Harbans Singh Sraon


In Amritsar, the army laid seige to the Golden Temple with ruthless efficiency. The 12th Battalion of the Bihar Regiment patrolled and reconnoitered the Temple area, while other troops set up sandbagged machine’ gun posts on the taller building around the Temple. The army was now in total control of the city. Heavily armed soldiers flooded the streets arrogantly searching and looting homes of the civilian population. Tanks and armored cars patrolled the streets. This heavy display of brute force was out of all proportion to that needed to fight the 50100 armed Sikhs in the Golden Temple. Their clear purpose was to cow ‘and terrorize the Sikh population into abject submission. With this clear objective in mind, any young Sikhs wearing blue or yellow turbans (traditional Sikh colors) were dragged into the streets and mercilessly beaten. Those showing any degree of defiance were summarily dispatched with a_ bullet through the forehead. The same pattern of merciless repression now commenced in every village in Punjab and wherever there was a sizeable Sikh population in other parts of the country.

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, giving no hint of the army action she had already authorized, went on the air to appeal to the people of Punjab to settle their differences. “This is not a time for

anger. Too much blood has been shed. Violence leads to counter violence … ‘Let us join together to heal wounds.’ ”” SUNDAY, JUNE 3 — The day was the Gurpurb anniversary of Guru Arjan, founder of the Golden Temple, a day normally marked by Sikhs handing out cool drinks to passersby to commemorate the suffering by heat and thirst of their martyred Guru. With the irony of history, many Sikhs were to spend the day without water, trapped in the June heat in their sunbaked homes. No one was allowed to go into the Golden Temple. Pilgrims trapped inside trying to escape were immediately shot by soldiers outside. Bihari soldiers had sealed the main entrance to the Temple and the Brahm Buta market while the Garhwalis, the elite Guardsmen and Punjabis sealed all other means of escape. Indiscriminate firing (‘softening up’ in army parlance) into the Temple continued unabated. Now for the first time, this was met with an organized response of rifle and light machinegun fire from within the complex.

MONDAY, JUNE 4 — The army now had total and tight controls of the whole area around the Golden Temple, and, with helicopter gunships hovering overhead, of the skies above. Many options were available for ending resistance from within the Temple precincts. Seige techniques could have been used with the cutting off of water and electricity, stun grenades, tear gas or nerve gas, could have been used from the air or fired by shells. None of these options were considered, however. The _ instructions to the military were, clearly not to remove those defending the Temple, but to humiliate, massacre and destroy. It had been decided to teach the Sikhs a lesson they would never forget. Tanks and heavy guns — one deployed by the historic Jallianwala Bagh — were used to blast out Sikh resistance and, with minimum damage to the central shrine to destroy the Akal Takhat, the symbol of Sikh authority and other structures concerned with Sikh heritage and culture.


The Sikh defenders included many boys and girls still in their teens. They knew they could not overcome the brute might of the Indian Army, but they were prepared to give as good as they got and make the soldiers to pay dearly for every inch of desecration. And so the battle continued with light arms and _ limited ammunition against tanks and heavy guns.

TUESDAY, JUNE 5 — The heavy shelling from the guns at Jallianwalla Bagh and other emplacements surrounding the Golden Temple continued unabated and the casualty toll among those inside the Temple mounted steeply. A woman who ventured to the roof top of one of the surrounding houses immediately fainted at the scene before her. The lake which

surrounds the inner Temple was red with blood and bodies and limbs were strewn grotesquely around the parkarma (walkway). It must be remembered that most of those killed were given no chance to escape. As the day drew to a close, police appeared with loud hailers urging those to surrender. Few did so, preferring to die by bullet, to death after torturing by the army.

Despite the strictness of the curfew, news of the attack on the Golden Temple spread into the surrounding countryside. At Golwad village in Jhubal Police District, a large crowd of several thousand angry villagers gathered primitive weapons and agricultural implements and began to march the 15 miles to Amritsar to assist those trapped in the Golden Temple. They were spotted by helicopter gunships who had been given clear orders to shoot at any gathering of more than 3 or 4 people. Without warning the helicopter began to strafe the crowd and within minutes, hundreds lay dead and wounded.

On the night of the 5th, after heavy shelling of Sikh defenses, a hundred strong commando unit, in jet black dungarees and bulletproof vests heavily armed with American 5.56 mm rifles, with menacingly large bayonets, as well as been guns with telescopic sights, slipped into the serai area to bring out the Akali leaders Longowal and Tohra, dead or alive. After fierce hand to hand resistance, the commandos succeeded in their mission and the two Sikh leaders were captured and removed in armored personnel carriers.

Tanks and armored personnel carriers were now also used to break into the parkarma (walkway) area and rockets and grenade’ launchers

were used to reduce to rubble, any position housing a possible Sikh defender. No attempt was made to minimize either the killing or the destruction by use of tear gas or similar devices. The determination and bravery of the Sikhs amazed the military commanders, but it was an uneven fight against vastly greater numbers and overwhelmingly superior firepower.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6 — It was on June 6 when the western world was busily diverted in its 40th anniversary celebrations of the Day landings on the Normandy beaches against Hitler’s Germany, that the Indian Government first announced that it had attacked the Golden Temple. With a total disregard for the true extent of the massacre, it was said that 56 terrorists had been killed in the fighting and that no women or children had died.

By the evening of the 6th, the army, despite its persistent denials, had overrun the _ central Temple. A Granthi moving out from the inner Temple was shot dead and another who had been reading the holy Granth lay in a pool of blood, a bullet thru his shoulder. Another bullet had hit the holy book, penetrating more than 80 pages. Army engineers say some 250 bullet marks can be seen on the dome of the Temple.

THE SIKH HOLOCAUST On October 31, 1984, Indian government controlled radio and T.V. stations started announcing the demise of Indira Gandhi and put all the blame on the Sikhs. The announcers aired some provocative slogans i.e. ‘blood for blood’ which were intended to excite communal passion and hatred. The police were

seen in vans announcing rumors against Sikhs and inciting public to lodge violent attacks on the Sikhs. Some eye witnesses reported that well known politicians and ruling party workers led and directed arsonists and Hungary rabble (see appendix 1). The government owned buses were used to transport criminals.

Money and liquor were deliberately distributed to the robbers and killers by the Cong.(I) officials. The Sikh men were dragged out of their homes, tortured and burned alive in front of their families and their homes were set on fire while police were watching as bystanders. In certain areas the police participated in looting and killing and gang raping. The ruling party officials were seen identifying the Sikh homes, from voters list and marking them with red paint. It was a well-planned and organized holocaust by the ruling party as it happened at the same time all over the country. The Sikh passengers were taken out of the trains and burned alive at the railroad stations, including some high level Sikh army officers. In spite of requests made by the citizens to bring the army to control the situation, no attention was paid by the government for at least forty-eight hours.

The holocaust was taken a victory by the cowardly rabble. The elections were held purely on communal basis. The politicians who organized this holocaust are given cabinet positions by the ruling party. The truth is concealed from the people. It was a political stunt to win the elections. The ruling party ate the hands which fed them, and defended them and brought independence. It seems like that conscience of ruling party is dead.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 29, 1985