Massive Deployment for ‘Martyrdom Week’

Amritsar — Security forces were placed on full alert in northern India Saturday as thousands of Sikhs began a week of ceremonies to mark the first anniversary of the army’s lethal attack on the Golden Temple.

More than 6,000 people were killed June 5-6, 1984, when the Indian army assaulted the Sikh’s holy temple.

The attack outraged even moderate members of the 14-million member Sikh minority and led five months later to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two Sikh bodyguards. India’s majority religion is Hindu.

 Police, paramilitary forces and the army were put on special alert Saturday in New Delhi and the northern states of Punjab, Kashmir, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, a police spokesman said.

He said India’s border with Pakistan was completely sealed and a special watch had been mounted at airports, railway stations and bus terminals to detect movements by Sikhs.

Across India, Sikhs began what has been dubbed Genocide Week” to mark the first anniversary of the army assault on their faith’s holiest shrine

Sikh political and religious leaders have declared that the victims of the Golden Temple assault were martyred in defense of their religion.

Thousands of the Sikh faithful poured into the ornate white marble 17th century temple Saturday to hear readings from the Sikh scriptures and pay tribute to those who died.

Around the city, troops and paramilitary police stood guard with submachine guns at major road crossings, power stations, government installations, holy places and radio and television stations.

The security precautions sparked panic buying of food stuffs by people who feared the government would declare a curfew in the city.

“The army assault on the Golden Temple was uncalled for. It has angered all of us,” said Bhan Singh, secretary of the powerful Sikh Temple Management Committee.

But Singh said ceremonies planned for the week would be peaceful “despite provocations from elements in the government.”

“Why is the government upset by this? Why is there so much show of force?” Singh asked.

An attempt to hijack bus from Haryana to neighboring Punjab was foiled Friday night when the bus driver turned off the engine and fled, said a police officer in Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.

All bus service between Haryana and Punjab was suspended for the week and a search was launched for the suspects, he said.

Article extracted from this publication >>  June 7, 1985