1988 – Operation Black Thunder 2
1988 – Operation Black Thunder 2
Planning for Operation Black Thunder was initiated in early 1988 at Manesar at Aravali hills, 40kms from Delhi by National Security Guards (NSG) under patronage of union Home Minister, rather Ministry of Internal Security. A large model of Sri Darbar Sahib Complex was created; also used for practice were a high school at Tauru and a college at Nuh in Haryana whose structures resembled the Parikarma of Sri Darbar Sahib. Weekend visits to Sri Darbar Sahib became a regular feature of the Special Action Group (SAG) of the NSG. They also started growing their hair for operational reasons.
State-sponsored terrorist groups began massive murderous assaults from December 1987 liquidating families of militants and their sympathisers. Their homes were put to fire. The units were placed under the overall charge of Izhar Alam, Senior Superintendent of Police, Amritsar. Rebeiro had certain reservations and conveniently went on leave to Bombay. The police made regular announcements of ‘recoveries’ of Russian made RPG rockets and Russian surface to air missiles, earlier imported by RAW (India external intelligence agency) from Kabul, from all over Punjab. This served as a prelude to pursuit of new tougher policy.
Free speech was brutally repressed by the Indian government as the Union Home Ministry gave instructions to media-persons and journalists at Amritsar to behave or face the consequences. Kuldip Singh Arora, Amritsar correspondent of United News of India (UNI) was picked up on April 13, 1988 under the ridiculous National Security Act for meeting militants inside the Golden Temple, a serious charge under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). About 100 other journalists had conducted such interviews and so Amritsar’s Working Journalists Association clearly interpreted this as a signal to fall in line and not “write anything that displeases it (the government)”.
After the 25th April the security forces established themselves on several rooftop pickets including the one facing the Clock Tower wherefrom General Sunderji had directed Operation Bluestar. The security forces had in the last couple of months kept the militants inside the complex under observation to prevent their escape.
The time for Operation Black Thunder arrived after the debate in Parliament on Punjab was over in the first week of May.
Despite countless provocations, there was no firing from inside. To prepare the nation, the state-sponsored terrorists fired on Gadi Lohars, a nomad tribe celebrating a marriage at Panipat in Haryana on May 8th killing 13 people. That served the dual purpose of also keeping Haryana Chief Minister Devi Lal in check. The following day DIG (CRPF) Sarabdeep Singh Virk chose to take notorious Santokh Singh Kala, a former militant who was now leading a state-sponsored terrorist outfit along with him atop the buildings around the complex. Suffice to say Kala knew exactly how to provoke action between the religious militants and the CRPF and set the ball rolling on behalf of the CRPF.
Rajiv Gandhi tabled eight of eleven meetings regarding Operation Black Thunder. Home Minister Buta Singh and Minister of State for Home P. Chidambaram were in support. After the green light was given Air Force airlifted Special Action Group (SAG) of 1000 commandos of National Security Guards (NSG) and their equipment to Amritsar on May 11 and 12. Meanwhile exchange of firing had gone on intermittently. 800 pilgrims had been evacuated on May 10 but recitation of gurbani had stopped.
Jasvir Singh Rode was at Punjabi University, Patiala on May 9 but rushed back to Amritsar on hearing of firing. On May 11 the local administration bluffed Rode to take him the following day at 8am to enter the Temple from Santokhsar Gurdwara to restore rituals. Precisely at this time security forces started firing. Rode, Sivinder Singh, Jaswant Singh, Kashmira Singh, Bhai Mokham Singh and Gurdev Singh Kaunke, former Acting Jathedar of Akal Takht alongside 24 others were prevented from proceeding further. After protests, Rode decided to move ahead despite the firing. Deputy Commissioner Sarabjit Singh Inspector General (Border) Chaman Lal and Senior Superintendent Suresh Arora were present. Kaunke told the police ‘You men are liars. It is you who are shooting, not the militants.’ He was struck with a CRPF rifle butt. Rode and his men were arrested for violating the curfew. The NSG had prepared itself and begun Operation Black Thunder.
Half a dozen militants tried to escape during the night but were fired on yet two escaped. This was followed by a long intense gunfire exchange between militants and security forces. Two Jaguars flew near the temple at the time. The security forces took over Guru Ram Das Saran and ‘neutralised’ two Bunga.
The killing of militants by security forces outside the temple was supplemented with selective killing inside by the infiltrators. For example when of all the people inside Jagir Singh a senior person who was spokesman of the Panthic Committee came out of room 14 to fetch a pail of water from the holy tank. He was shot in the back of the head, obviously from inside and lay near the sarovar.
On May 15 in response to an appeal by Inspector General (Border) Chaman Lal and Deputy Commissioner Sarabjit Singh to surrender, 151 persons including 17 women and children came out with their hands and weapons in the air. These included Surjit Singh Penta who had according official documents swallowed cyanide. However others believe he had been killed by Police. 46 people, mostly infiltrators then spent 2 or 3 days desecrating the Main Temple of Sri Darbar Sahib with their excreta & later surrendered to K.P.S. Gill on May 18.
The Fallout Since
The Government of India was participating in activities directed at the violation of human rights in respect of India’s Sikh community (5).The United Nations Human Rights Committee has called the situation in Punjab “disturbing” and “completely unacceptable.” Asia Watch, in its 138-page report, “Punjab in Crisis”, released August 25, 1991, states: “Security forces have engaged in widespread torture and summary execution of Sikhs.” Asia Watch charges that human rights abuses by the security forces are part of a deliberate government policy of repression. Nowhere in the world has any government pursued the kind of genocidal policies against a religious minority as in India since the Second World War (41). On 10th December, 1984, the United Nation General Assembly through Resolution 39/46 adopted a new ‘Convention against Torture and other Cruel’ or Degrading Punishment which gave teeth to another earlier declaration by specifically detailing rights to impartial examination of alleged offenses, punishment of those found guilty, and the right to compensation. The Indian government has so far cynically refused to either sign or ratify this convention (42). Sardar Simranjit Singh Mann, Indian Police Service, Deputy Inspector General of Police, resigned in June 1984 in protest of Operation Bluestar. He told the President of India and rest of the world the whole story about war operations against the Sikh homeland, Punjab. He wrote in his resignation letter to the President of India that at least 30,000 innocent pilgrims (infants, children, youth, elderly men and women) died in the bloody battle (4-6th June). For telling the truth, he was imprisoned in jail far from his place of residence. His relatives were harassed and not allowed to visit him. Inhumane and humiliating treatment was accorded to him by the Indian government.
Since the genocide of Sikhs in 1984 in the Sikh homeland hundreds of thousands of Sikhs have been imprisoned without trial and without proof of any crime committed (jails in Rajasthan, Punjab and other states).
Caches of arms, including rockets, are smuggled into India from Pakistan – not by terrorists but by the Indian secret services. The Sunday Observer (24th April, 1988) has discovered that the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s external intelligence outfit, has been receiving a secret consignment of arms. India’s cabinet secretary, to whom Raw is supposed to report, could not explain the incident. Analysis of the political situation of India reveals that repeated attacks on the sacred Sikh institution, whether religious, educational, cultural or socio-political, point to one direction: the highly visible minority of the Sikhs has no place in India. The ulterior motives of the Russian backed Indian regime indicate further that the Indian administration is out to destroy the precious heritage of the Sikhs. Furthermore, this situation is in accordance with an earlier analysis that if one tries to “kill the language, kill the culture and kill the literature”, ultimately one succeeds in destroying a community.
Without institutions, especially sacred religious institutions, no community can advance, let alone survive; Sikhs are no exception to this rule. The Thakur Commission Report on its investigation into the assassination of Indira Gandhi, was deliberately suppressed until after two Sikhs, Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, were hanged for their alleged part in the assassination. Kehar Singh was convicted and hanged on the flimsiest of possible evidence despite pleas of national and international lawyers of the highest repute such as Lord Gilford and lawyers for the highly respected human rights organization, Amnesty International. Kehar Singh’s only crime was that he was an initiated Sikh and an uncle of Beant Singh who had been murdered while in captivity. Observing that not a single Hindu has been detained under the draconian laws introduced in the state of Punjab, the report goes on to ask: “Is there one law for the minorities another for the Hindu majority? Can a Hindu never be a militant, terrorist, or secessionist under Indian law? Is the mass murder of Sikhs, rape of Sikh women and pillage of Sikh properties in the post-Indira Gandhi assassination riots to remain unpunished under India’s secular laws? The report has cited the “Justice Sodhi report” of February 1989 which observes that during Mr S. S. Ray’s regime, many of 780 under trials in the high security central jail at Amritsar had, before their formal arrest, been illegally detained by the police for multiple weeks, tortured and robbed for their possessions. Several also alleged that they had been falsely implicated. Max Madden, a British Member of Parliament, investigating the human rights violations, reported that the forces of law and order are pitched against freedom fighters; state violence and repression had alienated many Sikhs and Hindus in Punjab, while provoking widespread violence and terror. “I shall never forget the Sikh father whose 14-year-old daughter was raped and drowned by a police officer. The father was brutally beaten by police three times over two days.”
Terry Dicks, another British Member of Parliament, reporting on the status of Sikhs in India (Human Rights debated in the House of Commons, 29 November, 1991), cited the rape of young women, the beating of old men and the number of young boys, to say nothing of the imprisonment without trial of many thousands of innocent people, has been going on since 1984 and continues unabated. Indian security forces are killing hundreds of innocent Sikhs in fake encounters and there is evidence that those forces have swept through villages in Punjab intent on nothing less than widespread slaughter. All those activities are taking place under the umbrella of President’s rule, which in effect means direct rule from Delhi. The New Delhi regime gives security forces the unfettered power to take whatever action they wish against people living in the state of Punjab. In an address to members of an International convention, Mr Dicks told delegates in Canada to lobby for an end to economic aid to India, a break of diplomatic relations with that country, and a United Nations investigation of “India’s abuse of human rights.”
Dr H. S. Shergill, in his composition, ‘Main han dharat Punjab di’, states that hardly any family was spared in Punjab from human rights infringement. Mothers, sisters and brothers will never again see their dear ones again who have been taken to the ‘interrogation centres’ that are better characterized as the “butcher houses” of Punjab. The grounds used to cremate these victims give the false impression of being calm and peaceful, but they are demanding an end to these ruthless, brutal slayings and an end to human rights violations all over India. Even the waters of Punjab’s rivers and canals are riddled with the blood of the innocent. Still, Narsimharao and his administration claim that their conscience is clear and their hands are clean.
Derek Lee, one of the three members of the Canadian House of Commons, who visited Punjab in 1992, said that he talked to a young Sikh father who pleaded unsuccessfully with an Indian court requesting that his young son, not be handed over to police in Punjab. A few days later, the boy, who had been handed over to the police in Punjab, was found dead. This murder was made to look like a traffic fatality. In a press release, the Council of Khalistan informed that the “staged surrender of Bhai Kanwar Singh Dhami, a freedom fighter, back fired before the news media.” Bhai Dhami said, in the presence of news media that Senior Superintendent of Police, Ajit Singh Sandhu threatened him with death if he did not touch the feet of Mr Gill, Police Chief of Punjab. Police officer Sandhu had boasted to Dhami that he had killed over 500 persons over the span of his career. With this surrender drama going away, the much battered image of the Punjab police has received yet another blow. It has also proved once again that allegations of illegal detention and custodial deaths against the police are not just a figment of the imagination.
The Indian government murdered unborn childs by torturing pregnant mothers. The unborn child of Sikh leader, Kulbir Kaur Dhami was killed recently after she and her husband were brutally beaten and tortured by Indian security forces. Dr Gurmit Singh Aulakh, President, Council of Khalistan, said that “events like the murder of Kulbir Kaur’s unborn child show the whole world clearly that ‘the world’s largest democracy’ is really a tyranny willing to commit any act of brutality or terrorism to maintain its occupation of the Sikh nation, Khalistan.” People do not willingly live under tyranny. Dr Aulakh in a message to the Sikh nation said: unify under the banner of Khalistan, raise the slogan of ‘India Quit Khalistan’, and boycott elections under the Indian constitution. Khalsa ji, mark my words, by April 13, 1999, the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Khalsa Panth, our Nishan sahib will fly high in a free and sovereign Khalistan! Even the House of Representatives member, the Hon. Dan Burton, in recognizing the birthday of the 295th birthday of the Sikh nation on 13th April, predicted that by its 300th birthday in 1999, Khalistan will be free. The Sikh leaders of Punjab presented a memorandum on 21st February, 1994, to the United States Embassy in New Delhi, applauding President Clinton’s support of 27th December, 1994, for Sikh rights. Hindu intentions were exposed, when, after occupying the Sikh shrines in June, 1984, all the archives, museums, national records were burnt to ashes. It included the Sikh Reference Library which preserved the most precious documents written even by the Sikh Gurus, the records of the Akali Party and the SGPC. The intentional burning of the national archives was a repetition of the Stalinist acts. On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi fell victim to a well planned, complex, political conspiracy. Rajiv Gandhi, his wife Sonia, and other key people in Prime Minister’s inner circle are alleged to have hatched and implemented this sinister conspiracy. Two Sikh guards were blamed for Mrs Gandhi’s political assassination and one of whom was shot and killed after having been disarmed and taken into custody by other security personnel. Other Sikhs were subsequently implicated after years of mock trials and legal drama, two Sikhs were hanged to death on January 6, 1989.
Since 1984 the genocide of the Sikhs is on-going. Killings in fake encounters daily are a common-place. The dead bodies of Sikhs are not handed over to their families, apparently in order to avoid the trace of inhumane torture of the Sikhs by the Indian police, paramilitary and army personnel.
International human rights organizations are banned from entering the Sikh homeland. In spite of this, international human rights agencies have exposed the persecution of Sikhs in India. In another clear message that India’s state terrorism is not an internal affair, 29 members of the United States Congress wrote to President Clinton on 11th February, 1994, “to cut all developmental aid to India, until the Indian government permits Amnesty International to investigate human rights violations in Punjab, Khalistan.”
The persecution of Sikhs has been highlighted by Amnesty International, Asia Watch and the other human rights’ organizations. The international community has, understandably, taken notice. Since 1984 more than 250,000 Sikhs have been killed and the onslaught continues. The killers of Sikhs are offered berths in the central and state cabinets of India. In finding amicable, honourable, dignified and permanent solutions, the authors strongly believe in the following solution presented, on 5th January, 1994, to the Secretary General of the United Nations in a letter to seek his immediate attention and personal intervention in the deteriorating condition of the Sikhs in their own homeland (Punjab-Khalistan) due to brutal killings, staged encounters, rapes, humiliation, oppression, persecution, prosecution, rampage and looting by the Indian armed forces (Indian army, paramilitary police and intelligence corps) and Punjab’s present administration of Beant Singh, a Congress (I) puppet of the New Delhi administration, imposed by Narsimharao administration with the endorsement of merely 7% of the total electoral votes.
Innocent women and children have fallen victims to brutal Indian armed forces which completely disregard human rights. The Sikh political leader, Sardar Simranjit Singh Mann, himself a victim of post-1984 situation of Punjab (1), created by the Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, V. P. Singh, Chander Shekhar, and Narsimharao administrations, has repeatedly been denied a passport to travel abroad, preventing him from providing first-hand information to world leaders, the international Sikh community and international news media with regard to issues concerning his people within and outside of Punjab (58). The cultural, political, economical and physical asphyxiation of the Sikh nation is being executed in systematic manner at the direction of the New Delhi administrations. As a result of these atrocities and consequential disintegration of the Sikh homeland, Punjab – Khalsa Stan, 24 Congressmen of the United States of America made a strong plea (17th November, 1993) to the Hon William J Clinton, President of the United States, to “assume an active diplomatic role in the Khalistan crisis” and use his good office to persuade the Indian government to arrange for a plebiscite for self-determination for Sikhs in Punjab, Khalistan, like the one held recently in Puerto Rico, where Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly to stay with the United States. The following is the outline to the above mentioned plebiscite for self-determination: It is strongly urged, Sir, to avoid further loss of life and dignity, and in order to find a peaceful and amicable solution for the chronic Sikh problem of Punjab, that the following steps be taken under your directions:
1.All Indian armed forces and agencies (intelligence and otherwise, exceeding 500,000 in number) be immediately withdrawn from Punjab
2.All Sikhs detained under draconian laws of Indian parliament be unconditionally released from jails.
3.The United Nations’ forces or teams are sent to Punjab to take control of law and order situation until the plebiscite or self-determination vote is held (under the auspices of the U. N.)
4.Sardar Simranjit Singh Mann, President of the Shromani Akali Dal (the political party of Sikhs) be issued at the United Nations’ passport, so that he could hold talks, discussions and consultations with yourself, international dignitaries, international news media and the international Sikh community
5.Dr Sohan Singh (80-year-old), a medical specialist and retired administrator, leader of the Panthic Committee of Sikhs, and Afghan national, whom the Indian intelligence took in custody from Nepal in November 1993 and remains imprisoned in India in an interrogation centre, more commonly known as “butcher Centre”, be freed immediately so that he may get much needed medical treatment for his ailing health in the United States. In addition, Dr Singh could meet with the international news media to describe the treatment received from Indian administration and its armed forces during his detention.
6.The Indian government must bear the cost of all United Nations’ operations (maintenance of law and order, civil and defence administration, etc.) until the “self-determination” vote is held in Punjab-Khalistan.
7.All areas of Punjab separated after 15th August, 1947 and other Punjabi-speaking are returned to the Sikh homeland.
8.Indian government must compensate the Sikh homeland and its nationals for all damages deliberately incurred during the Operation Bluestar of 1984, 30th October-November 1984, Mand, Woodrose, black thunder, Red Star, Night Domination, Final Assault, Healing Touch and Chase operations (60), man-made floods of 1989 and 1993, and maintaining armed forces in the Sikh homeland (Punjab or Khalistan) since 1984 against the wishes of the Sikhs.
9.Amritsar airport be opened to international air traffic, so that foreign nationals can be directly transported to region of concern without the interference of authority, custom, immigration and personnel.
10.The present chief minister, Beant Singh, police chief K. P. Gill, former Police Chief J. F. Rebeiro, former governor of Punjab S. S. Ray, S.D. Sharma and their several associates who aided in committing human rights violations, brutal atrocities, heinous crimes against humanity be tried before an international panel jurists.
11.Until India refrains from committing human rights violations and permits Amnesty International, Asia Watch and other international human rights watch-dog agencies to assess those violations, all United Nations aid must be suspended The authors sincerely hope that the above points will aid in the creation of an environment for international peace and it may even, as we perceive, avoid the greatest tragedy of this century.
Sir Mohammed Iqbal, a great poet, philosopher and a native of Kashmir had extensively studied the major religions, their philosophies and concluded that those faiths were eradicated which did not have state support or were not protected by their followers. Dr Iqbal’s hint was clearly to Buddhism, which originated in India. The moment Ashoka gave up state protection, it lost its roots in India and was swallowed up by external pressure. He states further that I have studied another faith critically which started with recitation and combination of the musical instrument of Mardana, Guru Nanak’s disciple, and Guru Nanak’s composition. It flourished despite all odds and adversaries of times because successors of Guru Nanak and his followers have been taught that nothing is above truth, “truth is high, still higher is truthful living”, and truth must be protected. Truth is truth regardless of the followers. This is the primary reason for which the Sikh faith has stood firm despite persecution, prosecution, tortures and atrocities.
As late Abraham Lincoln (1884), President of the United States of America had said, “no man is good enough to govern another without that other’s consent”, the morally and ethically bankrupt New Delhi administrations, with a history full of betrayals, human rights violations, oppression, persecution, genocide and annihilation of non-Hindu and non-brahmin ethnic communities have no right to govern the Sikh homeland. The Sikhs have to struggle much harder to regain their lost sovereignty and without it this community has no future. According to Max Arthur Macauliff (The Sikh Religion, 1903, Vol 1, p. lvii), “It (Hinduism) is like the boa constrictor of the Indian forests. When a petty enemy appears to worry it, it winds round its opponent, crushes it in its folds, and finally causes it to disappear in its capacious interior Hinduism has embraced Sikhism in its folds; the still comparatively young religion is making a vigorous struggle for life, but its ultimate destruction is, it is apprehended, inevitable without State support.”