because of what else but his religion. He had found spiritual succour and a new soldierly cause with Bhindranwale, although now in what he saw as the service of his faith, not his republic. Just how good was he? I won’t go by hearsay, though even that makes him sound superhuman. Wading through the rubble at the Akal Takht a couple of days after the fighting, we found a copy of a book, a thin memoir written by a Pakistani brigadier who was taken PoW in Bangla­desh. It had been presented by an officer of the BSF’s intelligence branch, who had “sourced” it from across the border. It had a warm and respectful note to Shabeg Singh from his BSF fan, saying how happy he was to see high praise for the (now rebel) general from the Pakistani brigadier and what a privilege it was to present the book to him. Since it was being thrown in the rubble, I picked it up and kept it.

In any case, the defence of the Golden Temple was not so much about high strategy or even old-fashioned guerilla warfare. It was more like a battalion-level tactical defence of a built-up complex of buildings. They provided alleys, parapets, machine-gun emplacements, tunnels, towers and lots of ancient marble walls more impregnable than modern armour. Most importantly, it had a bunch of manholes. So important, because it was inside them that he placed his LMGs, which sprayed murderous grazing fire at assault troops while guns positioned higher up rained sweeping fire. Together, they fully covered the small, open courtyard, maybe half the size of a football field, where the attackers had to expose themselves to reach the Akal Takht. This was his designated killing ground, as it would be defined in classic infantry defence manuals, specifically, in this case, following the principles of what acronym-loving armies called FIBUA (Fighting in Built-Up Areas). Manhole LMGs were so effective because they denied the attackers the basic defensive tactic of hitting the ground and crawling, because the bullets then got you in the bodies instead of merely the legs. A very large number of the jawans, therefore, were injured in the legs. Please look at the picture of a row of beds from a military hospital treating the injured after Blue Star.

Shabeg wasn’t foolhardy enough to think he would win. His tactic was to optimise his resources, snipers behind any hiding place, every room along the parikrama infested by a gunman or two so any probing patrols would be cut down, others sprinting up and down the staircases linking just the two floors of the buildings and their parapets. His idea was to inflict as many casualties as possible and thereby delay the inevitable so that Bhindranwale’s supporters in the villages had enough time to organise mobs to converge on Amritsar and make further army operations impossible, unless Indira Gandhi was willing to inflict scores of Jallianwala Baghs in Punjab. It was a good approach that succeeded tactically. The commandos did not get very far, took several casualties and also underlined the generals’ unthinking impatience in launching them in black dungarees on white marble as it gleamed in bright moonlight. A more conventional infantry charge, by the troops of 10 Guards, a regiment genetically designed by none else than god for the assault role, was stopped as well as it spilled in from the main entrance. This was the first time the generals were made to wonder if they had miscalculated. More assault troops, launched from other directions, were similarly pinned down. Typical of the Indian doctrine in such situations, the army followed the approach of incremental escalation, and not with the best results. One infantry unit after another was thrown in, but casualties only mounted. Then an approach was tried through an APC, but again, sort of half-heartedly, in a wheeled old SKOT rather than a tracked Russian BMP with better armour and firepower. It was knocked out by a militant RPG-7 rocket launcher, and there was much recrimination on this later.

Did intelligence warn the army of the presence of such a weapon? Or were the generals being too arrogant (incompetent?) in not anticipating this? That night, as I sat on a high terrace that did not have a view of the battleground but helped you underst­and the story with flashes, fires and explosions, I recorded the night’s noises on a tiny tape-recorder, as also some of the police and ar­my wireless conversations on a radio with the FM band (FM radio had not arrived in India yet and security forces used some of the same frequencies on which we now hear music). These conversations got more frantic as the night ended. There were nearly 3,000 infantry troops pinned down, hundreds wounded, more than a hundred bodies. This time of the year, the sun comes out really ea­r­ly, and every soldier still alive — all the th­o­usands of them — would be a sitting target for snipers. As often happens in such situations, the battlefield, the “terrain” was the best force-multiplier for the defender. He could hide and fire, whereas the attackers had to expose themselves. This was unacce­p­table, so further escalation became inevitable.

For greater detail, I would again, shamelessly, refer you to my “Blo­od, Sweat and Tears” chapter in The Pu­n­jab Story. But even 30 years later, I can see nothing less, regrettably, than a story of inc­r­edible military courage and yet, incompet­ence. No soldier flinched, even when faced wi­th an impossible task. And the generals, who had misread and miscalculated, played on incrementally, until the dawn threatened and artillery —  not heavy, but artillery neve­rtheless  —  was called out, along with Vija­yanta tanks that blazed with their main guns. The brutal destruction of the Akal Takht building was now launched in earnest. If Bhindranwale wouldn’t flee or surrender, or come out in a suicidal charge, he would be entombed there now. There were Vijayantas to the left of the sarovar (see sketch), firing from just a couple of hundred yards, and howitzers on top of facing buildings firing in direct mode. This was the equivalent of a sledgehammer where a psychological or, at worst, surgical strike had been anticipated. There was never any doubt who would win. But the cost, in lives, sentiment, political consequences and a legacy of anger and bitterness, had not been imagined. It is for this reason that I would call Operation Blue Star a bold, brave, audacious operation where soldiers did the profession of the arms proud, but both leaderships, political and military, showed gross incompetence.

But the generals of one side were not the only ones who had miscalculated. Bhindranwale too made similar, arrogantly delusional blunders. He had boasted that the Sikhs in the army wouldn’t fight him. Two of the three generals involved, Brar and Dyal, were Sikhs. The first army injury, Captain Jasbir Singh Raina of 10 Guards, was a Sikh too. Brar told me in a Walk the Talk interview on NDTV 24×7, days after the attack on him in London, that while addressing his troops before the assault, he had given the freedom to opt out to everybody, particularly Sikhs, if they had any hesitation. Nobody did. Raina, in fact, volunteered to go in first. If the generals showed an underestimation of the militants’ fervour and tactical dash, Bhindranwale —  and sadly Shabeg too — showed similar lack of appreciation of the ethos of their own country’s army.

Many militants and civilians died, but the army suffered gravely too. And brutally so. This morning, responding to the first in this series, I received a touching email from K. Ramkumar, the HR head of ICICI Bank, mentioning that his cousin was part of the “Thambis” of the hapless Madras Regiment battalion that suffered severely in the assaults. It was 26 Madras, and I had the privilege of being taken under their wing, even while the wounded were being tended to. They suffered heavy casualties and when one of their assault sections managed to enter the Akal Takht, the JCO leading it was overpowered, blinded and flung from the top of the building to the marble courtyard. But the cruellest, saddest and most unnecessary loss of life was that of battalion doctor Captain Rampal, more than 24 hours after the fighting was over. He was walking around, looking for the wounded from any side to tend to, when a group of terrorists hiding in one of the basements dragged him in, demanded that none else than the head priest of the Temple be sent down to negotiate with them and when that wasn’t done, the doctor was tortured to death, his body dismembered. The officers of the battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel Panikkar, took me to their mess one evening and fed me a meal of sambhar and curd rice from their langar, which was such a blessing after a week of dry rations, and told more stories. One of these was of Lieutenant Ram Prakash Roperia of Jind, in Haryana, the baby of the battalion. His English was rather basic but like any self-respecting Haryanvi, he would speak in no other language. So everybody called him by a mockingly anglicised name: Robert Prince Ruparia. He fell to a sniper bullet on the afternoon of June 6 as he climbed down a rope ladder from the wide parikrama parapet, where several of his comrades lay flat to escape snipers. In the 46-degree sun for all of the day, they were dying of thirst and heat stroke and young Robert Prince, a baby but an officer to the core, volunteered to go down and bring water. A sniper in the Temple shot him in the neck. Roperia died three days later.

It was while talking about his sacrifice at the sambhar dinner at 26 Madras that night that I got my finest lesson ever in leadership and a line I have used often since then, even in my farewell note to my colleagues at The Indian Express this Monday: there is a moral dimension to leadership. If there were so many soldiers lying flat on that parapet, why did the youngest, and an officer, have to expose himself to bring water. “Because,” said Panikkar, “there is a moral dimension to leadership.” If the officer is not in front, why would the troops follow him  to whatever consequences? Thank you, Lt Col Panikkar, wherever you are. You gave me a lesson no life coach or famous general ever could.

There were also many other mysteries and mythologies. What happened on the first night of fighting, for example in the sarais, from where several Akali leaders were rescued and many militants escaped, while a sudden flurry of grenades and the confusion that followed led to the death of a very large number of people, maybe a couple of hundreds, in the crossfire, many of them innocent devotees? It was later said that the army unit there, from 9 Kumaon Regiment, had lined up the Sikhs and shot them randomly. Frankly, I tried every source possible but could never confirm this. But that there were many deaths, most of them unnecessary, is undeniable. Many Sikh survivors, including some priests, back the deliberate massacre story. But my sources in the army always insist that this was just murderous confusion caused by the militants, some of whom hid in the pilgrims’ rooms in the sarais and cut down the soldiers who tried to clear them. The Kumaonis responded by presuming every room to be terrorist-occupied and fired, also resulting in innocent deaths. Thirty years later, I am still not willing to buy that deliberate massacre story, though so many survivors have repeated it. In so many decades of covering the army’s operations, I have found Indian soldiers to be mostly honourable and the officers, if anything, caring and cautious to the extent of being soft in such situations. I wasn’t in the sarais that night. But everybody knows that the Kumaonis’ company commander Major H.K. Palta was. I cannot say who killed whom and why, but among the lives lost, all Indian, was also Major Palta’s. His family now lives in Noida. If anything, the fiasco at the sarais completed, sadly, the story of those 72 hours.

Postscript: I have many nightmares from those three horrible days, involving the bodies of fellow Indians. One is of a truck parked at the kotwali on the morning of June 7, when curfew had been relaxed for a couple of hours. An awful stench rose from the truck and what looked like blood mixed with viscous bodily fluids dripped from its leaky frame. I joined the several policemen who grabbed its rear wall and raised themselves to take a look at what lay inside. There were scores, literally scores, of bodies and nobody could say who was a combatant and who a devotee. But so many dead, fellow Indians, rotting under the 46-degree sun. A DSP we all knew well lost his composure and started screaming abuses, both at the army and Bhindranwale for causing so much death. To the right of the truck, under the same sun, sat about 50 suspected militants with their limbs tied while soldiers kept watch over them behind an LMG on a tripod and an officer, a Sikh, interrogated them in public. There was nothing physical about it, just an angry volley of basic questions. Possibly it was sights like this that spread stories of Sikhs being lined up and shot by firing squads.

The second was a convoy of three army trucks, weaving its way through the narrow, old-city lane called Braham Buta Akhara connecting the Temple complex. Once again, I raised myself to the back of one and found three rows of stretchers on either side, with bodies of soldiers. The one on top to the right, a boy from Garhwal Regiment, no more than 19 or 20 possibly, still had beads of perspiration on his nose. He must have just died.

Both nightmares involve my dead countrymen. Neither will ever go away.

sg@expressindia.com

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    Anonymous
    Apr 11, 2017 at 1:06 pm
    Propa a!!! Indian Army is a pawn of a corrupt government and has been since the British and post independence. Khalistan is inevitable. The day the army boot set foot on the parkarma the fate was sealed. Enjoy your corrupt system. Physical death I do not fear, the death of the conscience is a certain death.
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      dj mononoke
      Jan 8, 2016 at 4:24 pm
      I'm really glad I've came across this informative post, this really helped me out quite a bit, by answering all my questions properly, hopefully the site will grow bigger and more por as ever it was. Keep up the good work and I'm sure I'll visit you up someday soon for more great articles. You may find great articles and music production tools at: by the way!
      Reply
      1. A
        Arjun
        Jun 7, 2016 at 7:01 am
        Couple of points :lt;br/gt;Shekhar Gupta is the same person who raised the bogey of "coup" in Gen VK Singh's time. His competence on matters military need no further elaboration.lt;br/gt;Now for the atrocities inflicted by army. Why did the army have to go in? Has it entered Jama Masjid? Any churches? The situation was precipitated by Bhindrawale and his ilk. A place of worship has no place for weapons. And if you go through what all was found in the rubble it is evident beyond any doubt that no God loving or God fearing men were inside. lt;br/gt;It is easy to shift blame on the soldier because he has no say in media. And sadly our education system only produces lierates, not educated. lt;br/gt;A soldier.
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        1. S
          Sandeep inamdar
          Jun 4, 2014 at 9:22 pm
          Absolutely brilliant and moving. And yet we continue to target entire communities for the sins of a few. Will we never learn??
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            Anon
            Jun 4, 2014 at 11:02 am
            Many Sikh survivors, including some priests, back the deliberate macre story. But my sources in the army always insist that this was just murderous confusion caused by the militants, some of whom hid in the pilgrims’ rooms in the sarais and cut down the soldiers who tried to clear them. The Kumaonis responded by presuming every room to be terrorist-occupied and fired, also resulting in innocent deaths. Thirty years later, I am still not willing to buy that deliberate macre story, though so many survivors have repeated it. In so many decades of covering the army’s operations, I have found Indian soldiers to be mostly honourable and the officers, if anything, caring and cautious to the extent of being soft in such situations.-Good article to read but just this para goes to show how fabricated and biased this memoir is!!!!!
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              akumar
              Jun 4, 2014 at 6:01 am
              Most brilliant piece on one of the black chapters on contemporary history of India. A tale of human tragedy that was to spawn more grief over next 10 years. Whenever Akal Takht has been attacked throughout its 400 year history, it has led to bitter repurcussions, both for the attacker and the Sikhs. This chapter should keep reminding all of us what it means to attack religious symbols in India.
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                TIHARwale
                Jun 4, 2014 at 4:55 am
                "It was later said that the army unit there, from 9 Kumaon Regiment, had lined up the Sikhs and shot them omly". This entire paragraph need not have been put in print
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                1. V
                  V
                  Jun 4, 2014 at 7:14 am
                  I hope you do some good at India Today Mr. Gupta. It has become a - to use the twitter generation term- parody account. The news channels they run, the fiasco called Mail Today, the magazine, EVERYTHING! Hopefully, some good comes out of this parting of ways.
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                    Dharminder Singh
                    Jun 5, 2014 at 9:46 am
                    But the main question is why this happened?
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                      presshelp
                      Jun 4, 2014 at 3:49 pm
                      Why are you dredging all this up now? I suspect that this is an attempt to create trouble for the new BJP government.
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                        Ashish Goel
                        Jun 4, 2014 at 1:36 pm
                        Inspired writing. Read it more than once to get the impact of what had transpired in that period. Brilliant lesson on leadership which also made me emotional about the sacrifice of Ram Prakash Roperia. Our generation does not comprehend fully the magnitude of this event. Thank You for educating us about it in such a lucid manner.
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                        1. G
                          Gursharan
                          Jun 4, 2014 at 12:22 pm
                          June 1984. I was in my village about 150 km away from Amritsar, preparing for my pre-engineering. All exams were postponed. Nothing to concentrate on, we apparently followed each and every moment of this blot on our history. BBC was the authentic source of information. Surprisingly AIR started broadcasting live (?) Kirtan few days after Blue Star and one could hear om gunshots. After that turmoil, I intently avoided further stories (and theories) on Blue Star. Maybe hoping that it was a bad dream, and never happened. This brilliant piece, however has agonizingly brought back those bitter memories.Thanks SG, always respect and believe what you pen. (You gave me valid rationale to subscribe IE over all other tempting 'Times')
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                          1. H
                            Harihar Mani
                            Jun 4, 2014 at 11:48 am
                            I'm a student of Civil War,and World war one and two.American General,T Sherman said,war is brutal,"if it were not so,politicians would indulge in it more often'dians have problem with Truth and are averse to true history,that is why,I'm not sure this madness of 1984 is not going to be last. Indira was solely responsible,even Binderwal was just an bad actor.He was the creation of her,a Basmasur who finally devoured her.Finally justice was served in a strange way.Law of Karma,does work,often late. Abraham Lincoln was devoured,by Booth,just 4 days after the end of Civil War.There is where the wheel of Karma ,comes full circle.Folly of devious politician,have tragic consequences.A lesson for us all,Indians in particular.No malice,just the facts.H.Mani,USA.
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                            1. R
                              Raju
                              Jun 4, 2014 at 11:55 am
                              Horrible to know this history. No surprise Indira hi paid with her life for the political mistakes. There is a similarity between US support to Islamic militants to fight Soviet Union and the same militants attacking US later, US going to war to curb them and Congress support to Bhindranwale.
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                              1. V
                                Vinu Koratty
                                Jun 4, 2014 at 5:18 am
                                I just wonder Shekhar, are you loosing your objectivity? Taking leave from IE looks a good decision, you certainly need to get your OS updated. You are getting more and more sentimental..
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                                1. S
                                  Sanjiv Jindal
                                  Jun 4, 2014 at 7:16 am
                                  Share your anguish at the unnecessary (?) loss of lives during OpBS, but has Shekharji ever wondered why Punjabi Hindus, who bore the brunt of militancy in Punjab, both pre and post OpBS, never play the victim, i.e. asking for doles and special privileges. Compare this with the reaction of every minority in the country for any perceived (real or imaginary) grievance against the govt. Food for thought!
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                                    Anonymous
                                    Apr 11, 2017 at 1:11 pm
                                    Because the state itself was the one perpetuating violence on both communities. Gurmeet pinky cat has disclosed everything and fake encounters. If the the government can do fake encounters it is absolutely plausible for them to burn buses.Look at it from a neutral point of view. Khalstan coming soon. For info: s: www. /watch?v 1kmQ7H5qjao s: www. /watch?v Ppkh2Tiphjs&t 669s
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                                  2. J
                                    Jugraj Singh
                                    Jun 4, 2014 at 4:42 pm
                                    Here are some facts noted by Mark Tully (BBC) and Brahma Caney (ociated Press) that have been conveniently ignored or downpla by Mr. Gupta to turn this story of m murder by the state of its citizens into one of possible incompetence.1) Hundreds of bodies of innocent pilgrims (young, old, ladies, children) were loaded into munil garbage trucks and burnt enme in huge piles with no attempt to ascertain their idenies or handing them over to their families. Army didn't care who they killed as long as they were Sikhs and they did not deserve any basic human dignity. This is the brave Indian army with high morals that Mr Gupta is such a fan of.2) The official reason/objective given by the GOI in their white paper on this operation was to 'flush out' 40 militants from the complex. The army attacked 40 other major gurdwaras the same day and killed and captured hundreds of Sikhs from these places all over Punjab. Anyone looking religious in a turban with a kirpan was the enemy.3) The day chosen for the attack was the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, one of the most por holidays in Punjab when the Golden temple is teeming with pilgrims from all over. The brave and proud Indian Army could not wait even a day longer to launch an attack of this magnitude to give helpless families a chance of leaving for their homes.4) Guru Ram Das Niwas (the inn where villagers/pilgrims rest for the night) was the place where Indian army men went room to room to kill everyone inside. There are multiple eye witness accounts that narrate this event of m murder...but Mr. Gupta can;t believe that Indian army can do this...they are so nice.5) Hundreds of villagers who started traveling towards Amritsar from around the area were mowed down by helicopter gunships to stop them from coming towards Amritsar.6) People were killed with their hands tied to their backs with their turbans at point blank range. This was doented by so many sources including a few post mortems done on some of the bodies by the local civil hospital.For 30 long years false propaa has been spread to the rest of the Indians about what happened in June 1984....every ping year adds just one more layer of guilt acceptance by someone in the Delhi elite of politicians, media and army folks..pare the media reporting of this event from the eighties to now and you will see how the media has successfully lied and covered up all the truth. And it still continues till this day with this piece by Mr. Gupta...
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                                    1. J
                                      Jugraj Singh
                                      Jun 4, 2014 at 3:58 pm
                                      Till the day the lion gets his own scribe, the story of the hunt will be written by the hunter. Shekhar Gupta tries to cement the falsehoods spread by nationalist media men to cover up one of the worst m murder of its own citizens by an state. He has full faith in the integrity, bravery and truth of the attackers but has serious issues believing the accounts of hapless ordinary victims.....or the defenders who fought the mighty Indian army to death in their fight against injustice. The state is always right (may be incompetent) and the fighter in the fields is always the 'terrorist'. Nothing new in the narrative creation by state scribes. Another one sided story telling episode added to the long list of Delhiwalla mediamen accounts....All accounts published from the Sikhs' perspective never find space in the mainstream media....and the colonial masters in Delhi continue their storytelling through their -kissing scribes..
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                                      1. J
                                        JS
                                        Jun 8, 2014 at 1:29 am
                                        Another gripping, just thoroughly ghastly but gripping piece. I have a question to Shekharji or just any one: Why is this story not front & center in every history book, in schools & colleges in India? The heroism of the armed forces, the admirable but completely unfounded bravery of the Akalis, the context & background of this specific military confrontation?? In the US, where I live, this would be memorized in songs, history books & every kid would have the names & regiments by heart, if the US army had fought such a gruesome insurgency on US soil. The sheer nobility & steadfastness of the soldiers that are described here is such an object lesson in no-nonsense patriotism that this could be "used" by the government for nation-building, just by ensuring it is the relevant history that our kids learn in schools. Shameful really, that we haven't done this...
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                                          Anonymous
                                          Apr 11, 2017 at 1:13 pm
                                          it wouldnt be brave enough to sing that army killed babies by smashing their heads on brick walls. Food for thought. Info: s: www. /watch?v Ppkh2Tiphjs&t 669s
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                                          vishwa
                                          Jun 5, 2014 at 7:37 pm
                                          audacity of shamelessness : 'stories' of macre ! really. looks like you are making stories. why they have to attack on the days of martyrdom of Guru Arjan dev ji, when there are tens of thousands of pilgrims? gen. brar - he is not even worthy of being called a animal. whats difference between him and gen. Dyer?. Don't try to fool everybody- to refresh your memory you ca still see pictures of dead bodies sikhs killed by army with their hands tied at back and army boasting of that !why was a media blackout? i am not talking about indian govt.'s propaa machine.More than 270,000 Sikh kids teen and young men killed by Indian security forces from 1984 to 2000. Even India's own Central bureau of Investigation CBI recognizes that 27000 dead bodies of Sikh kids were disposed of as unknown in a Single district of Punjab. In some of villages you cant find a single young man, because entire youth was killed in the name of security.A lot of evil men have guts to tell the truth at least at the last stage of his life. But i am expecting that from a bunch of Hyena's and the evilest of the evil.
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                                          1. K
                                            Kanwar Partap
                                            Jun 4, 2014 at 7:42 pm
                                            Excellent article - triggers more Questions and Curiosity::1. Army Generals had ample time to prepare and plan. In his book, Indira hi, A Personal and Political Biography, Inder Malhotra quotes General K. Sundarji, who was overall in charge of Operation Bluestar, as saying: “I was told by the Defence Minister to prepare for the operation on January 15, 1984 – the Army Day.”2. Army generals were over- confident or grossly negligent. Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar, Gurdev Singh who attended meeting on the eve of planned insult on Darbaar Sahib was quoted as saying " ...he won’t surrender " . Does General Brar remember his own response to this bureaucrat’s advice?It was Maj. Gen. Kuldip Singh Brar who presided over the meeting in Amritsar Cantonment (15 Div) and made a harangue of about 15 minutes observing that criminals could not be allowed to hold the nation to ransom, Prime Minister Indira hi had allowed lot of leeway to the law-breakers who had to be brought to book, it would take just two hours to accomplish the task. He made some insipid insinuations and uncalled for oblique derogatory remarks with respect to Longowal, Tohra and Bhindranwale and winding up his vacuous ranting asked Gurdev Singh about his view. Gurdev Singh said, "He (Bhindranwale) won't surrender." Upon this, Brar retorted, "When tanks roar, planes zoom, and guns crack even generals tremble in their pants." Gurdev Singh intoned, "I have given my essment." Not a word about civil-military liaising, coordination or job-ignment was referred to, spoken of or discussed in the meeting which ended without indicating any roles of various agencies in the action contemplated by the army and the civil officers repaired to their respective homes3. There were a few amongst them who had a different opinion. In a published article Lieutenant General S K Sinha writes that, when Mrs. hi asked his advice on a plan to attack the Golden Temple, “I strongly advised against it.” At that time he was General Officer Commanding in Chief, of Western Command and senior-most officers in line for succession to Chief of Army Staff. However, on transfer from Western Command he was shifted to Army Headquarters as vice-chief of Army Staff and later by-ped. General Sinha believes that he did not become Chief of Army Staff because Mrs. hi did not appreciate his advice.4. On June 2, 1984 the Punjab governor Pande, a former ICS officer, summoned the Chief Secretary K.D. Vasudeva, Home Secretary A.S. Pooni, Inspector General Police P.S. Bhinder and Inspector General Intelligence H.S. hawa at about 6 p.m. to the Governor’s house for a meeting. Punjab situation was discussed and it was unanimously agreed that Army should not be used to attack the Golden Temple. The Governor agreed, and in their presence, got through to P.C. Alexander, in-charge Prime Minister’s office on the hot-line and informed him that at the moment he was holding a meeting with the senior Punjab officers. They apprehended that the Army may be sent into the Golden Temple. They were against such a step being taken and that he endorsed their view. P.C. Alexander rejected this advice and instructed the Governor to take a letter from the Home Secretary requesting Army intervention in the StateThis raises serious questions of consutional law:(i) Was the induction of the Army, at the instance of one pressurized officer valid and legal?(ii) Had the Prime Minister’s Office consutional authority to order directly a State Governor to call in the Army?5. Out of 13 districts of Punjab, not a single deputy commissioner had indicated that the law and order situation was threatened nor had they asked for Army support. There was no such demand or report from the state police indicating that the situation warranted induction of the Army. The deputy commissioner is the chief administrative officer of the district and together with the police is responsible for maintaining law and order.6. Gurdev Singh was the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar from July 1983 to June 1984. General Brar described him as “a known supporter of Bhindranwala” but when Gurdev Singh speaks for himself, one gets a different impression. Ram Narain quotes him at length in his book.He told Narain: ""I had told the government at Chandigarh that if they wanted to arrest Bhindranwale there would be no major difficulty. My information said that the terrorists inside the Golden Temple did not have more than 200-300 guns. Their guns were not even sophisticated. The Army later complained about the inadequate intelligence. I do not know what intelligence they had used. There were half a dozen or more agencies working independently and often at cross purposes. I had confidence in my CID. Given clear instructions, I would have organised an operation to arrest Bhindranwala. However, the Chief Minister Darbara Singh, Governor B.D. Pandey and Punjab’s Chief Secretary K.D. Vasudeva made it clear that the initiative to take action against Bhindranwala had to come from Chandigarh. Chandigarh was taking its orders from Delhi. We had been talking about the need to use force since DIG Atwal’s murder in April 1983. I was against the proposal to call the military. My reason was simple: the involvement of the local police was crucial for the success of the Golden Temple raid. There are myriad approaches to the Temple from the old city. The army and other paramilitary forces, with their ignorance of topography, prevent the terrorists from moving in and out of theTemple complex. I had also told them that the Sikhs of Punjab would resent an Army action much more than a police action. It was possible to tell them that the police action had become necessary because scoundrels and criminals had taken over the Darbar Sahib. However old memories of alien aggression against the Sikh Vatican would inevitably revive if we sent in the military. When I raised this point, they told me ‘Look Gurdev, there is no such plan.’ I must have been repeating my position to the Governor very often. I became cautious when Director General of Police Bhinder and my SSP Ajay Pal Singh Mann advised me that it was not wise that I repeat my position so often and that by over-repeion, the point might be misunderstood.""7. Punjab officials led by B new Amritsar DC Ramesh Inder Singh made three main complaints to the Army during Operation Bluestar, :(a) Some bodies were found, both inside and outside the temple complex, with hands tied behind their back;(b) Six cases of rape in houses adjoining the temple had been brought to their notice (the Army would not allow medical examination of the women, therefore no case was registered)(c) Soldiers had looted temple treasures. (Some of these stolen goods were actually recovered by the Army after this protest was lodged).8. The photograph of the body of General Shabeg Singh is much clearer than that of Bhindranwale - a sheet partially covers his naked body, his feet are tied with a heavy rope and from the position of the body and clearly visible trail on the earth behind it, it is clear that it has not been carried but dragged. Broad red welts on the arms indicate that the arms had been bound with surrounding tissue necosis. This is interesting because as a general rule, dead men do not put up such resistance as to make binding their arms necessary. Perhaps the end was not as neat as General Brar or Kanwar Sandhu, the Tribune India executive editor would like us to believe.Major General Shabeg Singh’s body was not brought in to the mortuary until the 9th. The report says that by then it was not possible to do a full post-mortem because of decomposition and putrefaction. But photographs show that the Army discovered Shabeg Singh’s body well before it had started to decompose. It is difficult to understand why the Army would want to keep a retired general’s body until it had putrefied. Both the Army and the Police have an interest in getting as accurate a post-mortem as possible. It could be that the Army wanted to cremate the bodies at the first opportunity to prevent any possibility of their being discovered – there is no more potent cause of a riot than a dead body – and so dispensed with the formality of the post-mortems. If this was so, the reports which were eventually seen and photocopied must have been convenient after-thoughts.Published post-mortem reports of Sant Bhindranwale and Major General Shabeg Singh along with analyst's (Dr. J.K. Jain) report show that Dr. Jain faulted these post-mortem reports and observed that “(a) The time mentioned in the reports is clearly wrong;(b) the reports admit that both men died of firearm injuries but makes no mention of the flame and soot effect;(c) the reports do not mention the type of bullets that pierced their bodies and;(d) the reports make no mention of the bullets or other marks on the clothes of the men.”The first photographs had shown their bodies naked. No body could have asked them to remove their clothes unless they were in army custody. Surya correspondent R.K. Bajaj confirmed that “he had personally seen a photograph of Sant Jamail Singh Bhindranwale in army custody... he was obviously wounded. Amrik Singh was at his side but barely able to stand. There was an army commando pointing a gun at him from the front, with another one at the back.”(9) In his book Uncivil Wars, Ved Marwah improves on the late prime minister Rajiv hi's figure of losing 700 soldiers CNN) when he writes: “but 35 per cent casualties in a division-level operation cannot be called a well-planned and well-executed operation.” (A division is comprised of 16,000 troops)terestingly, Ved Marwah cites the government’s White Paper as the source of his figures – “4712 persons were killed nd 10,000 arrested during this operation.” Are you puzzled? Somewhere you have read a figure of “493 civilians plus 83 security personnel killed” –also citing the government’s White Paper. The White Paper all have quoted from is available in libraries and anyone can go and see the figures for himself. And yet Ved Marwah is not a man to simply make up figures out of his head. Are there two White Papers – one for the general public and one for privileged circulation that one could only review in Lok Sabha speaker's Chamber?NB: see attached picture of General Sunderji, It counters his "we went in with humility in the heart" comment.
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                                              Apr 11, 2017 at 1:14 pm
                                              s: www. /watch?v Ppkh2Tiphjs&t 669s
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