Operation Blue Star: How It Changed India

Three decades later, the idea of Khalistan has still not died down

A series of events since June 1984 that were significant milestones changed the course of India’s political history. It started with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordering the Indian Army and other forces to carry out Operation Blue Star, the biggest internal mission in the history of the nation.

Gandhi ordered soldiers to storm into the Golden Temple in Amritsar in order to flush out and eliminate Sikh extremist religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Since 1982, Bhindranwale had gathered enough support to set up a base inside the Golden Temple in Amritsar, according to Indian Express.

Bhindranwale wanted the Indian government to pass the Anandpur Resolution that would allow Sikhs to form a separate country called Khalistan. He, along with his armed followers, were operating inside Golden Temple. Before beginning the operation, then Army Chief Lt. Gen. S.K. Sinha had advised against the assault on the gurudwara as it could hurt Sikh religious sentiments. However, his protests led to his removal from the post. He was replaced by General Arun Shridhar Vaidya, who went on with the plan, leading the operation.

The offensive was launched on the night of June 2 and a curfew was put in place by the following day. The operation concluded with Bhindranwale’s death. Reports put the death toll for civilians at 492 and Indian army officials at 83, but independent estimates are apparently higher.

However, chaos prevailed in Punjab as all lines of communication and travel were snapped. Months after the incident, Indira Gandhi was shot dead by two of her Sikh bodyguards, in what was perceived to be revenge for what happened in Punjab.

Soon after, severe anti-Sikh riots followed in Delhi and several other parts of the country that claimed thousands of lives. Three decades later, the idea of Khalistan has still not died down.