Carvan published an interview of Col. Israr khan who lead the troops (10 Guard) in Darbar sahhib by Hartoshh Bal.
Here is the analysis of this interview, kinldy see how this Muslim officer tried to hide the facts and proagated only falsehood?
On this night in 1984, the Golden Temple in Amritsar was stormed by Indian army troops. They had been summoned by Indira Gandhi to disarm and dislodge Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale—head of the Damdami Taksaal, a prominent insurgent voice in the orthodox Sikh community and a former ally of the Congress—who was operating from and residing in the Darbar Sahib Complex. While the intent of Operation Bluestar, as this was termed, was to clear Bhindranwale’s armed insurgents from the premises of the Golden Temple, the operation took a devastating turn. In this excerpt from ‘The Shattered Dome,’ from our May 2014 issue, Hartosh Singh Bal reports on the violent events that transpired that night.
According to the memoir of PC Alexander, principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi made up her mind to summon the army on 25 May, relying on the reassurances of General AS Vaidya, chief of the army staff. Vaidya explained that he would move troops into different locations in Punjab simultaneously, surrounding gurdwaras occupied by extremists and cutting off their supplies and movement. A similar siege would be mounted around the Golden Temple, with a large number of troops. Alexander writes that Gandhi “repeatedly told the general that in any operation no damage should be done to the temple buildings and particularly to the Harmandir Sahib.” Vaidya assured her that there would be “a maximum show of force, but a minimum use of it.”
Vaidya met with Gandhi again on 29 May, and suggested some changes in the plan. They would ensure that the temple would not be damaged—but they would need to enter it. This proposal was the result of Vaidya’s meeting with Lieutenant General K Sundarji, who had direct command of operations. Alexander writes that Vaidya convinced Gandhi that he had weighed the pros and cons of the plan with his senior colleagues; they had all agreed that a siege would prolong the operation and destabilise the surrounding countryside.
“Vaidya spoke with such confidence and calmness that the new plan he was proposing appeared to be the only option open to the Army,” Alexander writes. “I can definitely state on the basis of the clear knowledge of Indira Gandhi’s thinking at that time that she agreed to the revision of the earlier plan at the eleventh hour strictly on the assurance given to her that the whole operation would be completed swiftly and without any damage to the buildings within the Golden temple complex.”
A week later, on the night of 5 June, Lieutenant Colonel Israr Rahim Khan commanded the first batch of troops that stormed the Darbar Sahib complex.
Khan reported directly to Major General Kuldip Singh “Bulbul” Brar, who was in overall command of the operation and in touch with Sundarji. (The major general, like Bhindranwale, was a Brar Jatt, and the two men came from villages close to each other’s, but there the similarities between them ended. Brar came from a distinguished military family, and the gulf of class and education between him and Bhindranwale was deep; he had little time for the sort of orthodoxy Bhindranwale espoused.)
(Here Khan calles this Sikh preacher Sant jarnail Singhh Bhindranwala who was master in religious studies if not inworldly education. Who so ever came to interview him or visited to know his views always got so impressed that he became his follower like Swami Subramaniyam Farooq Abdullah and so on).
When I met him in his home, Khan, who retired as a brigadier, at first said he had little to add to Brar’s account of the operation, published in his 1993 book Operation Bluestar—The True Story. I said I wanted to hear a view from the ground, from a soldier who was actually part of the operation.
In spite of his greying hair, it was easy to see in Khan the dashing soldier Brar had sent into the complex. Once he began to speak, it was evident he remembered the action as though it had taken place yesterday. “From our debussing area, near Jallianwalla Bagh”—the famous park is a short distance away from the Darbar Sahib—“we were to approach the Darshan Deori, the main entrance. We were in the open, and they”—Bhindranwale’s men—“were all secure, with their weapon emplacements in place. There was not an inch of ground in the gully outside the Darshan Deori that was not covered by the firing.”
(In fact Darshani Deori is known the gates from where devotees enter the main sanctum sanctorum Darbar sahib in middle of thhe sacred pond. this place whichh is referred by Col. israr Khan is known as Ghantaghar).
Shahbeg Singh’s plan of defence for the Darbar Sahib was so effective that, three decades later, Khan recalled it with something like admiration. The complex was guarded by an outer ring of emplacements positioned on the vantage points of its high buildings—the Hotel Temple View on one side, and the gumbads, or domes, on the other—and an inner ring on the parikrama, within the temple itself. At the Darshan Deori, Khan and his men descended the stairs into the complex unaware of loopholes in the walls that had been turned, he said, into “weapon pits.”
“My boys were climbing down the stairs in the darkness, because the electricity was cut. It was totally dark, and we were wondering where this fire was coming from. It takes a little time to think. It was coming from under the stairs.” The bullets hit Khan’s soldiers below the knee. “The boys,” he said, “fell tumbling down.”
The memory made Khan pause. “In which war have we suffered such heavy casualties?” he asked. “From my battalion, in the first hour—from 10.30 to 11.30 at night—we had already lost nineteen. In the ’71 war, in Shakargarh sector, I tell you, Hartosh, in the whole ten to fifteen days, my battalion, the 10 Guards, lost four men. What a gruesome battle it was in the Golden Temple.”
The army was hemmed in at close quarters, in a heavily built-up area—which meant, Khan said, that there was no way collateral damage could be avoided. “I read somewhere that Mrs Gandhi was told there would be no casualties. No person in the right frame of mind would give such an assurance to the PM.”
If there were any expectations that the security forces would meet no resistance, they were rendered utterly false. “They knew,” Khan said. “How can you build brick and mortar key emplacements overnight? It was beautifully planned. You could not close up anywhere near the temple without being hit by a bullet.”
“The commandos were grouped with me. A company each of the SFF”—the R&AW unit, the Special Frontier Force —“and 1 Para Commando was grouped with 10 Guards. We were to give them safe passage through the parikrama, until the periphery of the Akal Takht, and they were meant to capture Bhindranwale from the Akal Takht. So I grouped them, with my leading company going ahead. We entered first and made place for them to enter. We gave them a safe corridor through the parikrama till the end. There were twelve rooms in a row; we kept clearing, room by room by room.” Every room was manned.
(As per the statements given by eye witnesses I find Israr Khan giving an account of operation on night of 5th June Before that army had taken over whole complex other then Akal Takhat.
Khan also admits that he cleared the room by room which were all manned It was only massacre of stranded pilgrims who had taken shelter in those rooms to save their lives It was duty of army to save their lives but killer Indian army was on mission to suppress Sikh nation so it brutally murdered all the unarmed but innocent pilgrims inside those rooms and in the complex).
By 1 am, Khan says, his company had captured the northern wing of the parikrama and opened it up to the special forces, but they were unable to make headway. “The moment they would close up near the Akal Takht they would come under heavy fire. They were very badly mauled. So they would fall back on the parikrama, and get in touch with Bulbul to tell him that they had lost so many men.”
“I won’t blame them professionally. Their men were dying, and all the fire was coming at them. But why some other methods were not adopted, or what they had rehearsed, is not known to me.”
At two o’clock in the morning, Brar called. “Bulbul told me on the set: ‘Israr, have a Carl Gustav’”—an anti-tank missile—“‘fired at the dome of the Akal Takht and see what effect it has.’ I set up the Carl Gustav myself; I couldn’t take anyone else’s report for granted. From the first floor, which we had captured, I fired a Carl Gustav and—Hartosh, can you believe it, what a beautiful building it was, that dome was so strong—it just ricocheted like a .303 bullet being fired into that wall. Even that leaves a one-inch dent; but nothing was visible on that dome.” Khan radioed back to tell Brar that the missile had had no effect.
“Then I don’t know what transpired between the special forces and Bulbul, that they found no other way. They were scared that after sunrise, all of Punjab would surround the Golden Temple. So whatever had to be achieved, had to be achieved before dawn. They decided on rolling down three tanks inside, and eventually used the main gun of the tank. It pierced through the dome, and there were gaping holes. That was a horrific sight. My own assessment now is that if the main gun of the tank had not been used, perhaps the Sikh psyche wouldn’t have been hurt so much.”
Almost every commitment that Vaidya made to the prime minister went unkept. The operation took at least a full night; it resulted in the decimation of the Akal Takht; and the casualties far outstripped any estimate Gandhi had been given. There are still no credible explanations for why no intelligence on the situation was available or forthcoming to the army. Neither are there answers for why the army did not ask for more time to plan, especially as an operation at the Darbar Sahib had been under consideration since February.
(Either Khan hiding the facts or tryig to give a cover by speaking false on preparation time army was given to attack. Genral SK Sinha disclosed in his book “Last resorts” that army was giving special training to its soldiers in Chakrata near Dehra Dun 18 months prior to the invasion on Darbar sahib than how much more time it wanted?
It’s the same army which was ordered to prepare and then air dropped in just six hours to Sri Lanka in 1985?)
In 1984, the day marking the martyrdom of Guru Arjan fell on 3 June, two days before Operation Bluestar began. The choice to begin hostilities on 5 June was highly problematic, because a curfew had been imposed around the complex days before the attack, effectively trapping a large number of pilgrims, who had nothing to do with the militants, inside the temple.
(Why the curfew was imposed and trapped pilgrims were not permitted to come out of Darbar Sahib, the intention of army is clearly mentioned here. It trapped them in large numbers so that in operation army may use them as a cover to move to capture Akal Takhat these trapped pilgrims were thus killed in cross firing in periphery other then killed by granade attack in rooms where they had taken the shelter).
(This strategy of army is well explained in the bottom at “Valor of Sikh youths and defeat of indian army” and cleared why the army chose auspicious day of martyrdom day of fifth guru Aran dev ‘s martyrdom day for attack).
Indira Gandhi had given such orders to General Vaidya, the Commanding officer in chief of Indian army as;
“I don’t give a damn if the Golden Temple and whole of Amritsar are destroyed, I want Bhindranwale dead.” (Indira Gandhi, Indian Prime Minister, communicating with Gen. Vaidya during “Operation Blue Star”)
Over the years, evidence has emerged of crimes committed within the premises by security forces. Brigadier Onkar Goraya’s 2013 book, Operation Bluestar and After, An Eyewitness Account, provides, for the first time, some clarity on the number of pilgrims inside the complex during the operation. Goraya, the head of the Admin branch of the 15th Infantry division posted in Punjab, was tasked with “lifting civilian casualties, disposal of the dead and evacuation of the wounded to the hospitals, apprehending the militants, guarding them in make-shift jails in the Cantonment, and arranging for their logistics.” He placed the casualties, based on the number of bodies disposed, at seven hundred, and stated that another 2,200 persons were rounded up and interned.
(Here Goraya also lies, the exact number may not be possible to reveal but approximate and very near to actual is obtained. There were 10,000 innocent pilgrims killed inside the Darbar sahib periphery other than those killed in surrounding buildings as these figure was taken from shoe store (Joda Ghar) where every devotee deposit his/her shoes before entering the sacred sanctorum. There were 10.000 unclaimed shoes inside this joda ghar whose claimanants never returned to claim. Nearly 15,000 innocent pilgrims were killed in Darbar Sahib complex only).
Even by the most exaggerated count, Bhindranwale’s men numbered no more than 250. Were they all counted among the dead, with another hundred from other militant organisations included for good measure, it would mean that, even by the most conservative estimate, the operation resulted in the deaths of over 350 people who had nothing at all to do with Bhindranwale. Considering that many people slipped out of the complex through the numerous doors leading to alleyways surrounding it, it is safe to say the number of people inside was far higher than the three thousand or so accounted for by the numbers of those dead, injured or captured.
The army has consistently maintained that pilgrims inside the complex were given ample opportunity to leave. But Goraya makes it clear that most never heard the army’s requests to surrender and come out. A day before the operation began, he found a district administration van outside the complex broadcasting announcements in Punjabi: “All those who are stranded inside the Darbar Sahib complex are requested to come out with their hands raised above their head. They will not be fired at.” The van was parked eighty yards from the main entrance. “The devotees and pilgrims, for whose benefit the announcements were being made, were well beyond its reach,” Goraya writes.
In his memoirs (Memoirs of Giani Zail Singh, Har Anand Publications, New Delhi, 1996) the President of India confirms that no warnings were given; “I pointed out to her [Mrs Indira Gandhi] that military action was taken on a day when the Temple complex was full of pilgrims men, women and children – assembled to observe the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, most of whom perished in the cross firing… I told her that if notice had been given to these pilgrims over radio and television and loudspeakers, a majority of them would have come out… I had asked the government whether they had issued a warning on the loudspeakers to the people inside the complex to come out, to which they replied in the affirmative. Later, I came to know that no such warning had been issued and the operation had been suddenly launched.”
Who was lying, whether army or the President of India?
The scene within the complex after the operation was gruesome. Goraya writes of the stench of rotting bodies in the June heat: the task of disposing of them was so onerous that the municipal workers who eventually cleared them away did so only because they were permitted to strip the bodies of their belongings. The bodies of Bhindranwale and Shahbeg Singh were recovered from the basement of the Akal Takht on the morning of 7 June, almost two days after the operation began. Bhindranwale’s body was identified by his brother and quickly cremated in the presence of a few officers and jawans.
Goraya’s book confirms an allegation of long standing: that security forces shot at least a few men in cold blood. Evidence has already been published of at least one execution: a 2006 book by Harminder Kaur – Blue star over Amritsar – contains the post-mortem report of a young man shot through the chest with his hands tied behind his back. Goraya’s story strengthens the claim that there were multiple killings of this kind. “On 7th June, around mid-day, I saw about 90 detainees sitting on the hot marble floor of the Southern wing of Parikrama,” he writes. “They were naked except for the long underwear and their hands were tied behind their backs.
(We have eye witness accounts how army personals killed the amritdhari Sikhs wearing all five mandatory signs of Sikh faith in cold blood by tying their hands at their back and shot them in frustration as army suffered very heavy loss. The casualities it had in operation Blue star was much much higher than combined loss of lives it had in all three maor wars fought against China and Pakistan).
“Most of them appeared to be militants. Though subjugated they retained their defiant spirit. Instead of looking down, some of them dared to look into the eyes of their captors. A second Lieutenant of the unit who had fought these militants the previous night and lost a few comrades, could not stomach such defiance. When he asked them to look down one of them spat at him. The officer lost his cool and shot him in the forehead.”
(That shows the hate of Sikhs towards invading army which attacked their supreme shrine and killed the innocent, the Sikh youth was certainly fearless as he was sure that he will be killed so he spat in extreme hate and conveyed his message before he was shot.
Kudos to that fearless Sikh).
On 23 June, when Indira Gandhi visited the Darbar Sahib for the first time after the operation, Goraya was at the tail end of the group surrounding her as she walked around the parikrama. As she looked at the Akal Takht, Goraya claims, she said to General Sundarji beside her: “I didn’t ask you to do this.”
An edited excerpt from “The Shattered Dome,’ published in The Caravan’s May 2014 issue. Read the story in full here.
Hartosh Singh Bal is the political editor at The Caravan, and is the author of Waters Close Over Us: A Journey Along the Narmada. He was formerly the political editor at Open magazine.
Valor of Sikh youths and the defeat of Indian army ;
The infantry division of Indian army had surrendered before the valiant Sikh youths. The fierce fight which was fought continuously for nearly 72 hrs. had stopped the advance of a mighty and best army in world which had earlier defeated Pakistan and captured its 93000 soldiers, was not able to fight with these handful Sikh youths.
The distance from Clock tower entrance to Sri Akal Takhat in complex of Darbar sahib is hardly 200 meters. The Army generals were sure to take over the Akal Takhat within half an hour but this largest army which had already covered up whole of Punjab, couldn’t cover this distance of merely 200 meters for 72 hrs, it marked a question on their valor. It had to face such a heavy resistance.
The Indian army could never think of such stiff resistance, it had not thought the handful Sikh youths who were not properly trained shall stop the mighty Indian army. The Generals of Indian army had forgot that the Sikhs have a charm to get martyrdom since their childhood and they feel proud to offer their heads to their Guru and getting martyred in battlefield.
The Sikh youths were fighting those who had invaded with a malicious thought to destroy their holiest shrine, to protect the house of lord and to make it’s sanctity, these Sikh youths had one motto only —- to sacrifice for a good cause, and to get martyred, they practically proved in the battlefield the prophetic prononuncement of Guru Gobind Singh ji that “ “Chirian to main baaz tudaun, Gidran to main sher banun, Sawa lakh seek laraun, Tbhai Gobind Singh naam kahaun”, means “ only if I can make sparrows fight against hawks, make lions out of jackals, and make one person fight against 1.25 lakh (one hundred twenty five thousand) enemies—only then I deserve to be called Gobind Singh”.
These Sikh youths sacrificed their lives to prove these words whereas the soldiers of Indian army were just obeying the orders of their queen Indira.
The Generals of Indian army had deliberately selected the martyrdom day of fifth Guru of Sikh religion to attack Darbar sahib while making strategy because on such day the Sikhs arrives in large numbers to Gurudwara along with their families. The Indian army could use their large gathering of congregation to achieve their mission of capturing Akal Takhat. It could deliver two benefits:-
First— by presence of large congregation the army could reach Akal Takhat easily in cover of these innocent Sikhs, if the army opened fire, the chances were of killing of innocent Sikhs from either side, the Sikhs may be from devotees or the followers of Sant Jarnail Singh ji. Indira Gandhi had also issued such orders that whether whole of Amritsar is destroyed but Bhindranwala must not be left alive. Thus, the Indian army had planned to proceed safely towards Sri Akal Tkhat in cover of innocent devotees and then to attack there like the soldiers proceed in battle fields in the cover of buffalows or other animals to save their lives.
The Generals of Indian army too made the same strategy that their soldiers shall capture Sri Akal Takhat within half an hour by getting safe cover of congregation of devotees there because these generals were sure that the Sikh youths shall never fire on their brothers, sisters or the children in congregation but the brave warriors inside the shrine had got Gurilla training from retired Maj. General Shubeg Singh who was expert in such wars. These brave Sikhs finished the first attack in minutes. All those soldiers who were sent inside at periphery of Darbar sahib were killed by indiscriminate firing.
The fierce fight to capture Akal Takhat was continued for nearly 72 hrs but when infantry division of Indian army failed to proceed a few meters, than Armored personal carrier vehicles was brought into service to ferry the soldiers safely to Akal Takhat but such an APC vehicle was blown off by a missile.
And after the Infantry surrendered, the heavy armor and Artillery was brought in, Tanks fired 80 shells on Akal Takhat whereas last reports revealed that only 14 Sikhs were left alive in Akal takhat but the army generals were sweating and had left their patience. they had assured indira to take control of Akal takhat within half an hour and every attempt was made to kill Sant ji as Indira had ordered them. She didn’t want to capture him alive.
Finally these brave last 14 Sikhs were killed and then only indian army could enetr the building and took over the control. none of these brave Sikh youths was caughht alive or surrendered but they sacrificed their lives to protect sanctum Sanctorum darbar Sahib from invasion and set the example of valor of Sikhs as per their tradition for centuries.
Hats off to all of them.
Ajmer Singh Randhawa