GoldenTemple in Amritsar

In early June 1984, the Indian government dispatched an entire division of troops, with the cooperation of special police, paratroopers, border armed police, and other troops, to clear the way with tanks and armoured vehicles to attack the Golden Temple (Operation Blue Star), the holy land of Sikhism, and the surrounding annexes occupied by believers. A large-scale attack was launched on the buildings. Hundreds of Sikh militants trapped in these buildings used crude weapons to fight against the overwhelming Indian army for six days. Both sides sacrificed their lives in this battle. The casualties were heavy, and it became the trigger for the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Gandhi by Sikhs a few months later.

Schematic diagram of the entire Golden Temple building complex
Schematic diagram of the entire Golden Temple building complex

The Golden Temple located in Amritsar, Punjab, India is the holiest worship center of Sikhism. It is called the “jewel in the holy crown of Sikhism” by Sikhs. During the colonial period in India, the British adopted the method of dividing and conquering by provoking ethnic and religious conflicts, which resulted in deep conflicts between local Sikhs and Hindus.

After India became independent in 1947, conflicts between ethnic groups, religions and different castes have never ceased. The Indian government inherited the legacy of the British colonialists and severely suppressed all kinds of conflicts without distinction. After entering the 1980s, as the international situation gradually eased, various domestic conflicts in India began to intensify. 

Year 1982

Year 1982, the Sikhs in Punjab began to become more and more radical after the Indian military and police repeatedly suppressed their peaceful activities (resulting in many Sikh casualties during the suppression). When the Akha, the most radical among the Sikhs, After the Liberation Party proposed a high degree of autonomy and even the establishment of an independent country, the relationship between Punjab and the Indian central government deteriorated rapidly.

In 1982, Bhindranwal, the leader of the Akali Party (ironically, the party’s behind-the-scenes supporter when it began to participate in India’s governance activities in the late 1970s and early 1980s was Indira Gandhi’s favorite youngest son Sanjay). Gandhi, in other words, without the original support of Sanjay Gandhi, the Akali Party would not have had the momentum it had in 1982. However, Sanjay Gandhi died in a plane crash on June 23, 1980 , who failed to see with his own eyes how much trouble the freaks he cultivated brought to his mother Gandhi ) and about 600 party members carried some small weapons from World War II and “lost” Sikh soldiers in the Indian Army.

Some of the small arms (including rifles, submachine guns, light machine guns and rocket launchers) smuggled out of the military camp in the form of “parts” were stationed in a hotel called Guru Nanak Niwas next to the Golden Temple, using this place as his office space and hosting Interviews by the press, worship by believers and accepting donations from all walks of life.

The Indian government naturally hates this, but the area is the traditional territory of the Sikhs. A slight mistake may cause chaos, and the Sikhs are already armed, so the Indian military and police have to restrain their usual brutality. His style has become restrained.

Akali Party leader Bhindranwal
Akali Party leader Bhindranwal

Fast forward to 1983

Fast forward to 1983, and the Harmandir Sahib district had become the centre of Sikh separatists. As more and more Sikh extremists gathered there, violence continued to increase. On April 23, 1983, Atwal, the deputy commissioner of the Punjab Police, was shot dead by Sikh-armed men near the Golden Temple. The next day, Indian officials suggested that the murder was carried out at the behest of Bhindranwal.

Tensions on the ground have reached a new level. The Indian government could no longer sit back and let Sikh extremists do whatever they wanted and began to mobilise the military and police to surround the Golden Temple. At the same time, it issued a warning to other Sikh groups that supported the Akali Party, ordering them to immediately withdraw their support for the party; otherwise, they would be threatened. You are welcome.

Internet Photo
Operation Blue Star

Under strong pressure from the Indian government, Sikh groups announced that they would no longer support the Akali Party. By July 4 of that year, the Akali Party was completely isolated politically. In October 1983, Prime Minister Gandhi announced the dissolution of the Punjab government, and she would directly govern the state. At the same time, she began to mobilize regular army field troops to prepare to use force to deal with the extremists when necessary.

American “Time” magazine

When the storm was about to come, the American “Time” magazine sent people to Amritsar for interviews in November 1983. The reporter described it as a city of death. Inside religious sites, Sikh extremists brandished various weapons to prevent Indian military and police from entering; in the streets and alleys outside, military and police were on alert. Small-scale clashes continued between the two sides, and bodies of security forces or extremists often appeared in the alleys. On December 15, 1983, under pressure from numerous Sikh groups, Bhindranwal and his supporters were forced to move out of the Niwas Hotel, but they then entered the holy Golden Temple and nearby buildings and turned it into Fortresses were built one after another.

Internet Photo
Operation Blue Star

May 1984

In May 1984, seeing the Indian government exerting increasing pressure on itself, the Akali Party made a desperate move to turn passivity into initiative, claiming that the Indian government’s discriminatory policies over the years had prevented the Sikhs in Punjab from improving their living standards. It therefore called on the Sikhs to launch a “non-cooperation movement” and refuse to transport food to other places. This ruthless move has blocked the lifeblood of the Indian government. Since Punjab is one of India’s major food-producing areas, half of India’s food is produced in this state.

This move by the Akali Party not only severely damaged the Indian economy, but also because they were seeking justice for the Sikhs, other Sikh groups had to express their support. As a result, the British government, which is about to hold a new round of general elections, and Gandhi and the Congress government were in an extremely awkward position. But this move was tantamount to pushing the British Gandhi government into a corner. From then on, British Gandhi was determined to solve the problem by force.

indira gandhi
indira gandhi

Indira Gandhi

However, as a wily politician, still made enough appearances. In public, she met with the leaders of Sikh groups many times to express her “sincerity for peace,” but in private, she secretly transferred the 9th Army Division, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, to tens of thousands of troops, including the 4th Battalion of the Reserve Police Force, the 7th Battalion of the Border Security Force, and the Punjab Armed Police Force, as well as paratroopers, armoured troops, and artillery troops, who were stationed in Amritsar, ready to show the Sikhs a little colour when the time me.

Facing the pressure of the soldiers, Bhindranwale of the Akali Party was intoxicated with his recent “achievements”, so he refused the Sikh group’s persuasion and declared forcefully, “Unless the Indian government gives in and agrees, the Sikhs will never lay down their arms unless they become independent.” Under such circumstances, a showdown between the two sides is inevitable.

Sikh Militants set up observation posts and fire points on the towers of the Golden Temple
Sikh Militants set up observation posts and fire points on the towers of the Golden Temple at the time of Operation Blue Star

In June 1984, Gandhi approved the launch of “Operation Blue Star” against Sikh militants. It should be said that making this decision was very difficult. Because there are many Sikh soldiers in the Indian army and they occupy many positions from top to bottom, the resistance is very high. Ruying Gandhi originally planned to ask Lieutenant General SK Sinha, who was then the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Indian Army and had been defaulted as the next Chief of Army Staff, to draft a report.

Attack on the Golden Temple

After the attack on the Golden Temple was launched, the Indian government issued a statement. To the press on the government’s position. However, Lieutenant General Sinha recommended not taking military action on the grounds. That the Golden Temple is a holy site of Sikhism and attacking it would be blasphemy against the “god”. Gandhi decisively dismissed Lieutenant General Sinha. And appointed Lieutenant General Arun Shridhar Wadia as Chief of General Staff of the Indian Army. Wadia was assisted by Deputy Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Sundarji, who formulated the “Operation Blue Star” plan.

On the side of the Akali Party, former Army Major General Shabeg Singh was responsible for commanding Sikh militants against the Indian military .  Schaberg, who is familiar with the Indian army’s tactics, knows that his own conditions are extremely limited. And that he is far inferior to his opponents in terms of firepower and troops. Therefore, his purpose is to delay the advancement of the Indian army as much as possible. While causing a large number of casualties to the opponent to buy time.

forcing the Indian government to finally give up the use of force under political and international pressure. Therefore, he deployed a large number of roadblocks outside the Golden Temple and other buildings held by militants. He paid special attention to setting up various “traps”, that is, deliberately making certain places “look” weakly defended to attract the Indian army to attack. This attack was launched, but in fact, these “loopholes” were all long. And narrow stairs, walkways, corridors, or rooms where troops could not deploy. A tight crossfire was deployed behind the “loopholes”.

June 1, 1984

On June 1, 1984, the Indian military had basically completed its attack deployment. And began to clear out the Sikh armed strongholds. On the periphery in order to compress the militants to the smallest possible territory and annihilate them. At 12:40 noon that day, the Central Reserve Police Force began firing at a building occupied by Sikh armed forces. Under the strict orders of the military, the border security forces also joined the battle. After a burst of gunfire, all the Sikh militants in the building were killed. And eight civilians were also killed by the gunfire.

Indian military police attacked a building occupied by militants, and it was seen that the building was on fire
Indian military police attacked a building occupied by militants, and it was seen that the building was on fire

June 2, 1984

On June 2, 1984, Gandhi ordered the Indian army to strictly block the border area with Pakistan. From Kashmir to the Ganges River Nagar in Rajasthan to prevent Pakistan from benefiting from this incident. She also ordered the deployment of about 7 divisions of troops (about 60,000 people) in Punjab to suppress any violence. That the Sikhs might initiate against “Operation Blue Star.” Late that night, the Indian government suddenly announced a 36-hour curfew throughout Punjab. All rail, road and air services in Punjab were suspended.

All communication lines in the state were cut off, including running water and electricity. The news media were comprehensively censored, and all foreigners and outsiders were banned from entering Punjab. On the same day, General Gauri Shankar was appointed as Senior Security Advisor for Punjab. On June 3, Lieutenant General Kuldeep Singh Brar, the former enemy commander-in-chief of “Operation Blue Star. (it is not difficult to guess that this guy is also a Sikh when he sees “Singh” in his name). On the stage, he will be responsible for directing the front-line attack under the command of General Sundarji.

Indian military police are building fortifications around the Golden Temple. Note that the first one on the right is a Sikh.
Indian military police are building fortifications around the Golden Temple. Note that the first one on the right is a Sikh.

June 4, 1984

Starting on June 4, the Indian army used British-made 88.7mm howitzers to violently bombard. The main building and surrounding facilities of the Golden Temple. Many historic buildings were riddled with holes and even turned into ruins. However, the shelling did destroy many roadblocks and peripheral defences set up by Shabeg. Tanks and armoured vehicles could only be sent to surround the Golden Temple complex. To prevent militants from breaking through and blocking possible external support roads.

About 100 people died in the fierce fighting between the two sides that day.

Indian artillerymen operating a 25-pounder 88.7mm howitzer
Indian artillerymen operating a 25-pounder 88.7mm howitzer

At this time, the news of the Indian army’s attack on the Golden Temple had spread throughout Punjab. Just as Bhindranwal expected, Sikh believers from all over the country gathered in solidarity with the Akali Party. Many radical believers even organised themselves and marched towards Amritsar in defiance of the government’s martial law and curfew. These actions were discovered by the Indian Army’s helicopters. In order to avoid long nights and nightmares, Gandhi gave the army the green light. To operate and allowed the army to use all necessary means to deal with these believers. 

Deputy Chief of General Staff General Sundarji ordered the use of tanks and armoured vehicles to deal with these believers. In the end, the Indian army successfully blocked the Sikhs’ attempt to enter Amritsar. The Indian government did not count the casualties caused during this period, but the Sikhs claimed that hundreds of believers were killed.

Gurcharan Singh Tola

In order to give the militants guarding the Golden Temple a chance to surrender, Gurcharan Singh Tola, a former senior member of the Supreme National Decision-making Committee of the Sikhs in India, was entrusted by the Indian government and other Sikh denominations to enter the Golden Temple to meet with Bind Rawal. He negotiated and persuaded them to lay down their arms and strive for a peaceful solution; however, Bindrawal, who had no way out, refused to surrender. He was overconfident and believed that the Indian government could not carry out an attack on the Golden Temple despite international and domestic pressure for a long time. Eventually, the negotiations broke down, and the Indian army’s attack began again.

Bindrawal was right. The Indian government was facing increasing pressure, but Gandhi’s determination did not waver. She exerted strong pressure on the generals and strictly ordered them to solve the problem the next day; otherwise, everything would be over. He lost his official position and went home to take care of his grandson.

official positions

In order to keep their official positions and avoid being driven home to take care of their children, the generals ordered the troops besieging the Golden Temple to capture the Golden Temple regardless of the cost.

When the rising sun ushered in the dawn of June 5, the Indian army’s attacks became more ferocious, and the bloodiest day of the Battle of the Golden Temple began! The Indian artillery launched indiscriminate and violent shelling on the Golden Temple complex held by the Sikhs. A large number of soldiers of the 9th Division, driven by officers and non-commissioned officers, launched an unprecedented frontal attack on the main building complex of the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple was riddled with holes from the fierce firepower from both sides.

Fire broke out and smoke billowed out from the shelled Golden Temple.
Fire broke out and smoke billowed out from the shelled Golden Temple.

At 19:00 in the evening, the Indian army launched a general attack on the Golden Temple. The Border Security Force and the Central Reserve Police Force separately attacked two luxury hotels southwest of the Golden Temple. After three hours of fierce fighting, the Indian army took control of the two buildings. The military and police also attacked other buildings controlled by militants around the Golden Temple. Under the cover of fierce firepower, the resistance of the militants was defeated one by one. Finally, the Indian army captured all the strongholds outside the Golden Temple before 22:00, completely completing the siege of the Golden Temple.

Guards Battalion

At 22:00, the Indian Army dispatched the 10th Guards Battalion, the 1st Parachute Commando, and the Border Special Police Force in three separate groups to launch the main attack on the gate of the Golden Temple at the same time; the 26th Madras Battalion and the 9th Kumaang Battalion attacked the gate to the south. Implement an auxiliary assault at the side door.

The machine gun position of the Indian army besieging the Golden Temple. The machine gun is a Belgian FN-MAG general machine gun.
The machine gun position of the Indian army besieging the Golden Temple in Operation Blue Star

When the Indian troops swarmed into the Golden Temple from the north gate, they were beaten to pieces by the crossfire of light machine guns deployed by the militants on both sides of the steps. The remaining Indian commandos retreated down the steps while crawling. But before they could gain a foothold, they were once again attacked by fire from the building on the south side of the holy pool of the compound. Driven by the fire, they retreated step by step, and were eventually beaten back to the starting point of the attack. Under the cover of many large pillars, the paratroopers and border police moved forward inch by inch, and finally reached the west side of the main building of the Golden Temple, where they came under heavy fire from inside the Golden Temple. 

Strict instructions

Because they had received strict instructions before setting off, it was strictly forbidden to fire at the main building of the Golden Temple to avoid offending all Sikhs. They could only lie on the ground or hide behind shelters to avoid the fire and were hit by the intensive bullets fired from the Golden Temple. They were so pressed that they could not lift their heads, and the Sikh soldiers in the attacking force were even more useless. Attack? I think too much, and I can’t even imagine what the consequences would be if my tribe and family knew that I had shot at my own holy place.

The Indian army’s first attack collapsed.

But after all, the Indian army had an overwhelming advantage in terms of firepower and troop strength. In the exchange of fire with the militants, the Indian army commandos gradually began to gain the upper hand. Although they could not immediately capture the main building of the Golden Temple, under the cover of fierce firepower, Still approaching the main building step by step. After approaching the main building of the Golden Temple, the Indian commandos threw tear gas canisters into the building in an attempt to force the militants out of the building and annihilate them. However, the tear gas canisters they threw bounced back and fell into their own attack formation, causing many The commando was choked to tears, which greatly affected the troops’ attack.

Meanwhile, the 26th Madras Battalion and the 9th Galwal Battalion of Reserves came under heavy fire from militants from several directions. They spent a lot of time trying to open the thick and strong south gate under heavy fire, but this heavy iron guy couldn’t do it with anything except tank guns. This fatal delay caused heavy casualties to the Indian troops inside the Golden Temple. They were attacked by concentrated fire from all directions and suffered extremely heavy casualties.

Former Army Major General Shahbeg Singh’s deployment was very effective! The Indian army fell into the traps he set time and time again. He moved several light machine guns back and forth inside the maze-like building, turning the corridors and rooms into death traps. The muzzle of the Sikh light machine gun is usually less than 30 centimeters from the ground. No matter whether they are lying down or crawling forward, they cannot avoid the firepower. A large number of Indian soldiers were shot and injured in this way.

The Indian army’s second attack collapsed again!

In the end, the Indian army couldn’t bear it anymore and drove a tank and three armored vehicles directly into the compound of the Golden Temple, using vehicle-mounted machine guns to provide direct fire support to the commandos. The Indian army once again organized an attack wave consisting of 200 commandos and special police to conduct a third assault on the pool outside the main building of the Golden Temple. However, this time only the Madras Battalion and the Galwal Battalion successfully completed the task. Occupying the south side of the pool, assaults from other directions were pushed back by the militants.

Although the effect of the third attack was still not satisfactory, it made some progress.

Schematic diagram of "Operation Blue Star"
Schematic diagram of “Operation Blue Star”

Despite the mounting casualties, Sundarji ordered his troops to launch a fourth attack! At this time, the corpses of the Indian army and militants had been piled up layer by layer in the square outside the Golden Temple and on the walkway leading to the Golden Temple. A young captain of the Madras Battalion led nine death squads.

Heavy firepower

They rushed into the Golden Temple under the cover of heavy firepower. They were the first batch of Indian troops to break into the main building of the Golden Temple. As a result, they underestimated the number of militants in the temple and encountered a large group of militants in the narrow passage. In close combat, seven of them were killed on the spot, and two were seriously injured. They climbed out of the Golden Temple and were rescued by their own sides.

The captain who led the team evacuated the Golden Temple without any injuries. But later he returned to the temple to try to rescue an injured non-commissioned officer but was caught by the militants. After a period of torture, the brave but unlucky man The captain was eventually tied with explosives. And blown to pieces in front of the attacking Indian army. The “heavy taste” of the scene made all the Indian soldiers who see this scene feel sick, and their morale was greatly damag.

As attacks were repeatedly repell and troop casualties mount, morale among frontline officers and soldiers was low. Indian Army Brigadier General Diwan personally ventured into the Golden Temple compound, where fierce fighting was still taking place, and was responsible for directly commanding the front-line battle. He was determine to use heavy weapons to suppress the militants. To this end, he transferred a mechanised infantry battalion (the 8th Mechanised Infantry Battalion, equipped with Soviet-made BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles) to assist in the battle.

BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle
BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle in Operation Blue Star

Brigadier General Diwan

Brigadier General Diwan reported to his superiors that the troops had suffered heavy casualties. And that the attack would not be able to continue without reinforcements. General Brar then sent two companies of the 15th Kumaang Regiment to support the front-line attacking troops. But even the elite special forces of the Golden Temple couldn’t chew it. Let alone the ordinary troops of these two companies. They suffered serious casualties just after they entered the battle. Brigadier Diwan completely lost confidence in his infantry and requested tank support.

At this time, as a Polish-made OT-64 wheeled armored vehicle slowly approached the gate of the Golden Temple. A rocket accurately hit it. The driver and commander were killed on the spot, and the armored vehicle collapsed on the spot. After seeing that it was indeed impossible to capture the Golden Temple with armored vehicles alone. Brar also asked the military in New Delhi to allow him to use the “Victory” tank.

Indian Army’s ‘Victory’ main battle tank
Indian Army’s ‘Victory’ main battle tank in Operation Blue Star

“Victory” tanks

At around 7:30 a.m. on June 6, the 105mm main guns of six other “Victory” tanks of the 16th Cavalry Regiment. Which had been serving as cover outside. Began to use armour-breaking shells to fire indiscriminately at the buildings of the Golden Temple. As long as it looks like a location where someone can be hidden, we’ll do it first. Indian tanks fired at least 80 rounds, causing serious damage to the building complex. Including temples, prayer rooms, and many exquisite statues that were destroyed by artillery fire.

After the tanks entered the battle, the Indian army finally began to gain the upper hand. As the firepower points were knocked out one by one. The Indian infantry rushed into the Golden Temple from all directions. The Sikh militants were no longer able to resist the Indian army’s attack. They were forced to retreat step by step. In the end, most of them killed or captured. The few militants who tried to break out were also shot mercilessly by the military police on guard outside. Kali party leader Bhindranwal and military leader Shabeg Singh also died in the rebellion. However, it took the Indians another 24 hours to clear out the militants from the complex outside the Golden Temple. On June 7, Sundarji excitedly reported to Indira Gandhi that the Indian army had completed the operation. To eliminate militants and had complete control of the entire Golden Temple.

Remaining militants

In fact, many remaining militants were still resisting at this time. On June 8, the Indian army commandos found four militants in the basement of a tower building during a search. And immediately shouted to persuade them to surrender. After the shouting was ineffective, the Indian army launched multiple attacks on the basement. But none of them had any effect. A colonel was kill by a light machine gun when he led a team to raid the basement. The two sides faced off until the afternoon of the 10th, before the Indian army killed four people. At this point, the entire operation is complete.

Indian troops are on alert after taking control of the Golden Temple
Indian troops are on alert after taking control of the Golden Temple in Operation Blue Star

White paper

According to a white paper released by the Indian government afterwards. A total of 136 Indian Army and police personnel killed. And 220 injured during the operation. 492 civilians died, 433 of 1,592 Sikhs arrested. And almost no survivors of about 200 Sikh militants killed in the battle (this battle loss ratio is extremely ugly and embarrassing for the Indian Army). However, other channels indicate that the casualties of this incident far exceeded the official figures. The British media, BBC, stated that sources believed that the number of civilian casualties was between 5,000 and 20,000. And the number of Indian soldiers killed was 700. The American media outlet CNN claimed that 360 Indian troops killed.

Although “Operation Blue Star” achieved a tactical victory. It brought a series of serious consequences. The most direct of which was the assassination of Ingdan Gandhi himself by his own Sikh guards on October 31.

An art work showing Gandhi being shot dead by his own Sikh bodyguards
An art work showing Gandhi shot by his own Sikh bodyguards

In addition, Sikh officers and soldiers serving in the Indian army. Also caused many mutinies, with more than 4,000 people participating. The most serious one was when some recruits of a Sikh infantry regiment stationed in Ramgarh kill the regiment leader and others. All the officers, after seizing the weapons in the arsenal, attempted to go to Punjab to support their Sikh compatriots. In the end, the rebel army was completely annihilate under the siege of other Indian troops. Although successive Indian governments tried their best to mitigate the impact of this incident, they achieved little success. The rift between Hinduism and Sikhism caused by the Golden Temple incident is like a huge volcano. And no one knows which day it will erupt.

The Golden Temple and surrounding buildings were renovated after the Battle of the Golden Temple in 1984
The Golden Temple and surrounding buildings renovated
File Photo
India Canada diplomatic dispute

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