NEW DELHI India, March 7th, Reuter: Hundreds of armed policemen stormed into the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest Sikh shrine, to rescue colleagues wounded today in a gun battle that could add to mounting tensions in Punjab.

Police sources in Chandigarh, the state capital, said four policemen in plainclothes had been shot and wounded inside the temple complex.

The action occurred days after Punjab Chief Minister Sunit Singh Barnala said in newspaper interviews that he would not allow police to storm the temple.

India’s 14 million Sikhs regard the temple area as sacred and the entry of police as an affront to their faith.

In June, 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered troops to enter the Temple to end a peaceful campaign for greater powers to the state. At least 6,000 people were killed in the gun battle between the troops and the Temple defenders.

Gandhi’s two bodyguards gunned her down four months later to avenge the Indian army action.

It was the first time uniformed police had entered the shrine since last year when militants demanding an independent homeland for Sikhs allegedly stabbed a temple guard to death.

Political observers in New Delhi said the action would aggravate further the political problems of Barnala as well as Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Sikh militants have vowed to bring down the government of Barnala in a continuing tussle between freedom fighters and stooges of Delhi for the political control/of Punjab.

The Sikh High Priests have excommunicated Barnala from their faith after he refused’ to dismantle the ruling faction of the Akali Dal party.

The Priests wanted all factions dismantled so that a united party could be formed in the hope that it would have a better chance of bargaining with Gandhi on the Sikhs’ political demands.

Police said about 300 paramilitary security forces armed with rifles and automatic weapons stormed the complex to fetch out their wounded colleagues.

Amritsar police superintendent Mohammad Izhar Alam said’ the Temple Management Committee had declined help to rescue police Constable Devinderjit Singh who was held captive by Sikh militants inside a room in the temple complex.

Singh, who was off duty, had gone to pray inside the Temple but was seized and tortured by the militants on suspicion he was a police informer, Alam said.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 13, 1987