When General Brar thundered: “We have arrived”
Did Indira Gandhi fell into Sant Bhindranwale’s trap?
By Jagtar Singh
It was 4.00 PM of June 3, 1984. The atmosphere was tense with a detailed map of the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) complex on the wall forming the backdrop of the operations room of the 15 Division Headquarters in Amritsar Cantonment. Senior officials from civil, police, para-military forces and intelligence agencies from the border district had been summoned to the emergency meeting.
“Gentlemen, we have arrived…curfew will be imposed tonight in the entire city. Anyone who violates the curfew would be shot”, thundered Major General Brar, the 9 Div commander who had been entrusted with the command of Operation Bluestar. The outburst was shocking for some of those present.
“Tomorrow, we will surround the Golden Temple complex”, General Brar went on. “We will enter the complex on the 5th evening and accomplish the task within a few hours”, he asserted.
Local Intelligence Bureau chief MPS Aulakh, a suave, dedicated and perceptive Indian Police Service officer, intervened making it clear the militants holed up in the complex were well entrenched and well-armed and it was too well known a fact that the master mind in the complex was yet another former senior army officer Major General Shabeg Singh who had won laurels in the 1971. This officer on the spot was right in his assessment that here were highly motivated people determined to die for the cause, in other words Warriors of Faith. General Brar, blinded by arrogance who highly overrated himself, ignored the advice.
Old hand Amritsar Superintendent of Police (Intelligence) Pandit Harjit Singh interjected and told General Brar, “Sir, it will not be that easy”. Here was an officer who too had been closely monitoring the Sikh politics and the situation associated with the rise of Sant Bhindranwale very closely for a long time. His office was located in the Kotwali police station in the Town Hall complex not far from Darbar Sahib and had his fingers on the pulse of the situation. He was brushed aside. Pandit Harjit Singh happened to be a Brahmin from one of those traditional families who wear turban. From all appearances, they are Sikhs.
The civilian officers argued that the army entry under the given situation could also lead to communal tension. General Dyal retorted, “What are you talking. We would enter at 10 PM and the operation would be over by 1200 hrs. Lights would be switched on by 4 AM”. That was the end of the matters. The civilian officers returned to their homes. None of them could sleep that night.
He ordered that anyone violating curfew should be shot. It was the BSF that had been deployed in the city. Now was the turn of Border Security Force Deputy Inspector General of Police G S Pandher who said, “We will need written permission to shoot at those violating curfew”. A red faced General Brar banged on the table and said, “This is open mutiny”. Pandher was shocked. He was immediately told to proceed on leave, to be transferred subsequently. Operation Bluestar was on.
It was decided to take out the innocents before launching the operation. Telephones lines in the entire city had been disconnected including those of the district officials except for the hotlines with some of them. Aulakh was assigned the job of establishing contacts with some people in the Darbar Sahib complex. He reached the 15 Div headquarters next morning to establish telephonic contact with those who mattered inside the shrine and evacuate the innocents but was told to wait. One Colonel Chpora was put on duty for this purpose to facilitate communication. Aulakh was told four hour later that it was not possible to establish telephonic contact inside as the telephone lines had been physically snapped. It was conveyed that restoration of communication lines within that time was not possible and that some other method was being worked out.
Deputy Commissioner Ramesh Inder Singh reached Kotwali police station at about 3 PM on June 4. He discussed the situation arising out of the innocents being inside the complex with other officials and it was decided to make the announcement on loudspeaker outside the complex. The first announcement was made from the Clock Tower (Ghanta Ghar) side, the main entrance to the complex, at about 4 PM to be repeated after one hour and then again after 45 minutes. This was the period when the firing had stopped. About 140 odd people came out who were taken to Kotwali. They said they had not heard the announcement.
It was then decided to send somebody inside the complex and the officials zeroed in on Dr. Baldev Singh Brar, medical superintendent of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee managed Guru Ram Dass Hospital who was known to every Akali and militant leader. However, while moving towards the shrine complex, they were stopped at a CRPF naka. The CRPF officials pointed to the tank parked there that was firing at the water tank near the Akal Rest House in the shrine complex where the militants had taken up position. The Deputy Commissioner and his team returned to the circuit house. The team included Aulakh and Pandit Harjit Singh and they reported at the DIV Headquarters again at 8 PM and briefed Lt. General Dyal and Major General Brar. The two senior commanders denied on the spot that tanks had been deployed. Here were the officials who had seen the tanks firing with their own eyes.
Aulakh suggested that one more attempt should be made to establish contact with those holed up in the Darbar Sahib complex. This suggestion was turned down by the army commanders arguing it was now too lateAt one level, it was Sant Bhindranwale who might have been instrumental in the design to provoke army action with the objective of the creation of Khalistan with Pakistan’s help and the plan was put into operation beginning with the targeted killing of six Hindus near Dhilwan. Did Indira Gandhi fall into his trap? It calls for deeper probe and research. He had resolved to make the supreme sacrifice for the Panth years back in 1979.
(Excerpts from Rivers on Fire: Khalistan Struggle by Jagtar Singh)