– On June 06, human rights group “Sikhs for Justice” (SFJ) will hold a “Sikh Sovereignty March” in Manhattan to mark the 30 year of attack on the Golden Temple, the Vatican of Sikhism. The march, which is expected to be attended by more than 5000Sikhs, will start in front of India’s Permanent Mission to the UN and will end at United Nations Headquarters.
The Sikh community remembers June 1984 as their own 9/11, when the Indian Army launched a massive attack on the Golden Temple, the Vatican of Sikh religion, killing over 10,000 pilgrims.
Thirty years later, the wounds of Operation Blue Star are still open. In 2012 Lt. General Brar who led the attack, survived an attempt on his life in London, UK; in January 2014, declassified documents showed that Prime Minister Thatcher’s government had advised India in planning the attack on the Golden Temple.
According to attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ, “We want the international community to break its silence on the oppression of Sikhs in India and the denial of their right to self- determination in Punjab”.
The “Sovereignty March” is supported by management committees of Sikh Temples across North America.
Operation Blue Star was justified by Indian authorities as necessary action to flush out militants from the Golden Temple complex who were fighting for an independent Sikh homeland. General S. K. Sinha, the GOC of the Indian Army, who was fired just before the attack, advised the government against Operation Blue Star, and criticized the claim that the attack was a “last resort.”
Since one of the holiest days in June was chosen to launch the attack, Sikhs believe the real aim of Operation Blue Star was to penalize the Sikh community for its support to movement for right to self- determination.
Although the ostensible aim was to kill the leadership of the movement for right to self-determination, the level of force used in the attack was utterly incommensurate with this limited and eminently attainable aim.
Seventy thousand troops, in conjunction with the use of gunship helicopters, tanks and chemical gas, killed thousands of Sikh pilgrims including women and children. The highest temporal seat of Sikhism, was reduced to rubble and the Sikh Reference Library, an irreplaceable collection of books, manuscripts, and artifacts bearing on all aspects of Sikh history, was destroyed.
Operation Blue Star and its aftermath is aptly summed up by Professor Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, of the University of Notre Dame: “India’s crimes of 1984 began with its assault on, and the massacres at, the Golden Temple and dozens of other gurudwaras across India in the first week of June 1984, and continued with the nationwide government-sponsored pogroms of November 1984. In many ways, the crimes still continue, not just in the cover-up and the sheltering of the criminals, but in actual outrages by the government and its minions, to date.”