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OPERATION BLUESTAR: EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS
Part of an Interview with Pritam Kaur from the Punjab Times
Pritam Kaur was married to Rashpal Singh who was Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale's P.A. and was arrested in operation Blue Star and was tortured and sent to prison for 4 years and then released in 1988. The harrasment continued even after release. Her 3 brother were taken away by the Police and killed. Her story is tear-rendering...
Q "Bibi Ji how did you get to know Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale"?
A "On the 20th Febuary 1983 was my Anand Karaj with Rashpal Singh (Sant Bhindranwale's P.A). The Anand Karaj was arranged by a Singh from the Damdami Taksal who was close to the Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. After the Anand Karaj I got to know Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale better as we lived in Guru Nanak Niwas and then moved to the Akal Takth with the him".
Q "At the start of Operation Blue Star where were you"?
A "At the start of Operation Blue Star we were living near the Akal Takth in a room. It was on top of the Karah Parshad counter & the wet cloths counter. I gave birth to my child on 19th May 1984. Between 1st & 3rd June there was on and off firing from outside the Darbar Sahib the aim was to find out the locations of where the Singhs were postioned, but the Singhs were farsighted. On 4th June at 4.45a.m the army started the attack inside the Darbar Sahib complex on the Parkarma with bombs. On the night of 3rd June I was giving my baby some milk while my husband Rashpal Singh tried to make a phone call, but he found that he could not get through anywhere. We found out that the telephone, electricity and water supply had been cut off. This was discussed secretly between Rashpal Singh and Sant Bhindranwale and I was only told of this situation on 4th June as he did not want me to start worrying with the baby being so young aswell. On the morning of 4th June we moved downstairs to the wet cloths store where in anticipation of the attack we had stored some dried food".
Q "What happended on 4th June"?
A "On 4th June bullets were raining all day. Singhs did not let the army get passed the entrance on to the Parkarma. The attack was intensified on the night of 4th June, the dark night sky showed the firing clearly & dramaticaly. Some Singhs attained Shaheedi but during the day & night of the 4th the army bore the majority of casulties. We too stood our postions!"
Q On 5th June....?
A Heavy fighting continued. On the early hours of the morning of 5th June the Water tank was blown up by army tanks, this was the Babbars quater (Morcha). The blowing up of the water tank left some Singhs Shaheed and others were very badly injured. On this day the army targeted the postions occupied by the Singh in high positions, trying to bomb tall buildings. We were still holding our positions strong. Up until the night of 5th June not even 1 army soldier got through to the Parkarma. Singhs kept blowing them up at the entrance. On the morning of 5th June at 9.30 a.m Bhai Rashpal Singh went to the Akal Takth to meet Sant Bhindranwale and asked what was the next programme and the Sant replied "Hold our positions till the last breath, this is our last programme. We will give our last drop of blood to Sikhi." Once again on the evening of the 5th they spoke again and this was stand was reiterated. At about 8.30pm on 5th June the entrance from the Langar hall stairs were blown up and tanks were taken into the Parkarma. Behind the tanks were soldiers. The Singhs kept the tanks and army at bay for some 3 hours. One tank got stuck at the asthan of Baba Deep Singh and was only moved after the attack. At the same time the army stormed Teja Singh Samundri hall and the rooms in the Parkarma and behaved liked savages, they raped women, looted, killed children, burnt people alive, set the rooms on fire and tied the hands of devotees behind their backs and shot them. Heavy firing was still continuing and we were still holding our positions. Then on 6th June 12.15a.m Bhai Rashpal Singh did Kirtan Sohela and then kissed the baby and said his last fateh and was going onto the Parkarma to face the enemy, just as he was a bullet hit the baby who I was holding next to my chest and pierced into my chest. The baby died immediatly (18 day old baby shaheed!) and I fell to the floor. Rashpal Singh saw me drop to the floor and as he did another bullet came and hit him on the head and he fell on top of me and became a Shaheed. I was in pain due to the bullet, some Singhs came and dragged me into a room. One of the Singhs went out to fetch me some water but as he left he was captured by soldiers. The army came into this room, we (me and 2/3 others) were captured and were told to face the wall ready to be shot at. They were about to aim and shoot us in the back when from the Sikh reference Library side a "Sikh" officer shouted out not to kill us but to hand us over to him."
Q "What happened next?"
A "It was the morning of the 6th June, there was still the ocassional firing going on. Soldiers took us towards the library, as we turnred the corner of the Bibi da Ishnan area I looked at the Akal Takth and is was smoking and fire was burning. Rooms were burning we were walking over dead bodies, there was blood everywhere. The sarowar water was red in colour some bodies were floating on the water. Children and women were dying for water. The soldiers sat us down near the reference library. Some women were crying out for water but I kept quiet. After a while the army allowed people to drink water. The women and children had to drink the blood filled water. I also drank that water. The soldiers at this time began to suspect that I was someone important, they began to look at me differently to the other bibian. After leting us drink the water the soldiers took us to Darshani Deori side. They seperated me from the rest as they were suspicious of me. They brought over 3 sevedars of the SGPC to identify me. They all knew me but they did not identify me, all 3 were then shot dead. The soldiers thought that this would scare me but I did not fall for that. I told the soldiers that I was a Singhni of one of the sevedars. I was still in great pain because of the bullet in my chest and because of the heat I was very thirsty but kept quiet in Vaheguru's fate. On the night of 6th June we were made to lie on the stones and debris of the building.