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June 15, 1984
(Jaistha 25, Saka 1906)


Gyani Zail Singh, President, paid a two-hour visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. He spent an hour in Harmindar Sahib, the main Gurudwara in the Golden Temple complex and saw for himself that it remained unscathed eventhough some extremists fired on soldiers from within. The President was happy that the soldiers did not fire back at the Harmindar Sahib and preferred to suffer casualities.

The President was received by the head priest, Sant Sahib Singh and he took part in the 'Sabad kirtan'. The President, later visited the army cantonment where a large quantity of arms including medium and light machine guns, anti-tank rockets, anti-personnel mines, grenades, sten guns, rifles, explosives captured from the terrorists were kept.

The President directed the Governor Hr. B.D. Pande to get all damages to 'Akal Takht' and 'Darshani Deodhi', main entrance to Harmindar Sahib, repaired immediately.


Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister, called on June 8, for giving a 'healing touch' to the wounds inflicted on the hearts of the people by the recent Punjab incidents. The Prime Minister expressed sorrow over what happened in Punjab and said that military action was unavoidable. No Government could tolerate indefinitely the continued massacre of innocent people by the terrorists. The Prime Minister said that the security of the country could be maintained only when its people were united and disciplined.

The Prime Minister while giving an interview with a correspndent of CBC on June 9, commented that the Government of India had always kept the door open for negotiation with the Akali Dal. The leaders who started the agitation, themselves knew that; it very soon went out of their hands, into the hands of those people who had obviously been brain-washed and had definitely received sophisticated training in using weapons; their purpose had nothing to do with their demands and nothing to do with religion. The Government's action was not against the Akali Dal or the religious sentiments of the Sikhs. The Government acted specifically against a small group of people who had taken control of the Golden Temple and had wanted to carry out a prolonged war to secede from India. Government was still keeping the door open for a reasonable settlement.


"Harmindar Sahib comemmorates Guru Ram Das. It is the highest centre of Sikh religion where all countries of the world got the message of true love and brotherhood. The history of the Sikhs is closely linked with Harmindar Sahib. It is a sacred desire of every Sikh to go on pilgrimage to this holy shrine whose doors are open to one and all, irrespective of religion, caste or creed. Here we get the message of truth and brotherhood. The unfortunate happenings of the last few days have been most painful for all of us. At this sad time, the recitation of Guru Granth Sahib is being relayed through Akashavani (A.I.R.) to bring us peace and solace. We pray to the great Guru to grant us all the previlege of paying our respects at the holy shrine as early as possible". In response to a request for a message to the people, Giani Sahib Singh said "We should all live in love and peace".


A number of unconfirmed and motivated reports have appeared in the media, at times purportive to quote civilian and military sources who "do not wish to be identified". Such reports have tended to give a slanted picture of the situation, have exaggerated, the number of casualities and sought to give currency to horror stories which have no basis in reality.

The following is an account of the army operation and the cir-cumstances leading to it:

Akali morcha launched in 1981 under Sant Longowal gradually passed into the hands of the militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his band of extremists and terrorists whose declared intention was the creation of 'Khalistan', an exclusive nation for Sikhs with the active encouragement, connivance and assistance of certain foreign powers. The active arms of the movement were the All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) led by Amrik Singh and a small, hard core of the Nihang sect. Combining indiscriminate killing of Sikh opponents and innocent members of other communities with vitriolic secessionist speeches, the Bhindranwale group gradually wrested effective control of the Golden Temple from the SGPC, whose members were forced to endorse his line at the peril of being included in Bhindranwale's 'hit list'.

The internecine battle within the Golden Temple was accompanied by acquisition of sophisticated arms, which, as evident after recovery, included anti-tank missiles, mines and heavy automatic weapons, besides rifles, and grenades. Reports were received of military training being imparted to the membered of the group in so called 'religious training camps' in Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan occupied kashmir. Reports confirmed that military activities were coordinated by certain retired and discharged ex-servicemen headed by Shabeg Singh who was a dismissed major general due to corruption and malpractices. Simultaneously, the area around Golden Temple and the Temple itself was developed into a virtually impregnable fortress imprisoned by fanatically motivated insurgents. This included construction of well built weapon positions, parapet walls and emplacements. In addition, high roof civilian houses on the periphery were occupied by armed insurgents and used as well fortified forward defences. Existing water tower, minarets and domes which overlooked the Temple were also fortified, not only providing a very effective observation, but also enabling devastating fire power to be effective across all approaches.

After all other methods employed by the Government failed and quantum escalation of terrorist activities continued against helpless and innocent civil population, under Bhindranwale's orders from the Golden Temple, the army was charged with the task of removing the terrorist menace, and restoration of law and order and normalcy in Punjab.

In the first days of June, army units were swiftly moved to their positions at Amritsar and other cities of Punjab where the growing terrorist factions had been known to have been operating from religious places. Quick coordination was carried out with police forces and civil administration. Detailed orders were given to all troops to use only minimum force, show utmost reverence to all holy places and to ensure no desecration or damage to "Harmindar Sahib", the sanctum sanctorum at the Golden Temple and the "Darbar Sahib" of all Gurudwaras used as sanctuaries by the terrorists. The use of high trajectory weapons and incendiary ammunition was debarred. Troops were carefully instructed not to wear any leather item in the temple area and treat all captured people with dignity and care till the process of screening was over to identify terrorists and extremists.

A 36-hour curfew was declared by the Punjab state from 2100 hours on 3 June 1984, and extended selectively to 6th June 1984. Police cordons around the Golden Temple and certain other terrorist hideouts was made effective by army units who also assisted in ensuring that the curfew was not violated by the terrorists. From 1630 hours on 5th June onwards, continuous appeals were made over loud speakeres to all within the premises of the Golden Temple to come out and hand themselves over to the authorities. 129 men, women and children came out. Similar actions took place in a number of areas in Punjab. Full opportunity was given to all the inmates of the Golden Temple, and other holy Gurdwaras which the terrorists had usurped, to avoid bloodshed.

From 2230 hours, on June 5, army units commenced moving to the Golden Temple precints. This drew a very heavy volume of fire from the terrorists into the narrow streets at close range. Despite casualties, the troops closed in and slowly commenced movement into the area around the temple, after overcoming initial opposition. Very heavy volume of fire had to be faced from the Akal Takht which stood like a fortress, sweeping all avenues of approach with deadly volumes of machine gun fire, causing heavy casualities.

The terrorists from the outer lines of defence, reinforced the Akal Takht and made it a bastion of automatic weapons. Machine guns from Harmindar Sahib also raked with fire the Parikarma and surrounding buildings where the troops had forced back the defenders.

At 0100 hours on 6th June, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and Mr. G.S. Tohra surrendered near Guru Nanak Niwas with about 350 people including some women and children.

At about 0410 hours on 6th June some troops attempting to close in with the Akal Takht in an armoured personnel carrier (APC) were fired at by anti-tank rockets which damaged the APC. By the morning of 6th June, the troops had engaged all loop holes at the Akal Takht to clear some areas held by the troops, but were beaten off. A group of 10 extremists surrendered with a white flag. Room to room fighting continued in the Akal Takht till it was cleared by 1230 hours 6th June - though some resistance continued from the ground floor.

That afternoon, the troops made further appeals over lound­speakers for the terrorists to surrender. As a result some 200 terrorists surrendered including 22 from "Harmindar Sahib". The 'Head Granthi' and two other 'Granthies' were safe in 'Harmindar Sahib'.

The continued resistance from the ground floor of the Akal Takht was tackled during the night of 6th and 7th June. When this resistance was finally overcome, Bhindranwale's dead body was found in the basement among others and another 35 bodies were found in the Akal Takht.

Some extremists and terrorists remained active in the morning hours of 7th June using the surrounding buildings and a number of tunnels in the areas of Golden Temple.

It is emphasised that right from the commencement of the planning stage of this operation, damage to the temple buildings was not even contemplated and strict instructions were issued to preserve the buildings. The heavy toll of the army casualities is an indication of the deliberate restraint exercised on the power of troops in order to ensure that the 'Akal Takht' and 'Harmindar Sahib' were not damaged despite the murderous small arms and automatic fire which poured forth on our troops form these supposedly holy buildings. The fire on the Akal Takht was only opened when unacceptable losses began to accrue on troops and the extremists escalated the use of anti-tank weapons.

A large cache of weapons, ammunition and explosives were recovered from the Golden Temple complex including 47 machine guns, 47 self loading rifles, 247 .303 rifles, 66 muzzle loading guns, 11 mix type of rifles, 26 mix type of sten guns, 9 combines, 74 revolvers or pistols, 1 rocket launcher, 561 hand grenades, 33 smoke grenades, 2 medium machine guns. More recoveries are continuing.

Till the last, efforts were made to preserve the sanctity of the 'Akal Takht'. Surprisingly the extremists resorted to firing with automatic weapons at troops even from within Harmindar Sahib and inflicting heavy casualties. As can be seen from the layout of the defences, troops progressing operations along any wing of the temple complexes came under heavy fire from the opposite wing of the temple complex and in most cases if the fire was to be returned the Harmindar Sahib was directly on the line of fire and troops could not fire back. Inspite of heavy provocation and heavy casuality the troop had to take a very difficult decision to accept all these constraints and ensure that not one single round was fired on Harmindar Sahib. Few armies in the world would have willingly suffered casualities under the circumstances.

It will also be seen from the details of casualities suffered by troops that the proportion of officers and JCOS casualities was high. This only goes to prove that responsible leaders were always in the fore front to ensure that the task is accomplished in accordance with the directives of the government. The operation left 84 soldiers and 492 others dead, 262 army jawans injured, 40 of them officers and JCOS.

The large quantity of arms, ammunition, explosives and some radio sets recovered at the Golden Temple complex, the thorough training and resolute leadership of the terrorists and extremists and their ruthless conduct in the holy Sikh shrines, must come as a surprise to most right thinking Indians. We must ask ourselves where all this was leading to. That were the eventual aims of this movement? They had support and encouragement from some foreign countries and had effectively controlled the Punjab country side by ruthless terrorism with the command headquarters at the Akal Takht and had all but made the administration totally ineffective. The taking over of the moderate Sikh leadership and fortfying a large number of Gurudwaras as safe sancturies all over Punjab, together with subtle and insidious propoganda in all Sikh organisations that the 'Panth is in danger' indicated a thrust towards much bigger stakes than merely getting a better deal for the Sikhs. The obvious direction and thrust of the movement was towards an independent "Khalistan" fully supported by neighbouring and foreign powers. The terrorists led by Bhindranwale were perhaps only cogs in the wheel. If the army action had not been resolute and determined, the movement would have moved towards full scale insurgency which would have crippled the armed forces in any future confrontation across the borders.