OPERATION BLUE STAR
Updated: Feb 3, 2021
Author: Vasagi.R, II year of LL.B. from BMS College of Law
One of the biggest military operations carried out by the Indian Army in India during the first week of June 1984 [between June 1 and June 8, 1984], operation blue star was ordered by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to sweep clean the terrorists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, who were gathering weapons within the Harmandir Sahib Complex (Golden Temple, Amritsar), to ascertain control over it.
Operation Blue Star was ordered after the escalation of Khalistan movement in India, which was a political Sikh nationalist movement which was driven towards creating an independent state for Sikhs inside the present North-Western Republic of India.
Even though the Khalistan movement started in the early 1940s and 1950s, it picked up steam between the 1970s and 1980s. Bhindranwale was the leader of Damdami Taksal. He supported the creation of Khalistan. As a leader, Bhindranwale influenced Sikh youth. He induced many people to follow Sikh rules and tenets. During Operation Blue Star he and his supporters took control of the Akal Takht complex of the Golden Temple situated in Amritsar. He was the root cause and it was mainly for his elimination that operation blue star was ordered. The main aim of Operation Blue Star was to eliminate him from the Golden Temple complex and to regain control over Harmandir Sahib.
This article looks into what happened during operation blue star and some of the legal aspects surrounding the operation.
The Operation: Operation Blue Star consisted of two components, that is ‘operation Metal’ and ‘Operation Woodrose’.The Primary Operation Metal’, was confined to the Harmandir Sahib complex of the Golden Temple.
Following ‘Operation Metal’ was Operation ‘Woodrose’, which was launched throughout the state of Punjab. The operation was carried out by Indian Army, using tanks, artillery, helicopters and armoured vehicles. Operation Blue Star was launched to eliminate Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the leader of Damdami Taksal, and other Sikh militants who had taken cover in the Amritsar Harmandir Sahib Complex and who were gathering weapons at the complex. Within the Harmandir Sahib, the armed Sikhs were led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and former Major General Shabad Singh. The whole operation lasted for ten days and resulted in a lot of bloodsheds.
Timeline of major events that took place during the operation
On June 1, 1984: A building inside the Golden Temple called the 'Guru Ram Das Langar' was attacked by the Indian Army.
On June 2, 1984: Around seven divisions of the army were deployed in the state of Punjab. There was Media blackout, the major setback of transportation, denial of entry of outsiders and also many parts of Amritsar faced water and electricity supply cuts. The government faced severe criticism due to all this.
On June 3, 1984: There was a complete curfew imposed on Punjab as the army and paramilitary were patrolling around. The entries and exits of Harmindar Sahib were sealed.
On June 4, 1984: The Sikh militants were attacked. Ramgarhia Bunga, which is inside the Harmandir Sahib Complex was bombed. The Sikh militants were attacked. Gurcharan Singh Tohra, former head of SGPC, was appointed to negotiate with Bhindranwale, which was a complete failure.
On June 5, 1984: BSF and CRPF attacked hotel Temple View and Brahm Boota Akhara located on the southwest part of the Harmandir Sahib Complex.
On June 6, 1984: The Akal Takhat was destroyed by the army using tanks.
On June 7, 1984: Indian army had gained control over the Harmandir Sahib complex.
Death toll: As per Official reports, the number of deaths among the Indian army was around 83 and the number of civilian deaths was calculated to be around 492, though independent estimates ran much higher.
The aftermath of operation blue star
The assassination of Indira Gandhi: Assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was a pre-eminent event of the Operation Blue Star. Indira Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984, after four months of Operation Blue Star being carried out. She was shot dead by two of her Sikh bodyguards, who fired 33 rounds of bullets at her.
Anit-Sikh Riots: Assassination Of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi led to the Anti-Sikh Riots across India. It continued for a couple of days, in which more than 3000 Sikhs were killed.
The worst affected areas were Sultanpuri, Mangolpuri, Trilokpuri, and parts of East Delhi. Mobs were extremely violent. They made use of iron rods, knives, kerosene and petrol to attack Sikh neighbourhoods, and attacked any Sikh they found, which led to brutal killings of many Sikh men or women. All their shops and houses were destroyed and burned. There were other incidents, where the mobs filled with rage and armed also stopped buses and trains, in and around parts of Delhi. They pulled out Sikh passengers from the buses and trains, who were burnt alive. Many Sikhs were dragged out of their homes and attacked with all kinds of bladed weapons.
LEGAL ISSUES SURROUNDING OPERATION BLUE STAR
The 1958 Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) is an act of the Parliament of India, providing special powers to the Indian Armed Forces to maintain public order in the “disturbed areas”. According to the Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976, after it has been deemed’ disturbed,’ the region shall retain the existing state of affairs for a minimum of 3 months. Since there is already an Act in place, there is no need to explicitly bring the same Act with some additional sections for a specific part or some UT/states.
However, this was not the case in 1983, just a few months before the Operation, when the Indira Gandhi led government saw the situation that led them to believe that there is a need for deployment of the army, the government brought in The Armed Forces (Punjab and Chandigarh) Special Powers Act, with two unique additions to the already existing and enforceable Act.
The addition was as follows
1. Subsection (e) was applied to Section 4, which says that any vehicle can be physically halted, searched and confiscated if it is suspected of carrying a proclaimed criminal or weapons.
2. Section 5 was applied to the Act stating that a soldier has the right to crack open any locks, “if the key thereof is withheld”.
There are many criticisms against this section. Many Critics think of the Act as undemocratic and also point out that it has failed to counter-terrorism and restore peace and order in disturbed areas, as there has been an increase in the number of armed groups has gone up after the act was established. Many even hold it responsible for the dramatic violence in areas it is in force.
Section 4 is criticized for authorizing excessive use of force by the soldiers and that contravenes or does not conform to international norms. This section is also criticized for violating Article 21 of the Indian Constitution that states that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law”.
(2) Article 15
Article 15 of The Constitution of India states that the State shall not discriminate(unfavourable distinction) against any citizen on grounds only of race, religion, caste, sex and place of birth.
In the operation ordered by the Prime Minister, the representative of the State, did not only discriminate on the grounds of religion but went ahead and handed the armed forces the key to bloodshed, all that just to eliminate one target, one person that was a result of the miscalculations of the congress and political bewilderment. The discrimination occurred from the killings during the Operation, be it tourists, hostages, the army eliminated every Sikh that was inside the Golden temple. Discrimination also occurred in the form of hatred, when parts of the temple were damaged during the fighting and Sikhs felt it was an attack on their religion.
The second provision of the article 15 says that no citizen shall be subjected to any disability, liability, restriction or condition on the grounds of any religion, caste, race, sex, place of birth concerning access to shops, public entertainment spots, public restaurants, use of wells, bathing ghats, road, tanks and other places of the public resort that are dedicated to the use of general public or maintained wholly or partly by the state fund.
The Operation, coupled with the ‘Operation Woodrose’, the military exercise done across Punjab to flush out militants from each household goes against these provisions and subjects the Sikh masses to restrictions on the grounds of religion.
(3) Article 19
Article 19 of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression to every citizen of the country. Nevertheless, there was a complete media blackout during operation blue star after imposing President’s Rule in Punjab, rule of a president in a state afflicted with communal tensions and terrorism who was a sympathizer of the leader himself.
Although the freedom enshrined in Article 19 is not absolute and can be curtailed by the government of the Union of India when it is a matter of sovereignty and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states, the security of the State, public order, decency or morality.
Analyzing the situation that prevailed at that time, relations with foreign states were barely formed that it will get affected, public order was already a mess in Punjab due to the activities of Congress funded, self-proclaimed antagonist Jarnail Singh, the sovereignty and integrity of India was at fault when the prime minister imposed a complete ban on all media reporting, it helped the cause of Bhindranwale spread false information and rumours thus further compromising the integrity of India by fueling communal hatred and fear in the rest of Indian Union.
Operation blue star has left a deep religious wound on the Sikh community and even today, it is considered as one of the darkest days by the Sikh community all over the world.
Operation blue star is one of the key turning points in Indian political history which has brought about changes in the political scenario in India and has also played an important role in shaping the democracy and it led to the realization that India needed stronger laws to handle internal conflicts that threaten the integrity and security of the nation. REFERENCES
The Constitution of India,1950
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