LUDHIANA, Punjab, India: ‘The Operation Black Thunder, executed in the Golden Temple complex last month, “was planned more than three months ago. It was conceived in panic in view of the apprehended Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan”.

This has been observed in a report of an inquiry into the operation, entitled “Punjab bulldozed”, conducted by the Punjab Human Rights Organization (PHRO).

The report released to the press here on Thursday by its general secretary, Mr. DS. Gill, quotes statements of the Prime Minister, The Governor and other government functionaries and press reports to prove that the operation was planned well in advance and was part of a well thought out plan. “There is circumstantial evidence to indicate that the security forces tested their guns on those inside the complex on April 29 and made an attempt to do so earlier also on April 2627 when CRPF men took Santokh Singh Kala, head of Ribeiro killer squad around the complex to provoke fire from inside.

The probe team comprising of Mr. DS. Gill, Jiwan Jot Kaur, Rajinder paul Singh, Malwinder Singh Mali, Gurbhajan Singh Gill and Gurcharan Singh Dal — all professionals and human rights activists — gives a detailed account of the happenings inside the Golden Temple complex in recent months and how the Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Jasbir Singh could muster the support of only AISSF president Bhai Gurjit Singh. It remarks that the government having failed in its last minute efforts to bring those inside into submission was left] with no alternative but to put head priests led by Jasbir Singh under “protective custody”.

The report, while remarking that there is evidence to suggest that the militants did not open fire at any time during the nine days of the operation, holds the security forces responsible for “excessive use of force”. It even contests the government version that the militants were the first to open fire at CRPF DIG, SS. Virk and cites counterevidence that the DIG had undertaken the demolition of a wall atop the Karah Prashad building within the complex and entered into altercation with militants and it was the DIG’s guard who opened fire first.

Regarding the excesses, it refutes the government claims and states that the inmates were denied the use of electricity and water and that the militants who were killed inside were shot while trying to fetch water while manning morchas. Calling it a violation of human rights, the report cites the killing of limbless sewadar on the first day of the operation and who could not have carried any weapon. Another instance cited is that the head priests led by Bhai Jasbir Singh were not allowed entry into the temple.

Significantly, the 23 page report states: “The PHRO feels that the entire operation was not aimed at punishing the guilty or discouraging the use of private violence but was aimed principally at compelling the militant groups to fall in line with Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode and open talks with the government. Thus the main motive behind the operation was plain politics”. The probe report has a message for the militants from the Operation Black Thunder: The days of Gurdwara based militancy are over; the most significant fallout of the exercise could be that the militants now find an opportunity to tum to guerrilla warfare, which could do more harm to the country in the long run.

For the restoration of peace and democratic institutions in Punjab, the report calls upon the government to give up its policy of

Article extracted from this publication >> July 15, 1988