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OP Blue Star: The Lingering Anger

Paper No. 5239                                     03-Oct-2012

By B. Raman

A BBC web site report on the attack on Gen. (retd) K. S. Brar, a retired officer of the Indian Army, at London on the night of September 30,2012, states as follows:

“He told Indian TV channels that the attack "was a pure assassination attempt on me".

"Four bearded, tough-looking men wearing black jackets and black clothes pounced on me. One of them pushed my wife to the side; she fell down and started screaming for help. Three of them charged at me; one pulled out a dagger or a knife and tried to assassinate me," Lt Gen Brar said.

"He slashed my neck with the knife, but being an army man, I fought back. I kicked and boxed and warded off the attack, but in the meantime they had already slashed my neck."

“He said it was "obvious" that the attackers were sympathisers of Khalistan, who, he added, had wanted to kill him since Operation Bluestar.

"Even on internet, there are so many threats being sent to me to say that there have been many attempts on your life but they haven't succeeded, but the next one will succeed. They've been after me," he said.

“The General was attacked on Old Quebec Street in the Oxford Circus area of London on Sunday night by unknown assailants, with no suggestion so far that his attackers were Sikhs.

“The police said the four men "are described as wearing dark clothing and long black jackets. They all had long beards".

“No arrests have been made yet.”

2. As a Major-General, Gen. Brar was one of the senior Army officers who supervised a military operation code-named Op Blue Star inside the holy Golden Temple at Amritsar in June 1984 to flush out a group of Khalistani terrorists, who had taken control of the temple and were  indulging in acts of terrorism from inside the temple.

3. Left with no other alternative, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, reluctantly ordered the military raid. The temple was freed from the control of the terrorists, but there was a large number of casualties and the Akal Takht, the holiest part of the temple, suffered considerable damage.

4. The military action had some tragic consequences which kept reverberating for months and years after the operation. These included the assassination of Indira Gandhi inside her house by two of her security guards from the Delhi Police, the assassination of Gen. A. S. Vaidya, who was the Chief of the Army Staff at the time of the operation, at Pune where he had settled down after retirement, some desertions of Sikh soldiers from the Army in the days after the military action and an aggravation of the Khalistan terrorist movement that continued till 1995 when it started subsiding.

5. The Golden Temple is the holiest of the holy places for the Sikh community all over the world. The military action inside the temple, however justified, and the damage to the Akal Takht due to the exchange of heavy gun fire inside the temple, deeply hurt the psyche of the Sikh community all over the world.

6. It goes to the credit of the Sikh community that despite their anger and feelings of inner  hurt, insult and humiliation over the military action inside their holy place, the massacre of a number of Sikhs in Delhi after the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi and the perceived reluctance of different Governments and the Congress leadership to identify and act against those suspected of involvement in the anti-Sikh violence, they did not allow the terrorists to exploit the situation to  drive a permanent wedge between the Sikh community and communities of other religions. The petering out of the Khalistan movement from 1995 onwards would not have been possible had not the moderate members of the community kept away from the terrorists.

7. The terrorist movement has petered out, but some founders of the movement are still alive and have not reconciled themselves to the end of the movement. Some of them continue to be based in Pakistan and are hoping to revive the movement one day. Fortunately, they have not been able to get any support from the Sikh community as a whole.

8. While the roots of the Khalistani terrorism have shrivelled up, the feelings of anger and inner hurt caused by the military action seem to still linger in some individuals, if not sections, of the community. That is a possible interpretation of the attack on Gen.Brar and his account of it as reported in the BBC web site.

9. A short while ago, a British journalist based in New Delhi rang me up to ask whether the attack on the General indicated that the Khalistan movement is back.  I will not rush to that conclusion for now. All I will say for the present is that the anger and inner hurt caused by the military action still linger.

10. The British Police have not yet arrested the suspects. Only if and when they arrest them we will know the motive. The motive is of primary interest in analysing the attack and concluding whether it was Op Blue Star related. Equally important will be the age of the suspects, if they turn out to be Sikhs. Do they belong to the old generation of Sikhs who had lived through the traumatic days of 1984 or are they from the younger generation?

11. If they are from the younger generation, that could be a disturbing indication that at least some members of the younger generation have inherited the feelings of anger and inner hurt from their elders.

12. We should see what we can do to mitigate their anger and hurt. Effective action against those responsible for the anti-Sikh massacres of 1984 in Delhi might help in this regard.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: Twitter @SORBONNE75)