Operation Blue Star: 30 Years Later, Many Wounds Still Remain

Operation Blue Star took place 30 years ago, but memories of the Indian conflict that left hundreds dead, resulting in a year of turmoil, still remain sharp in India.

On June 6, 1984, the Indian Army opened fire on one of the holiest sites for the nation’s Sikh community, the Harmandir Sahib(also known as The Golden Temple). The temple had been occupied by the militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who had taken up refuge in the temple along with his band of followers.

Hundreds of people were killed in the attack, leading to anti-Sikh riots that left thousands of Sikhs dead. Operation Blue Star would also lead to the eventual assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Indian officials admitted that Operation Blue Star suffered from errors in planning.

Remembrance Poster Of Operation Blue Star.

“The strength and fighting power of the militants were underestimated. We never knew the Akal Takht had such an elaborate defense system,” said Major General Kuldip Singh Brar, who ordered tanks to fire on the temple. “It had been fortified from the basement upwards.”

The reverberations of the conflict are still remembered today. Writing in the May issue of Caravan Magazine, Hartosh Bal called Operation Blue Star poorly planned.

He wrote:

“Bluestar, the military operation to remove Bhindranwale from the Darbar Sahib, ended this regime—but at the cost of hundreds of lives, and the credibility of the Indian Army, which subsequently had to deal with mutinous troops for the first time in the history of independent India. Although the action has been examined in close detail in the years following the attack, the lack of planning and intelligence, and the hurry to carry it out, have never been properly explained.”

The Dome of the Golden Temple after Operation Blue Star.

Others remember the event as something of a sad necessity. Mark Tully, who at the time of the conflict was a BBC journalist and one of the first foreign reporters allowed into the Golden Temple, said the attack may have been poorly planned but was needed.

But Tully also believes that many of the wounds from Operation Blue Star have since faded, which he said is “a tribute to India’s multi-religious culture and to the Sikh community that harmony between them and Hindus was not permanently disturbed by the events of 1984.”

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