47 die as Sikhs avenge army invasion of temple

Toronto Star
June 8, 1984

NEW DELHI (UPI-Reuter) —Sikh militants struck back yesterday against an army campaign against their bases in the northern state of Punjab, killing at least 10 more people.

That brings to 47 the number of dead in rioting sparked by the murderous shoot-out at Amritsar's Golden Temple complex. Countless hundreds have been injured in a wave of protests across the country, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Among the victims were at least 14 people shot by police. The discovery of the bullet-riddled body of hardline Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the basement of the temple building provoked clashes in several areas, including Srinagar in Kashmir, Patna, Lucknow, Madras, Bombay and Simla.

Here in the Indian capital of New Delhi, 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of Amritsar, police shot dead two Sikh youths during a day of running battles with demonstrators hurling rocks and bottles, police said. More than 100 people, including 65 policemen, were injured in street battles. There were also attacks by Sikhs in the Ludhiana district of Punjab, 90 kilometres (60 miles) southeast of Amritsar. Police shot dead six members of what they called "an armed mob."

A 24-hour curfew remained in effect in most of the state of Punjab as the army hunted down suspected terrorists and searched for arms caches.

The state remained banned to foreign reporters who have to rely on government versions of events or on the Indian media which generally play clown such news.

Meanwhile, moderate Sikh leaders across India warned that the entire Sikh community had been radicalized by the assault on the holy precincts of the Amirtsar temple and the resulting death of Bhindranwale.

"I'm very distressed and very angered," said Kushwant Singh, a prominent Sikh author with a national following. "It's an act of political folly. It will alienate the entire Sikh community."

In a bid to curb the protest violence, the government-controlled Indian television last night showed of the Golden Shrine itself. It appeared to be undamaged by the hand-to-hand combat that occurred as troops flushed out Sikh gunmen from their last strongholds.

An All-India radio reporter, apparently the first civilian allowed to enter the complex after Wednesday's battle, said the small shrine in the centre of the 12-block temple compound was not hit in the shooting. He said the gold and copper exterior of the shrine in the middle of a large artificial lake had not even been scratched in Wednesday's army assault that claimed about 300 lives.

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