Day 1, 1st June 1984.
The Indian Army surrounds the Golden Temple complex. Without provocation, they start firing upon the complex, killing at least 8 people.
Day 2, 2nd June 1984.
At least seven divisions of the army are deployed in villages of Punjab. By nightfall the media and the press are gagged; the rail, road and air services in Punjab are suspended. Foreigners' and NRIs' entry is banned. The water and electricity supply is cut off.
Day 3, 3rd June 1984.
There is a complete curfew, with the army and paramilitary patrolling the whole of Punjab. The army seals off all routes of exit around the temple complex. Thousands of worshippers and pilgrims are trapped inside, having come to commemorate the martyrdom of the 5th Sikh Guru. There is an incessant exchange of fire during the night between 3 and 4 June.
Thousands went to the Golden Temple to commemorate the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Jee. Thousands of innocent men, women and children were stuck inside the Temple. This was to become a bloodbath. The Army operation commenced without warning or call for surrender:
“No one inside the Golden Temple had yet realised the sinister plan of the authorities. Punjab had been sealed. Amritsar had been sealed. The Golden Temple had been sealed. Thousands of pilgrims and hundreds of Akali workers had been allowed to collect inside the Temple complex. They had been given no inkling or warning either of the sudden curfew or of the imminent Army attack. It was to be a black hole-type of tragedy, not out of forgetfulness but out of deliberate planning and design.”
~ Citizens for Democracy; Report to the Nation: Oppression in Punjab. Bombay, 1985. A day after publication of the report it was banned and confiscated, the authors were arrested and charged with “sedition” (incitement of rebellion against the government).
In his memoirs (Memoirs of Giani Zail Singh, Har-Anand Publications, New Delhi, 1996) the President of India confirms that no warnings were given; “I pointed out to her [Mrs Indira Gandhi] that military action was taken on a day when the Temple complex was full of pilgrims – men, women and children – assembled to observe the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, most of whom perished in the cross firing… I told her that if notice had been given to these pilgrims over radio and television and loudspeakers, a majority of them would have come out… I had asked the government whether they had issued a warning on the loudspeakers to the people inside the complex to come out, to which they replied in the affirmative. Later, I came to know that no such warning had been issued and the operation had been suddenly launched.”
Day 4, 4th June 1984.
At 4am, the army shells the Gurdwara Complex... without warning. Thousands of innocent worshippers - men, women, and children - are still trapped inside. The army bombard the historic Ramgarhia Bungas, the water tank, and other fortified positions. They destroy the outer defences laid by General Shabeg Singh. The army then place tanks and APCs on the road separating the Guru Nanak niwas building, thus forming a wall of iron. About 100 die in pitched battles from both sides. The firing continues.
Day 5, 5th June 1984.
Shelling starts on the buildings within the temple complex in the morning. The 9th division launch a frontal attack, but are unable to secure the Akaal Takht. At 10pm, the generals decide to launch a simultaneous attack from 3 sides. 13 army tanks smash their way into the complex. The army simultaneously attacks various other Gurdwaras (the White Paper mentions 42, but other accounts mention 74). Amongst those who are killed, the head musician of the Golden Temple, 65 year old blind Ragi Amrik Singh, is shot dead. He is killed within the Golden Temple itself.
Day 6, 6th June 1984.
By 5am, due to firing from the army tanks, the Akaal Takht, the Sikh equivalent of the Vatican, is destroyed. The neighbouring structures of the Akaal Takht continue to be attacked. At 11am, a group of innocent people trying to escape is mowed down by machine gun fire.
“Grenades and poisonous gas shells were thrown at the men, women and children, who had locked themselves in the rooms, bathrooms and toilets of Guru Nanak Niwas, Guru Ram Das serai and Taja Singh Samundri Hall. Those who tried to come out were pierced with bayonets and shot dead. Some soldiers caught hold of small babies and children by their feet, lifted them up in the air and then smashed them against the walls and thus breaking their skulls.” ~ Harvinder Kaur; Blue Star Over Amritsar (Delhi, 1990) ”It was a virtual massacre. A large number of women, children and pilgrims were gunned down.” ~ As reported by The Guardian on 13th June 1984.
Day 7, 7th June 1984.
The army gains effective control of the Golden Temple Complex. An eyewitness details how the army had treated the pilgrims who had survived the bombardment:
"[The army] took off their [the Sikhs'] turbans with which they tied their hands behind their backs. Then the Army men beat these Sikh boys with the butts of their rifles until they fell on the ground and were shot dead right in front of me."
After the resistance is broken, the army has free reign. After the rapes and murders of innocent pilgrims, "the most distressing and inexcusable act was the torching of the Sikh Reference Library."
"Any army which wants to destroy a nation destroys its culture. That is why the Indian army burnt the library." ~ Mrs. Gandhi's Last Battle, Tully, Mark and Jacob, (New Delhi, 1985).
The Sikh reference library is burnt. Its priceless collection of 20,000 incrediby rare and valuable historic documents are reduced to ashes. Amongst these, irreplaceable documents regularly referred to for research are destroyed, and above all, 2500 handwritten saroops of Dhan Guru Granth Sahib Jee Maharaaj are desecrated.
Soldiers celebrate the thousands of cold-blooded murders and the desecration of the Sikhs' holiest shrine by drinking and smoking within the complex.
"Although the Sri Harmandir Sahib was riddled with bullets, the Akaal Takhat destroyed with cannon fire, and thousands of pilgrims massacred, the army were celebrating, people were seen carrying buckets of beer to the main gates of the temple where they jubilantly served the soldiers. The soldiers freely drank and smoked inside the complex. They certainly had plenty to drink, a notification of the Government of Punjab's Department of Excise and Taxation allowed for the provision of 700,000 quart bottles of rum, 30,000 quart bottles of whiskey, 60,000 quart bottles of brandy and 160,000 bottles of beer all for 'consumption by the Armed Forces Personnel deployed in Operation Blue Star'." ~ "Mrs. Gandhi's Last Battle", p203 (Ninth Ed. 1991).
Day 8, 8th June 1984.
All forms of aid are denied to the surviving victims. The Red Cross is refused permission to enter the Temple complex and the wounded are left to suffer for days. Many people die of dehydration as they are refused water. The Christian Science Monitor reported on the 8th June 1984:
"On Saturday, medical workers in Amritsar said soldiers had threatened to shoot them if they gave food or water to Sikh pilgrims wounded in the attack and lying in the hospital." The CFD report, 'Oppression in Punjab' remarks: "In accordance with the UN Charter of Human Rights, the Red Cross is permitted to go in aid of the wounded right inside the enemy territory, but in Amritsar in June, 1984, the Red Cross was not allowed to enter the Golden Temple - a respected and hallowed part of our country - in aid of Indians underattack from the Indian Army. It only means that the attack was so brutal and the battle scene so grisly, that there was much to hide from public scrutiny, even if it be that of a neutral agency called the Red Cross. This also explains perhaps why Press censorship had already been imposed, the last of the journalists were hounded away and the Press was not allowed to go inside the Golden Temple up to June 10, when they were taken on a guided tour of the complex for the first time since the Army operation began almost a week before."
An article that was published in India Today (30/9/84) details the most vulnerable of the 18,000 "suspected terrorists" arrested in June 1984 and detained in maximum security prisons:
"These were the other victims of Operation Bluestar, little children, some only two years old, who got rounded up. Since then, 39 children have been languishing in two Ludhiana jails. The youngest of these children, Jasbir Kaur, is only two years old, her sister Charanjit Kaur is four, and her brothers, Harinder and Balwinder, are six and twelve. There is four-year old Rinku whose father died during the army operation and whose mother has been missing since. Like the rest of the 'infant terrorists', Rinku had to go through gruelling interrogation. When asked where his mother was he replied, "I don't know". Asked where his father was, he said, "Killed with a gun". Why his stomach was so big; "Because I eat clay". Their ordeal began in early June when they were picked up around the Temple and packed into camps in Amritsar and Jalandhar. Two central agencies, the Central Bureau of lnvestigation (CBI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) began their questioning. There were long, intimidating sessions. The children cried and begged to be sent home. But it went on for days. Their little finger prints were taken and IB sleuths set about verifying their bonafides. One interrogating officer admitted that officials were not moved by the children's cries.
Day 9, 9th June 1984.
Following the execution of surviving pilgrims within the Golden Temple complex, the rest that survived are rounded up, detained by the Army and charged as terrorists:
“379 of the alleged ‘most dangerous terrorists’ were forced to sign a common confessional statement and thereafter served a common charge sheet that they were all Bhindranwale’s closest associates and comrades-in-arms engaged in ‘waging war against the State’."
"The evidence collected established beyond doubt that none of the Jodhpur detainees we succeeded in profiling are ‘terrorists’ but rather all of them are completely innocent, ordinary persons, whose only crime was that they had all gone to or were coming from the Golden Temple as devotees or pilgrims visiting the Golden Temple for the Gurpurab on June 3, 1984 or farmers gone to the Temple to deliver village donations of grain to the S.G.P.C. or students gone to pay obeisance at their holiest religious shrine, the Harmandir Sahib.”
Source; Citizens for Democracy; Report to the Nation: Oppression in Punjab (Bombay, 1985).
These detainees were detained for up to 5 years, before in the face of worldwide condemnation and protest they were finally released. The government orders the shooting of unarmed protesters in New Delhi, Sri Nagar (Kashmir) and Punjab.
Some firing still continues within the Golden Temple Complex.
Day 10, 10th June 1984.
The guns finally fall silent. Operation Bluestar is concluded.
The number of people who lost their lives will never be known. The Army cremated the dead before the bodies could be identified or claimed by their families. They piled the dead into garbage trucks and unceremoniously cremated them. Family members were not allowed by the army to claim the remains or perform any traditional funeral rites. It is clear that thousands lost their lives in the Temple complex.
The number of deaths was high. The Indian Government shockingly claims in their White Paper that only 439 Sikhs were killed. No other body agrees with this figure. The New York Times (June 11, 1984) put the figure at 1,000. Author Mark Tully's book claims that 2,093 Sikhs were killed. Amritsar crematorium workers put the figure at 3,300. Author Chand Joshi writes that 5,000 Sikhs were killed. However, eyewitnesses put the figure at 8,000 Sikhs having been killed during the ten days of terror.
The operation was supposed to have happened during a complete media blackout so that no one would know what happened between the inner walls of the complex. However, as the fighting lasted over a week, word began to spread, which resulted in a huge outpouring of grief and anger from Sikhs across the world.
Soon after the massacre, the government disinformation campaign went into overdrive to create legitimacy for the action. False claims were propagated. The Times of India (June 10, 1984) put forward a particularly disgusting, twisted version of events. They headlined on the front page a Press Trust of India report, saying, "Terrorists made a desperate attempt to blow up the Akal Takhat, killed a number of men, women and children, and unsuccessfully tried to escape with huge amounts of cash, jewellery and other valuables after their leaders were killed in the action on June 5. The Akal Takhat was not damaged in the Army action." The Government of India censored and persecuted any journalist or human rights organisation who tried to report the truth, and thus when Citizens for Democracy published a report detailing the "Oppression in Punjab" in 1985, it was banned and confiscated the next day, the authors were arrested and charged with "sedition" (incitement of rebellion against a government). Brahma Challeney of the Associated Press (AP) of USA was the only foreign correspondent who managed to stay in Amritsar during the attack, and was one of the first to publish reports that Sikh pilgrims were executed after the attack. For his troubles he was arrested and also charged with sedition.
Telegraph London (June 15, 1984) published the following report from David Graves: "The Akal Takhat looks like it has been bombed. It looks like a building in Berlin after the War. Every building in the complex had been riddled with bullets and there was still a stench of death in the air."
The Government Targeted Amritdhari Sikhs
The following quote is from an Indian Army circular which was distributed in June 1984. This excerpt from the official document exposes that in fact all practicing Sikhs were considered terrorists and were targeted by the government:
"Some of our innocent countrymen were administered an oath in the name of religion to support extremists and actively participated in the act of terrorism. These people wear a miniature kirpan round their neck and are called "Amritdharis". They have to be subdued to achieve the final aim of restoring peace in the country. Any knowledge of the "Amritdharis" who are dangerous people and pledged to commit murder, arson and acts of terrorism should be immediately brought to the notice of the authorities. These people may appear harmless from outside but they are basically committed to terrorism."
They are an amazing example of dedication and solidarity shown by Sikh soldiers in the Indian Army during the horrendous attack on the Golden Temple complex.
Every Sikh soldier swears an oath that he would not let any harm come to Sri Guru Granth Sahib first, before swearing an oath that he would not let any harm come to India.
Among the tragic outcome of the Blue Star attack, was the reaction and revolt of Sikh troops. Although there was a media blackout in Punjab, rumours of the assault on the Darbar Sahib managed to leak out and over 5000 Sikh soldiers spontaneously deserted their regiments in a bid to get to Amritsar. These soldiers are affectionately called Dharmi Faujis, which loosely translated means Soldiers of Faith. Had there not been a media blackout and false government propaganda, the scale of rebellion would have been even larger.
The Government initially did not publicly admit the revolt, and even later referred to the troops as having deserted rather mutinying (abandoning ones post as opposed to a mutiny or rebellion).
It is interesting to note that prior to the attack the Sikh Regimental Centre was purposefully shifted outside of Punjab to Uttar Pradesh. This clearly shows the intentions of the Government and their view of Sikhs. Military analysts have commented that although the Sikhs that defended the Golden Temple complex kept the army at bay for over a week, had the Sikh Regiment been stationed in Punjab, the outcome of the battle could have been very different. The Indian Government was well prepared and the Army had already been deployed to check the advances of the rebel Sikh troops who were travelling thousands of miles from 9 different States towards their ancestral homeland.
Although desperately outnumbered, the Sikh soldiers faced the Indian Army and fought gun battles in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat in which hundreds of Sikhs were killed by the military.
Those that survived or were captured, were dishonourably discharged from the army, stripped of all their privileges and pensions, and imprisoned for between 5-10 years. After leaving prison many had to work as manual labourers to support their families, whereas if they had still been in the army they would have enjoyed high ranking positions and state pensions.
Nonetheless, they are proud men and do not regret their decisions. The courage and dedication shown by the rebel Sikh troops is awe inspiring, facing impossible odds, they did not hesitate to stake everything in an attempt to protect their faith and nation.