Brar and that phone were going to Manila for a holiday.
Before moving on to the story of Operation Blue Star, let me give you a little background. Punjab was going through a very bad phase at that time. The state was burning in the fire of terrorism after the command of Damdami Taksal came in the hands of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. There were arguments about a separate country, Khalistan. In 1982, Bhindranwale left the Chowk Gurdwara and began his address from the Guru Nanak Niwas of the Golden Temple. Within a few months, Bhindranwale made the Akal Takht his platform of thought. By 1984, the situation in Punjab became uncontrollable. After the murder of DIG AS Atwal in the Golden Temple complex, Punjab was sitting on a pile of gunpowder. A civil war-like situation was created by a rebel group of Sikhs under the leadership of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. After reaching the peak of anti-national activities in Punjab, the Indira Gandhi government took the decision of Operation Blue Star. Major General Kuldeep Singh Brar was given the responsibility of this. At that time Brar was the commander of the Nine Infantry Division in Meerut. On 31 May 1984, he was going out of the country to Manila for a holiday. Suddenly in the evening he got a call from Delhi. In this phone, he was informed to lead Operation Blue Star.
‘Then Punjab can get out of hand…’
Brar had said in an interview to the BBC that his tickets for Manila had already been booked and he was on his way to Delhi to catch a flight. After this phone call, he went to Delhi by road from Meerut. From there, by flight, Chandigarh and then directly Brar headed towards the headquarters of Western Command. On the morning of June 1, he reached the headquarters of the Western Command at Chandi Mandir. By then Bhindranwale had completely captured the Golden Temple. Law and order had collapsed in Punjab. It was clearly told to Major General Brar that if the situation does not change then Punjab can get out of the hands of the country.
A Sikh officer of the 4th Battalion stood up
On 4 June 1984, an officer dressed in plain clothes went to know the position of Bhindranwale, Major Shahbeg Singh and his supporters hiding in the Golden Temple. On the morning of June 5, Major General Kuldeep Brar was motivating the soldiers for the operation. They were also being told that if someone does not want to enter the Golden Temple due to religious or other reasons, then there is no need to do so forcibly. In an interview to BBC, Brar had said that before the operation, I told all the soldiers that I will tell your commanding officer that if any of you does not want to be a part of the operation, then no action should be taken against him. There was no sound from the three battalions. In an interview given to the BBC, Major General Brar says, ‘While I was talking to the soldiers, a Sikh officer of the 4th Battalion stood up. I thought he didn’t want to go into the operation. I said if your feelings are so strong then there is no need for you to go.
‘I want to be the first to go into operation’
But the very next moment the young man bewildered Brar. The Sikh officer said, ‘Sir, don’t misunderstand me. I am second lieutenant raina. I want to be the first to go into the operation inside the Golden Temple. So that I can reach the Akal Takht first and nab Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. After this, Brar instructed the officers before starting the operation that Second Lieutenant Raina’s contingent would go to the fore. In the interview, Brar had said, ‘That officer’s troop went inside the Golden Temple first. During this, he came in the grip of machine gun bullets in the firing of pro-Bhindranwale militants. He was so badly injured that both his legs were broken. Despite being stopped by the commanding officer, Second Lieutenant Raina was not stopping. He wanted to reach the Akal Takht by crawling somehow. He was later forcibly picked up and brought in an ambulance. Even both the legs had to be amputated. For this bravery during the operation, Major General Brar also got the Ashok Chakra awarded to Second Lieutenant Raina.
How many deaths in Operation Blue Star?
Before the operation, on 2 June 1984, the Indian Army had sealed the international border. Along with this, curfew was imposed in entire Punjab on 3rd June. On June 4, the army started action and shortly after the compound of Harmandir Sahib had turned into a battlefield. The army operation was successful, but the bloodshed did not stop. A large number of soldiers and civilians were killed during this operation. After the operation, the government had told in the White Paper that 83 soldiers of the Indian Army were martyred and 248 soldiers were injured in the operation. Apart from this, 492 other people were also confirmed dead. After this incident, the atmosphere in Punjab was very tense. On June 6, 1984, at 6 am, the then Minister of State for Defense, KP Singhdeo called RK Dhawan, a close aide of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Singhdeo wanted that information about the success of the operation should reach Indira Gandhi immediately. On receiving the news, Indira Gandhi had said, ‘Oh my God, what has happened? These people had told me that there would not be so many deaths.
Indira’s assassination on 31 October 1984 after Blue Star
When the Akalis were demanding a separate Sikh state (Khalistan), the stature of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala, who studied Sikhism at Damdami Taksal, was growing rapidly. When the master of the mint died, Bhindranwala got the status of the head of the mint. Bhindranwale’s popularity had increased a lot at that time due to taking Khalistani extremism to its extreme form. However, the demand for Khalistan began to weaken in the 90s after Bhindranwale, Major Shahbeg Singh and his supporters were killed in Operation Blue Star. After Operation Blue Star, the tension between the Congress Party and a section of the Sikhs increased. In the midst of all this, on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards. After the assassination of the then Prime Minister, anti-Sikh riots broke out across the country, the tension of which is still felt today.