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OPERATION BLUESTAR EVENTS TIMELINE
June 1, 1984 - Pieceing together the evidence of various eye-witness and also second-hand socurces, such as Kirpal Singh, President of the Khalsa Dewan, Amritsar and S.S. Bhagowalia, advocate at Gurdaspur and Vice-president for the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (Punjab), the following picture emerges as to what happened at Golden Temple from June 1, 1984. It is really amazing how, except for some minor details, the accounts of different persons interviewed separately tally so closely with regard to the date, the time and the description of incident June 1, 1984. The AISSF Member, Duggal, the girl student, Sevadar Prithipal Singh and Baldev Kaur all said the the Golden Temple was fired at by security forces from the outside for the first time on June 1 itself, not June 5 as claimed by the White Paper. According to the AISSF member, "At 14.40 in the afternoon of June 1, suddenly the CRP without provocation started firing, aiming at the people inside the Parikarmas. There was no firing, from inside the Golden Temple. The firing by the C.R.P. was on the Harmandir Sahib and the Manjih Sahib. The firing continued till about 8 p.m." Sevadar Prithipal Singh added that the shooting which started from outside, was not preceded by any warning. Devinder Singh Duggal's account is extremely detailed and lucid. "By the end of May, it was widely known that the Army is going to attack the Golden Temple, and on that account there was tremendous tension in the entire city and its surrounding ar eas. The worst fears of the people came to the surface when on 1st June, the security forces which had beseiged the Golden Temple for months together and had made strong fortification on the multi-storey buildings all around it, suddenly started firing in side the Golden Temple. The firing sarted at 12.30 p.m. and continued for a full 7 hours. What was worse was that Harmandir Sahib was made the main target of this firing. I took shelter along with my staff behind the steel almirahs of the Library, one of the bullets pierced through three almirahs and landed on the fourth and we had a narrow escape." Duggal continues - "Not a single shot was fired from inside the complex. When I asked some of the boys as to why they did not answere the firing, they replied that they were under strict orders of the Sant not to fire a single shot unless and unti ll the security forces or the Army entered the holy Golden Temple. In the evening, when I heard in the news bulletin that there was unprovoked firing from inside the Temple, but that the security forces showed extreme restrain and did not fire a single sh ot, I was surprised at this naked lie. The very fact that as many as eight persons, includeing a woman and a child had been killed inside the Golden Temple complex and there were as many as 34 big bullet wounds on all sides of the Harmandir Sahib complete ly belied the Government's version. I asked Bhan Singh, Secretary, S.G.P.C., to do something to refute this falsehood. He said that nothing could be done because all links with the outside world had been snapped." According to the girl student, curfew was clamped soon after the firing started. She confirmed the killings - "Authorities had said none had died, but I dressed the wounds of 3 men who died later in front me in Guru Nanak Nivas." That the cur few was lifted soon after the firing stopped is indicated by the AISSF member, who said, "after the firing stopped, at about 8.30 p.m., a group of people (Jatha) courted arrest." There is no doubt then that security forces (C.R.P.) fired on the Harmander Sahib on June 1 itself and the news over the A.I.R. that there was unprovoked firing from inside was a blatant lie. However, most official versions maintain a meaningful silenc e about the happenings of June 1. For them, as for example, with the Government's White Paper, the story begins on June 2 with the Government of India deciding to call in the Army in aid of civil authority in Punjab, with the object of "checking and controlling extermist, terrorist and communal vioulence in Punjab, providing security to the people and restore normalcy." How much security the Army succeeded in providing to the people and how much normalcy, they were able to restore, is however, a nother matter.
June 2, 1984 - Duggal was relieved when "fortunately, on 2nd June a team of five reporters including Mark Tully of B.B.C. came there (Golden Temple) and were told the truth . They were taken around the Golden Temple and shown 34 big wounds caused by the bullets on all sides of the Harmandir Sahib, some of them as big as almost 3" in diameter." "The 2nd June passed off peacefully," according to Duggal, because there was no firing and no curfew, while Baldev Kaur said it was 'quiet'. A large number of Sikhs came to the Golden Temple from the surrounding areas along with their familie s as the next day, June 3, was Guru Parb or the martyrdom day of Shri Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth holy Guru of the Sikhs. The peace and quiet was only on the surface, because active preparations were afoot to break the peace. Kanwaljit Singh and his friend Manjit Singh from Delhi visited Golden Temple on the morning of June 2 and found that there there was no restriction for pilgrims to enter Amritsar or even the Temple. But the exit doors out ot Amritsar were being closed. After visiting the Temple, when Kanwaljit went at noon to the Amritsar Railway Station to catch a train for Delhi, they were told that the last train had already left and that the Flying Mail in the evening would not be leaving. In fact they were told all outgoing trains had been cancelled. So Kanwaljit and Manjit were forced to return to the Golden Temple and put up in the Guru Ram Das Serai for the n ight. Thus was Kanwaljit to miss his interveiw at Delhi with the Institute of Bank Management on June 3 morning and his examination with the State Bank of India the same afternoon. The AISSF young man said that the C.R.P., outside the Golden Temple was replaced by Army on the night of June 2. Although there was no formal curfew, and all visitors entering the Temple were allowed to come in without any ado, all those who left the G olden Temple on the night of June 2 were being taken into custody. "I did not therefore leave the Golden Temple complex", said the A.I.S.S.F. member revealing his caution
June 3, 1984 - According to the AISSF member, "Guru Parb was on June 3. About 10,000 people had come from outside including many women and 4000 of them were young people. Those who were inside were not allowd to go out after 10 p.m. on June 3. The Jathas which had come mainly from Sangrur were not allowed to court arrest." Bhan Singh confirms: "June 3 being Guru Parb, thousands of pilgrims had come. But suddenly there was a curfew, so the pilgrims and the 1300 Akali workers came to participate in the Dharam Yudh Morcha and to court arrest, could not leave. The Akali Jathas consisted of about 200 ladies, 18 children and about 1100 men and all of them along with the thousands of pilgrims were forced to stay back inside the Temple complex. Most were living in Guru Ram Das Serai, some at Teja Singh Samundri Hall." The girl student remembers, "On June 3, at 6 o'clock in the evening we came to know that Punjab had been sealed for 48 hours and that even cycles would not be allowed on the streets." Kanwaljit Singh sent a telegram home to Delhi at 8.05 p.m. on June 3 from the Golden Temple Post Office "Coming after curfew". It means that the curfew was 'reimposed' (Duggal's word) between 8.05 p.m. and 10 p.m. No one inside the Golden Temple had yet realised the sinister plan of the authoritites. Punjab had been sealed. Thousands of pilgrims and hundreds of Akali workers had been allowed to collect inside the Temple complex. They had been given no inkling or warning either of the sudden curfew or of the imminent Army attack. It was to be a Black Hole-type of tragedy, not out of forgetfulness but out of deliberate planning and design.
June 4, 1984 - Duggal's recollection are vived, almost photographic. "At abut 4 a.m. in the early hours of the morning of June 4, the regular Army attack on the temple started with a 25-pounder which fell in the ramparts of the Deori to the left of Akal Takht Sahib with such a thunder that for a few moments I thought that the whole complex had collapsed. I along with my wife were then sitting in the verandah of my house adjacent to the Sikh Reference Library. Recovering from the initial shock, we moved into the room and took shelter in one of its corners. Therafter, every second the ferocity of firing increased and it continued unabated till the evening of the 6th June. As we were on the first floor, and our quarter was open on all sides our position was very vulnerable. The bullets hit our quarters on all sides and some of them pierced through the doors and landed inside the room. To add to our miseries the power and water supplies had been cut. Through a slit in the shutter of a window we saw a large number of dead bodies in the Parikrama of the Golden Temple. They included women and children. We could not leave our room. Coming out in the open would have exposed us to sure death." Baldev Kaur's account of how the Army attack began is similar - "Very early on June 4, while it was dark, there was cannon fire from outside the Golden Temple without any warning. Shots were fired from all sides." Bhan Singh is emphatic that no warning was given, no public announcement was made by the Army before the shelling of the Golden Temple started on June 4 - "had the army given a warning at least those pilgrims who had come for the Guru Parb could g o out and then those person who were simply here to participate in the Dharam Yudh Morcha could go out. But no warning was given to the people. The firing was started from all around the complex with vengeance, as if they were attacking on alien, enemy co untry." According to the girl student the shelling started at about 20 minutes past 4 o'clock on June 4 dawn and continued without interruption upto 2 o'clock in the afternoon of that day (June 4), and evening of June 5. Her account is extemely graphic - On June 4 at about 3:30 a.m. we were inside the Harmandir Sahib reciting our prayers. Suddenly, thew was a black-out in the whole of the Goldne Temple complex. The devotees continued to be immersed in worship. A about 20 minutes past 4 o'clock there was a very loud explosion. We felt that the whole of the Golden Temple complex was shaking. I was alone on the balcony overlooking the lake or sarovar. Suddenly something roundish fell in front of me. I was curious. So I ge ntly touched it and pushed it into the water. As it fell, there was a big noise and then the water rose and splashed into the Harmandir Sahib. I started reeling, once tilting on one side and again on the other. Someone pulled me inside. The explosions con tinued. We then realised that the Army's attack on the Golden Temple had begun." In a flash she described her companions - "Inside the Harmandir Sahib there were about 50 to 60 persons - some granthis (priests), ragis (singers), sevadars (employ ees), the rest of them yatris (pilgrims or visitors) like me and my family. I did not see any armed terrorist." The Army fired from all sides and did not spare any target in the Temple complex which seemed to shelter people. According to Prithipal Singh, the Sevadar on duty at Akal Rest House, deep inside the Guru Ram Das Serai, the Akal Rest House was shelled f rom the side of Gali Bagh Wali (to the left of the main entrance from the side on chowk Ghanta Ghar) at 5 a.m. on June 4. The bullet marks on the walls, the doors and windows of the side rooms of the Akal Rest House bore silent testimony to the Sevadars s tory, as we listened to him in May, 1985, almost one year after the shooting. The Harmandir Sahib was not spared by the Army on June 4, just as it had not been by the C.R.P. on June 1. According to the girl student, bulletts hissed past her and her grandmother and aunt when they crawled across the bridge on their stomachs in the ir bid to escape from Harmandir Sahib. She managed to pick up a portion of a shell which had exploded on the bridge near Harmandir Shaib - it was marked 84 mm., and it had two colours, yellow on the upper part and blue on the lower part. Baldev Kaur's account suggests that there was no immediate counter-fire from inside the Golden Temple complex. The A.I.S.S.F. member said that "there was some stray firing from inside the Golden Temple before the Army's entry into the complex" ;. The girl student provides a comparative picture of the magnitude and intensity of firing from outside the Temple and from inside. "The firing that took place from inside the Golden Temple was negligible. On June 1, there was absolutely no firing f rom inside. Wheras on June 4, the ratio what something like this - if a thousand rounds were being fired by the Army from outside, then about one or one and a half rounds were fired in reply by the armed militants from inside the Temple complex." Meanwhile, according to Duggal, "the helicopter hovered above and continued to fire from above. Some of these helicopters also guided the firing squads of the Army by making circle of light around the targets. Immediately after these circles, the cannon bell would land on the target causing havoc. We saw a large number of boys blown to pieces." According to Bhan Singh, "they (the Army) treated the inmates of the Complex as enemies and whenever there was any person wounded on account of the firing, no Red Cross people were allowed to enter, rather the Red Cross personnel had been detained beyond the Jallianwallah Bagh," - more that a kilometre away from the main entrance to the Golden Temple from the Chowk Ghanta Ghar side. In accordance with the U.N. Charter of Human Rights, the Red Cross is permitted to go in aid of the wounded rig ht inside the enemy territory, but in Amritsar in June 1984 the Red Cross was not allowed to enter the Golden Temple - a respected and hallowed part of our country- in aid of Indians under attack from the Indian army. It only means that the attack was so brutal and the battle scene so grisly, that there was much to hide from the public scrutiny, even if it be that of a neutral agency called the Red Cross. This also explains perhaps why Press Censorship had already been imposed, the last of the journalists were hounded away and the Press was not allowed inside the Golden Temple upto June 10 when they were taken on a guided tour of the Complex for the first time since the Army Operations began almost a week before.
June 5, 1984 - The firing and counter-firing continued. Harcharan Singh Ragi saw his guardian and mentor - the old completely blind Head Ragi of the Golden Temple, Amrik Singh being shot by a bullet and dying inside the Harmandir Sahib at about 6.30 a.m . on June 5. This was the respect shown by the Indian Army to the Harmandir Sahib! The White Paper issued on July 10, 1984 adopts a holier-than-thou attitude - "Specific Orders were given to troops to use minimum force, to show the utmost reverence to all holy places and to ensure that no desecration or damage was done to the Harmandir Sahib..." (Para 10) and once more "In spite of this (machine-gun fire from Harmandir Sahib on the night of June 5) the troops exercised great restrain and refrained fr om directing any fire at Harmandir Sahib." All this is propaganda. We have recorded the truth - the Harmandir Sahib was fired at by the C.R.P. on June 1 and there wer 34 bullet marks on it which were shown to Mark Tully of the B.B.C. the next day. Wh en the Army attacked the Golden Temple at dawn on June 4, the Harmandir Sahib was the target of destructive shelling and on June 5 two Ragis - one Amrik Singh, blind, 65-year-old - a singer of devotional songs and another Avtar Singh were killed by bullet s right inside the Harmandir Sahib. Perhaps the White Paper was doing an exercise in sarcasm and irony when it stated: "the troops exercised great restraint and refrained from directing any fire at Harmandir Sahib." Meanwhile, the girl student and her companions had managed to come away from the Harmandir Sahib, crawling on their stomaches across the small bridge. They were bundled into a room on the ground floor of the Akal Takht. They kept sitting there, having nothing to eat and no water to drink. To continue, in her own words, "Helicopters were encircling the Temple from above. After the helicopters completed their circle, at about 11:30 a.m. on June 5, the huge water tank inside the Temple complex was fi red at. The tank could not be broken even after the initial 10 shells hit the tank. Then one bomb hit the tank after which it burst and all the water gushed out. The fighters who had taken their positons beneath the tank were killed. "They continued the firing till the evening of June 5 and then it was about 8.30 p.m. It was completly dark when they entered accompanied by very heavy firing. The blasting was so severe that I thought that I had reached some other world. "We were 40-50 persons huddled together in the room, including women and children, even a child of six months. In the next room were the pilgrims who had come on June 3 to celebrate Guru Parb but they had been trapped." "The upper protion of the Akal Takht had been fired at by the Army and completely destroyed. Pieces of the Guru Granth Sahib were flying in the air and littering the ground. The place seemed to have been transformed into a haunted house. "Then the tank entered. It had powerful searchlights. I thought the ambulance had come to attend to the dead and injured. But it had turned out the opposite. The tanks went riding past us. From the tanks the announcement came, loud and clear: Please come out, God's blessings are with you. We will reach you home absolutely safe and sound," There were some among us who were frantic for some water, they came out in the open. In the morning I saw the dead bodies lying on the Parikrama. This was the worst kind of treachery."
The A.I.S.S.F. Members narration of the events of June 5 has a somewhat different emphasis - less personal reflection and more of detached observation. On June 5th at about 8 p.m. the Army entered the Complex through the Ghanta Ghar side under heavy co ver fire. The road was blocked. Nobody was allowed to come out of the Complex. The Army entry was not preceded by any warning of announcement asking the people to surrender. "There was some stray firing from inside the Golden Temple before the Army e ntry into the Complex. But the real resistance began only after the Army entered the Temple. The order from Bhindranwale was to use limited firearms with discretion. There were only about 100 people to fight and there were less that 100 arms consisting mo stly of 303 rifles used in the World War II, 315 guns and a few stenguns. When the army entered, the ammunition was nearly exhausted. "After mid-night, at about 1 a.m. one armoured carrier and 8 tanks came inside the complex. The tanks had powerful s earchlights and they came down the stair-case, and the Army surrounded the langar building." Even 11 months afterwards, we could still see the marks of the tanks on the Parikrama. Duggal's account is also informative. By the evening of June 5, he and his family had managed to move to the house of the Giani Sahib Singh, the head priest of Golden Temple, which is about 25 yards away from the house he had earlier taken shelter in. In Duggal's words, "The night between the 5th and 6th was terrible. The tanks and armoured carriers had entered the Golden Temple Complex. The firing was such, that its ferocity cannot be described. In the early hours of June 6th, we learnt that the holy Akal Takht had been completely demolished in the firing. As devoted Sikhs, we were extremely shocked. Tears flowed through the eyes of everybody there. All through the night we heard the heart rending cries of the dying persons." Giani Puran Singh, a priest at the Harmandir Sahib also an eye-witness remembers - "At 7.30 p.m. on 5th I went to Sri Akal Takht where I met Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale with who I had a long satisfying talk while shots were ringing outside. Gyani Mohan Singh, whose duty was to conduct REHRAS (Evening Prayer) had not been able to reach Harmandir Sahib, due to the shooting. I then came down from the Akal Takht and joined some "Singhs" in a morcha and enquired of them whether Gyani Mohan Singh had passed that way. As per the tradition the 'Regras' at Akal Takht starts 5 minutes later than at the Harmandir Sahib, but that day Path at the Akali Takht had already started. Upon this I rushed towards Harmandir Sahib amidst gunfire, stopping for a breather at the Darshani Deori. On reaching I started the recitation. Meanwhile, Gyani Mohan Singh also reached the place. We were about 22 people in the Harmandir Sahib, some devotees and others the employees of the Gurudwara. By the time the path was over the firing outside became more intense. 'Sukhasan' of Guru Granth Sahib was done and then taken upstairs. At 10.00 p.m. the tanks started entering the complex and a barrage of shooting from without became more intense as heavy armour began to be used. At this stage an armoured carrior entered and stood beside the Sarovar. The lights on the carrier, when switched on, bathed the whole complex in bright light. We were viewing all this perched in the main dome of Harmandir Sahib and thought that prob ably the fire brigade had come to get water for extinguishing fires raging throughout the city. But we were proved wrong when this vehicle came down to the Parikrama and stared firing. From both sides the tanks started closing in, from clock tower to the Brahm Buta the tanks set fire to all rooms while desperate people collected water from the Sarovar to extinguish the fires. Loud cries and wails of both women and children rent the air. A vigorous battle ensued and the Darshani Deoris of Clock Tower and A tta Mandi along with the Serais (rest houses) was in Army control by 10 o'clock, the next day (June 6). The 40-50 youth who had been holding the forces fought bravely till either they were killed or the ammuniton was exhausted. From about 10 in the night till 4.30 the next mornign we were on the roof of Darbar Sahib."
June 6, 1984 - " At 2 a.m. on June 6", says Prithipal Singh, Sevadar, at the Akal Rest House, "the Army people came to the Rest House. They tore off all my clothes, stripped me naked, my kirpan was snatched, my head gear (patta) was untie d to tie up my hands behind my back. They caught me by my hair and took me along with five others - who were all pilgrims - to the ruins of the water tank, there we were told, "don't move or you'll be shot." They kept hitting us with the rifle b utts. Then a Major came and ordered a soldier, shoot them, then shouted at us, "You must be Bhindranwale's Chelas? You want Khalistan? I said "I am here to do my duty. I have nothing to do with all this." "Six of us were in a line faci ng the Major, when a Pahari soldier started shooting from one end, killing four of us (with 3 bullets each). As my turn was coming, suddenly a Sikh Officer turned up and ordered, "Stop Shooting". Thus I was saved. The Sikh Officer was told, & quote these people have ammunitions". At that he ordered them to lock us in a room. Two of us were locked up in a room in Guru Ram Das Serai, but we did not talk nor did I ask the other man's name. On 7th June the door was opened at about 8 or 9 in the m orning. We had gone without water. The floor was covered in blood. I was allowed to leave." This was then the 'dignity and consideration' which the White Paper had claimed was shown to those apprehended by the Army. Bhan Singh picks up the thread of the story at about 4 a.m. on
June 6. "I was arrested along with Sant Longowal and Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra early morning on the 6th. We were encircled by the Army people, throughout the day from 4 a.m. till 5 p.m. when Sant Longowal and Jathedar Tohra were taken to the Army Camp, but I along with many others was kept inside the compound of Guru Ram Das Serai. We were taken away to the Army Camp at about 9.30 p.m." Even on this point of arrest of Longowal and Tohra, the White Paper has a totally different version - "At 1.00 a.m. on June 6, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and Shri G.S. Tohra surrendered near Guru Nanak Niwas with about 350 people. The terrorist opened fire at them and also lobbed hand grenades to prevent surrender. As a result, 70 people were kille d including 30 women and children." Even Longowal is on record that he and Tohra were arrested at 5 a.m. from Guru Nanak Niwas (where the S.G.P.C. Office is now located) and kept there in Army custody the whole day. Neither he nor Bhan Singh talk abo ut surrendering to the Army nor do they refer to the killing of 70 people including 30 women and children, by terrorists at the time of their surrender. Should we believe Bhan Singh (and Longowal) or would we blindly accept the White Paper's Version?
On the morning of June 6, as the girl student opened the door of their small room and "came out to fetch water, what did I see but piles of dead bodies, all stacked one over the other. At first I instinctively felt that I wouldn't manage to go out . All I could see was a ceaseless mount of dead bodies. It seemed that all the persons who werre staying in the Parikrama, not one of them had survived... The Army said later that they did not go inside the Golden Temple wearing boots. But I have seen som e of the dead bodies of the Army men in uniform - they were wearing boots and belts." The White Paper is contradicted once more.
The girl student's narration continues. It is an amazing and astonishing account of how she accidentally met Bhai Amrik Singh, Prsident of the A.I.S.S.F. and Bhindranwale's close associate. She had not met him before but once he told her his name, she recognised him at once because his pictures had come out in the papers. How Amrik Singh gave her some water in a bucket which she gave to her relatives and acquaintances, but she could not bring herself to drinking it because it was red, mixed with blood. How Bhai Amrik Singh sent her a message urging her to leave the Temple Complex at once with her group in order to escape being dishonoured or being shot dead as 'terrorists' by the Army personnel, and also to survive to tell the true story of what happened inside the Golden Temple to the world outside. She recounts in breathtaking detail how she picked up the courage to first come out of the Complex and then bring out her relatives and acquaintances.
To quote her own words - "So I decided to try to find the way out. There was a man lying dead. I had to place my foot on him. My foot touched sometimes somebody's head, sometimes somebody's body. I had to move in this fashion. There is a staircase next to the Nishan Saheb (outside the Akal Takht) and next to it there was an iron gate, which had got twisted because of the shelling. I pulled the gate and came out, there was nobody. The place was deserted. The doors of the houses were shut and locked from outside. I was in a haze. For I saw the locks and yet I kept shouting for shelter. Then I came to my senses, realizing that the inhabitants had locked their houses and gone away. Then I broke the mud patch in the wall of a house and entered it. One o f the doors of this house opened out into the Golden Temple. I went back to the temple through this door. I found a wounded man who relayed my message to my grandmother through other wounded persons, that I had managed to come outside, she should also come out. By then the room in the Akal Takht building, where I had taken shelter with my grandmother was already in flames. The 20-25 people in that room came out with much difficulty and reached the place where I was. The house had been sprayed with shells and bullets and there were gaping holes in the walls. We found a water tank in that house which had escaped destruction, unlike the water tank in the Golden Temple complex. First we all drank water from that tank. We met an injured man who had also taken shelter in that house. He asked us to go with him to his house. We accompanied him. He made us change all our blood-soaked clothes; some we washed clean."
The narrations of Bhan Singh, Harcharan Singh Ragis, Giani Puran Singh and the girl student tear apart the White Paper that the Army had been instructed 'to treat all apprehended persons with dignity and consideration', and also that 'no women and children were killed in the action by the troops.'
Bhan Singh remembers- "On the 6th morning when hundreds of people were killed or wounded, everywhere there were cries of those people who were wounded and injured but there was no provisions for their dressings and there were no Red Cross people within the complex... Many young people aged between 18 and 22 years were killed and so were some ladies. A lady carrying a child of only a few months saw her husband lying before her. The child was also killed on account of the firing. It was a very touch ing scene when she placed the dead body of the child alongside her husband's body. Many people were crying for drinking water, but they were not provided any. Some had to take water out of the drains where dead bodies were lying and the water was red with blood. The way the injured were quenching their thirst was an aweful sight which could not be tolerated. The Army people were there, moving about mercilessly without showing any sign of sympathy with those injured or wounded. Those who were under arrest were not provided any facility of water or food or any other thing of that sort. The clothes of those who were arrested were removed and they were only left with shorts-their turbans, shirts, etc. were all removed and heaped together. Such a brutal treatment was given to them, as if they were aliens and not the citizens of the country to which the forces belonged."
Harcharan Singh Ragi similarly recounts- "My quarters are on the first floor above the information office and it was unsafe, with the firing going on endlessly, to stay there. Four members of the family of Narinder Pal Singh, the Information Officer who also lived on the same floor as us and we five took shelter in the basement of the Information office building. On the 6th of June, between 12 noon and 5 p.m., the Army announced that people should come out. This was the first announcement given since the Army operations began. All of us in the basement volunteered arrest and the Information Officer and myself showed our identity cards as employees of the S.G.P.C. As we were coming out, we saw that hundreds of people were being shot down as they ca me out. We saw many women being shot dead by the commanders. I also would have been, but for my little girl, Jaswinder Pal Kaur (Anju), rushing to the Army Commander and begging to save her father's life."
And now let us listen to the girl student once more- "On June 6 at o'clock in the evening, they announced a relaxation in the curfew for one hour. Meanwhile, we went through some devious lanes and managed to take shelter in a house which was some distance form the Golden Temple. The Army people announced that everyone should come out. So we came out."
"There were about 27-28 persons with us, 5 of them ladies, some elderly men, the rest young boys. The Army made all of us stand in queue. There were 13 boys out of which three I clained to be my brothers. I did not know them from before. I merely wanted to save them. I don't know why, perhaps because they thought the 3 boys were part of our family but the Army released these three boys. They went away. Out of the remainging male youths, they picked out four and took off their turbans with which th ey tied their hands behind their backs. Then the Army men beat these 4 Sikh boys with the butts of their rifles till they fell on the ground and started bleeding. They kept telling the boys all along, "you are terrorists. You were coming from inside. You were taking part in the action. You will be shot." These boys were shot dead right in front of me. They looked completely innocent. Neither they seemed to know how to use a rifle, nor they seemed to know the meaning of 'terrorism'. They were shot before my eyes. Their age was between 18 and 20 years. I did not know who they were - circumstances had brought us together by chance. Whenever I recollect that scene, I seem to lose my bearings.
"Then they (the Army people) surrounded me and started questioning me. I told my granmother not to speak a word to them as they were speaking only with bullets. I asked them whether they had come to protect us or to finish us. I said my grandfather was a colonel in the Army... The Army man... in charge then asked his colleagues to leave me and my family members. He told me to go away quickly. And so we were saved."
Giani Puran Singh narrates- "At 4:30 a.m. on June 6, Guru Granth Sahib was brought down. PRAKASH done and the Hukumnama taken, the kirtan of Asa-di-vaar started. This kirtan was not done by the appointed Ragi Jatha (Hymn singers) but by members of Bhai Randhir Singh Jatha, one member of which Avtar Singh of Parowal was later martyred inside the Darbar Sahib. The official Jatha of Bhai Amrik Singh had been martyred at the Darshani Deori the previous day. Bhai Avtar Singh was hit by a bullet which t ore through the southern door, one of which is still embedded in the Guru Granth Sahib which is there since Maharaja Ranjit Singh's time. Time passed and at 4:00p.m. on June 6, some poisonous gas was spread and the Akal Takht captured, if not for this gas the forces could not have been able to gain the Akal Takht. At 4:30 the commandant, Brar spoke from a speaker on the Sourhtern Deori that all living people should surrender. All those who had come face to face with the forces had been eliminated. We (I and Gyani Mohan Singh) asked all the 22 within the Darbar Sahib to surrender and told the commanding officer that two priests had stayed behind and if need be, he could send his men for them. He did not agree with them and called aloud on the speaker that we should come out with raised hands. We decided against this because if we were shot on the way it would merely be a waste. We were in teh Darbar Sahib till 7:30 when two soldiers and a sewadar were sent to fech us. While on our way out I stopped to pour a handful of water in the mouth of the wounded member of the Jatha, who asked us to send for help. I promised to do so provided I remainded alive. Gen. Brar, meanwhile announced over the loudspeaker that nobody should fire upon us. The moment I stepped o ut of the Darshani Deori, I saw the Akal Takht ruined and the rubble was spread all around. Hundreds of corpses were lying scattered. We were wished by Gen Brar who told that he too was a Sikh. He then enquired as to what did we propose to do. We told him that we wanted to go to the urinal and then be allowed to go to our residences. He allowed us to go to the urinal and then we were questioned of the whereabouts of Santji and were told that he would not be harmed. We told them that they knew better as th ey were in command. We were questioned, whether any machine-gunnists were operating from Darbar Sahib to which we siad that they were welcome to inspect the premises themselves. Five persons accompaied us to the Hari Mandir, one Sikh officer and 3-4 others. When we started the Sikh officer insisted that we lead because if firing started from within, we would face them, moreover we would be shot if someone shot from within. When we reached the Harimadir, a search was carried out by them, picking and search ing below very carpet but no sign of firing was traced. Meanwhile the wounded member left behind had passed away. His body was placed in a white sheet, brought out and placed along with various others lying outside."
According to the A.I.S.S.F. member, "on 6th June at 5:30 p.m. we surrendered before the Army. 199 surrendered before us. We were made to lie down on the hot road, interrogated, made to move on our knees, hit with rifle butts and kicked with boots on private parts and head. Our hands were tied behind our backs and no water was given to us. We were asked 'how many people were inside? and 'where are the arms and ammunition?' At about 7 p.m., we were made to sit in the parakrama- near the Army tanks. There was firing from the side of the Akal Takht and many were injured.".
June 7, 1984 - Giani Puran Singh's account throws light on how Bhindranwale was not seen killed: "Time passed away and at 7:30 a.m. on 7th we were taken out of the complex and informed that the bodies of Santji, Gen Subeg Singh, Bhai Amrik Singh, had all been found. When asked as to where were the bodies found, the reply was that Santji's body was recovered from between the 2 Nishan Sahibs while Amrik Singh and Shubeg Singh's bodies had been found behind the Nishan Sahibs. The news carried by the media said that Santji's body had been recovered from the basement in Akal Takht. We were not shown these bodies but were led to our residences by the military. The head priests who also came there were informed that the bodies of Santji and others had been found. In fact, if the bodies had been found, we would have been called for identification but instead we were threatened to be shot lest we tried to go near the rooms where they had been kept. Moreover, if found, the body would have been embalmed taken to Delhi and kept for some time before finally dispersing it.
LYING AT FEET OF INDIAN ARMY SOLDIERS AFTER ARMY REDUCED AKAL TAKHAT TO A RUBBLE. MAJOR GENERAL SHAHBEG SINGH, WAS HERO OF INDIAN ARMY WHEN HE FOUGHT WAR AGAINST PAKISTAN [BANGLADESH WAR IN 1971] BUT WHEN HE FOUGHT FOR HIS RELIGION HE WAS ROPED AND TORTURED TO DEATH BY THE SAME INDIAN ARMY DURING 1984. MAJ. GEN. SHAHBEG SINGH DISRESPECT TO THE BODY OF GREAT MARTYR SHAHBEG SINGH WAS NOT ENOUGH, HIS FAMILY WAS NOT ALLOWED TO ATTEND HIS CREMATION, WHEN HIS SON PRABHPAL SINGH DEMANDED HIS FATHER'S ASHES, HE WAS TOLD THAT INDIAN GOVERNMENT WOULD IMMERSE THEM IN ONE OF INDIA'S SACRED RIVERS.
The White Paper's version of the events is distorted and not convincing. For example: "By the morning of June 6, the troops had effectively engaged all gun positions at the Akal Takht and were able to enter the Akal Takht. Room-to-room engagement commenced till it was cleared by 12:30 p.m. on the afternoon of June 6, except for resistance continuing from the ground floor and basements... On the afternoon of June 6, 200 terrorists surrende red including 22 from Harmandir Sahib." Giani Puran Singhy who was one of the 22 has clearly said that the 22 persons who had surrendered from inside Harmandir Sahib were 'some devotees and others the employees of the Gurdwara'. Thus there were no ar med terrorists inside the Harmandir Sahib- 50-60 persons-cited by the girl student and the same figures-of 22 persons-given by all other eye-witesses and also the White Paper. The fact that the girl student accompanied by 27-28 persons left the Harmandir Dahib on the afternoon of June 4 amidst the firing and took shelter in the Akal Takht explains the descrepency in figures.
The White Paper also claims that "On 8th June 1984, the terrorists hacked to death an unarmed army doctor who had entered a basement of the Akal Takht to treat some casualties." Giani Puran Singh's account gives an accurate description of thi s incident: "There were 4 Singhs in the basement of the BUNGA JASSA SINGH RAMGARHIA who were giving a tough fight to the forces. They had also pulled down 3 personnel of the army who had ventured close-one of them was a so called doctor. They were sw iftly put to death., The authorities wanted these people to surrender but they wanted some mutually responsible person to mediate. I was then asked to mediate but first of all I asked the army offices of a guarantee that none would be shot only arrested a nd later law would take its own course. They were not ready for this and wished me to talk to the Brigadier who too was noncommittal. They then asked me to inquire if the three army personnel were alive. The reply received was that no live personnel was t here in the base-At this the Brigadier asked me to leave and that they would themselves deal with them. These men in the basement fought the whole day, that night and also the next day when Giani Zail Singh came to visit the ruins of Akal Takht. Some thou ght that they had also aimed for Giani but it was not so. These people did not know that Giani was coming. If they knew before hand, they would definitely put a bullet through the 'tyrant' but they were totally cut out from the outside world. A colonel of the commandos attempted to flush out these men in the basement with a gun and light arrangement but as soon as he entered the basement, a burst of LMG wounded him and it was later learnt that he had succumbed to the injuries in the hospital. 2 cannons we re employed to fire at the Bunga, gaping holes were formed on the Parikrama end but the men within were safe. I saw from the roof of Harmandir Sahib that two grenadiers, had been put on the grenade shooter and a continuous barrage of grenades was being po ured but they still survived. Burnt red chilly bags, chilly powder and smoke granades were thrown in; one of them came out to be greeted with a hail of bullets while the others finally were silenced on the 10th."
Similarly the White Paper's account of the amount of arms recovered seem to be patently exaggerated. We may not accept the A.I.S.S.F. members version that there were less than 100 arms, mostly obsolete .303 guns from the II World War and some stenguns, on the ground that it may be a partisan account. At the same time it is not possible to belive the White Paper's version - "A large quantity of weapons, ammuniton and explosives was recovered, including automatic and anti-tank weapons. A small facto ry for the manfacture of hand grenades and sten-guns was also found within the precincts of the Golden Temple." If this modern arms factory had been discovered inside the Golden Temple before the Army Operations began there would have been no room fo r doubt or controversy. But making such a claim after the Army operation was over. Only there was the Army to testify. In contrast, our eye-witness have repeatedly pointed out that the terrorists had a small number of men and limited arms which had to be used sparingly. Would the resistance have collapsed so abruptly, if there were hundreds of terrorist manning a modern arms factory, as claimed by the White Paper.
The White Paper's figures of the number of people killed or injured at the Golden Temple during the Army operations, seem to reflect gross under-estimation and understatement. The White Paper's figures of the casualties on account of the Operation Blue star alone are:
1. Own troops killed 83
2. Own troops wounded 249
3. Civilians/terrorist killed 493
4. Terrorists and other injured 86
5. Civilians/terrorists apprehended 592
Our eye-witness accounts point out two unmistakable facts:
(a) There were thousands, perhaps ten thousand people, consisting of pilgrims, S.G.P.C. employees, Akali volunteers came to court arrest, and terrorists present inside the Golden Temple complex when the Army started firing at the Golden Temple from all sides on the dawn of June 4.
(b) The battle lasted nearly 56 to 60 hours from 4 a.m. on June 4 to about 4 p.m. on June 6. The firing was almost incessant and continuous and, despite the White Paper's several claims, had no constraints. It was a most fierce battle.
Therefore, not hundreds but thousands could well have died during the operations, and thousands maimed or injured. The girl student had seen stacks and stacks of dead bodies piled up all over the parikrama very early on the morning of June 6. Joginder Singh estimates that at least 1500 dead bodies were lying on the parikrama. Bhan Singh saw hundreds of people dying before him on June 6. Harcharan Singh Ragi saw hundreds of people including women and children, being shot down by Army commandos, as they came out to surrender on the afternoon of June 6 outside the Golden Temple on the Ghanta Ghar side. We may hesitate to accept exact figures such as A.F.D.R. Vice President S. S. Bahagawalia'a estimate of 2009 killed including about 400 Hindu Bhaiyyas or t he AISSF members estimate "that 7 to 8 thousand people were killed" or Surinder Singh Ragi's confident assertions that 'during the Army operation at least 7000 people were killed on the parikrama and another 1000 dead bodies were recovered from various rooms." These are all impressions. There is no reliable estimate because the Press was not allowed.
Nevertheless the clear conclusion emerges that hundreds and hundreds of people were killed during the Army Action on Golden Temple in June 1984 most brutally. It was indeed a mass massacre mostly of innocents. The post-mortem reports (see Annexures 7 & amp; 8) speak of the Army's brutatlities in very clear terms- (i) Most of the dead bodies had their hands tied behind their backs implying that they had not died during the action, but like Sevadar Prithipal Singh's temporary companions lined up before th e firing squad, all of them must have been shot after being captured and (ii) At the time of the post-mortem, the bodies were in a putrid and highly decomposed state--they had been brought for post-mortem after 72 hours implying a totally callous attitude towared the injured and the dead.
Even after June 6, many died due to negligence, while under the detention of the Army and many others were killed in Army camps. According to the AISSF member: "On the evening of 7th June 1984 I was brought to the Army Camp and locked in the Arms Rooms with 28 persons. It had no ventilation and there was no water. 14 died of suffocation including Sujan Singh, a member of the SGPC." According to a former MLA, Harbans Singh Ghumman, 37 Sikh youths were killed on one of the Army camps at Amritsa r between June 16 and June 18, 1984. He had been personally concerned about this incident at that time as he had learnt that this youngest son, Randhir Singh, was also being detatined in one of the military camps at Amritsar.