On June 6, 1984, Operation Blue Star — the armed assault on the most sacred shrine of the Sikhs, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, was launched.
In the name of “flushing out terrorists”, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the army to attack the Golden Temple with heavy tank and artillery fire, killing more than 4,712 people, according to the figures released in the White Paper on Operation Bluestar that was placed by the government before parliament. The sacred shrine, the Akal Takht, was razed to the ground. Operation Blue Star was executed on a day sacred for women and men of the Sikh faith, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjun Dev, when thousands of ordinary people had gathered at the Gurudwara.
Prior to this, in the early eighties, peasant revolts engulfed large parts of India, as the negative consequences of the so called Green Revolution started impacting on their livelihood. The areas in which this green Revolution had maximum impact — Punjab, Haryana, Western UP, parts of Rajasthan and Karnataka — witnessed widespread peasant struggles. The working class too was waging major battles following the Emergency, in defence of its rights, in the major industrial centres of the country — Mumbai, Faridabad, Delhi, Chennai, Kanpur and so on. In Punjab, the struggle became intense. To crush this revolt of the workers and peasants, to divide and disorient them, the Indian state with the help of its agencies deliberately fomented divisions on the basis of Hindu and Sikh. The people of the Sikh faith were portrayed as anti national — enemies of national unity and territorial integrity. The working class all over the country and peasantry outside Punjab was called upon to line up behind the state to crush the “enemies of the state”. During the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi all people of Sikh faith — from retired and serving Generals of the Armed Forces to ordinary Sikh workers – were typecast as potential terrorists.
Following Operation Blue Star, the army organized Operation Woodrose, unleashing a reign of terror on people in the rural areas of Punjab and attacking rural gurudwaras. Thousands of innocents were killed in this operation.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her security guards on October 31, 1984. Earlier, following Blue Star, various units of Sikhs in the armed forces had revolted, and were either killed or arrested. Instead of addressing what factors were making the security forces of the state revolt against the state, the Congress Party organized the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and other major cities of Northern India. Over ten thousand Sikhs were brutally butchered to death, thousands of girls raped, the homes, shops and establishments of Sikhs were set aflame. All evidence shows that this was a pre-planned genocidal massacre, planned well before the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi. With lists of Sikh voters in their hands, mobs led by the Congress Party MP’s, openly egged on by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and with the full support and connivance of the police forces headed by Home Minister PV Narasimha Rao, went around torching and murdering people of the Sikh faith. “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes” — this is what Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said on Television. “Khoon ka badla khoon”, was the slogan of the Congress Party in those days.
For a decade after that, tens of thousands of Sikhs were massacred by the state security forces in Punjab, Delhi and other places in fake encounters. Thousands were tortured and incarcerated in the jails on charges of being terrorists. Many youth were killed in custody or simply reported ‘missing’. Hundreds of bodies were recovered from the rivers and canals, where they had been dumped by the notorious Punjab Police. Human rights activists were simply murdered. The intelligence agencies of the state perfected the method of organizing terrorist groups to carry out ghastly massacres of innocent people, in order to discredit the resistance struggle of the people and divide them on communal lines. Top police officials have written books about how they organized the pulling out of Hindus from buses, shot them dead, and then blamed it on Sikhs to ensure that state terrorism was legitimized.
In this period, the state was able to temporarily communalise the atmosphere against Sikhs, to smash the working class and peasant movement. Lessons need to be drawn from this.
The ruling class used Blue Star and the communalisation of politics to divide the working people and divert their attention from fighting for their immediate and long term concerns. The ruling class which, prior to this, was becoming increasingly exposed as openly pursuing an anti people agenda, was able to portray itself as “defender of national unity and territorial integrity” and line up the working masses temporarily behind itself. In this way it was able to push through its anti people program of modernization.
Operation Bluestar was an attack, not only on people of the Sikh faith, but on all those who were and are challenging the ruling class and fighting for fundamental transformations in favour of the workers, peasants, women, youth and all the exploited and oppressed.
26 years have passed since Operation Blue Star. No one has been punished for the massacre of tens of thousands of innocent Sikhs. On the contrary, in these 26 years, the weapon of state terrorism and individual terrorism has been further perfected to target this or that section of the people and achieve the political aims of the ruling class.
26 years ago, the Communist Ghadar Party of India came out boldly in defence of the people of Sikh faith, condemning this assault by the Indian state and pointing out in clear terms that it was the central state which was responsible for the violence in Punjab, which was cynically turning political problems into “law and order problems”, in order to justify state terrorism.
The target of state terrorism is in every case the workers and peasants and oppressed people and their struggle for fundamental transformations, to build a society free from exploitation and oppression. It is aimed at preventing a political solution to political problems. State and individual terrorism, together with parliamentary democracy are the preferred weapons of the ruling class to maintain their rule. This is what the experience of our people since Operation Bluestar confirms again and again. Therefore, while consistently exposing and opposing state and individual terrorism, our Party strives to unite the workers and peasants and all the oppressed in defence of their rights, for a new society, wherein the workers and peasants will rule and reorient the economy to ensure that the well being of the present and future generations is assured.