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Email:newsonline.ukdesk@bbc.co.uk to get the BBC to provide coverage of the Remembrance March & Freedom Rally.

I f we get a few hundred emails to them on Sunday 5 June this should do the trick.

Email:newsonline.ukdesk@bbc.co.uk to get the BBC to provide coverage of the Remembrance March & Freedom Rally.

I f we get a few hundred emails to them on Sunday 5 June this should do the trick.

Text this email address to friends travelling to London - those with access to emails on mobiles should be able to action this before they arrive in London

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Unless the Sikhs are going mental with Kirpans, they don't see it befitting of coverage! :rolleyes2:

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Kartar Kaur

76-year old Kartar Kaur's only surviving son, the sole breadwinner of her small household fell to the bullets of Indian army soldiers advancing into the Golden Temple.

"He just never came back," she says delving into memories that despite her old age, are as clear as that of events that occurred only the other day.

There were rumours that the temple complex was littered with hundreds of dead bodies. My poor son was among them

Her son Harjit Singh was an electrician employed by the Golden Temple management. It was his job to look after the generators in the temple complex.

He was a good son and god-fearing Sikh, who enjoyed his job at the temple because in a way he was serving his Gurus.

"Harjit left home for his shift on 1 June, but did not return like he normally did.

"This did not worry me because at the time there were curfews being imposed intermittently, and then I thought, what possibly could go wrong in the house of the Guru," the old widow recalled.

A week later there was still no sign of her son amid reports that there had been a massacre at the Golden Temple.

But there was little Kartar Kaur could do with the curfew still in place.

"I went to look for Harjit but they (the soldiers) would simply not let me through. No one was being allowed in. There were rumours that the temple complex was littered with hundreds of dead bodies. My poor son was among them. There was curfew.

"By the time the soldiers lifted their curfew, the place had been carefully cleared of most of the dead bodies. There was no sign of Harjit. Some other people who worked at the temple told me they had seen his body lying in a pool of blood.

"I looked everywhere but I found nothing ... not even the clothes he had worn the day he left home.

"I saw blood at many places. There were signs of devastating fires all around. And the Holy Akal Takht, the Guru's own abode, was in ruins.

"For me this was proof enough of my son's death. There were people weeping at the sight of the destruction of the shrine.

"My guts seethed with anger over what had happened. But then I accepted it all as the will of the Guru.

"After all the Guru had sent Harjit to my home ... the Guru chose to call him back ... I am grateful he breathed his last breathe in the House of God.

"What could I possibly have done in the face of God's own will?"


A full month after the events of 6 June 1984, Kartar Kaur finally summoned the strength to perform the last rites of her son, Harjit Singh.

She still holds a memorial service in his memory each year.

A march for peace before Operation Bluestar (Photo courtesy of The Tribune)

A march for peace before Operation Bluestar (Photo courtesy of The Tribune)

Left without anyone to support her, Kartar Kaur has survived alone for the past 20 years.

She has no other relatives.

The old widow today lives on handouts from other villagers or the local Sikh temple. In turn she spends all her time in cleaning the place and serving devotees who come there.

"There are times when I cannot help it and miss Harjit a lot. But what can I possibly do about the situation," she said.

Over the past 20 years, no government representative or social organisation has come forward to help her, but Kartar Kaur has no complaints.

"All I want are the Guru's blessings and a place at his feet after I die," she said.

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Gurjit Kaur

Gurjit Kaur ekes out a living by doing odd jobs at Amritsar's Golden Temple.

She lost her husband and 14-year-old daughter during Operation Bluestar.

Those who have seen the blood of loved ones spilt will never forget and I will carry my memories with me to my funeral pyre

Golden Temple attack: Your memories

Later, her oldest son was killed by police. Two other sons took to arms and became militants - they too were killed in encounters with security forces.

Her youngest boy was only 14 when he also disappeared after the police took him away.

"I have been left all alone in this world. Army soldiers killed my husband Gurmej Singh and our young daughter Jasvinder."

Almost her entire family - her farmer husband, four young sons and her daughter - over the years fell victim to the mindless violence that enveloped Punjab through the 1980's and early 1990's.

It all started with Operation Bluestar in June 1984.

"It was Guru Arjan Dev-ji's Martyrdom Day in the beginning of June that year.

"Gurmej Singh was a deeply religious man who visited the Golden Temple at least once every month.

He was also an ardent admirer of (militant leader) Sant (Saint) Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

"He left our home in Village Sodhiwala in Punjab's southwestern border district of Ferozepur along with our elder daughter, who was only a young child at the time.

"They were inside the Temple when the army launched its attack.

"Gurmej Singh and Jasvinder never returned home.

"All I know is they were among the thousands who were killed by the army that day. We couldn't even perform their last rites.

"To add to our grief, the police began harassing us because they recovered some pictures of Bhindranwale which my dead husband had once bought.

"My eldest son Kashmir Singh - 22 years and working as a mechanic at a nearby workshop - was picked up and killed. They threw his body in a drain outside the village.

"Intensely angry over the injustices we were forced to suffer, two of my younger sons left home to join militant organisations.

"I did not attempt to stop Jaspal Singh and Tarlok Singh from going away.

"I do not know if they were able to avenge the deaths of my husband, daughter and older son, but some years later - around 1991 - both the boys were shot dead in encounters with the police.

"I did not grieve - they had given their lives while serving the cause of the Panth (Sikh community) and the Gurus.

No respite

"But the police did not stop at this.

A police check around Amritsar (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

A police check around Amritsar (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

"One day - also in the year 1991 - a bunch of police wallahs came to my house and picked up my younger daughter, youngest son and me.

My daughter and I were locked up in the Jail at Nabha Town.

"But I still do not know what became of my youngest child. Baljinder Singh was only 14 years old.

"He simply disappeared from the custody of the police.

"Twenty years have gone by but I still cry each day. I cannot forget how my entire family was wiped out.

"Those who have seen the blood of loved ones spilt will never forget and I will carry my memories with me to my funeral pyre.

"Today I am all alone. My only surviving child lives with her husband outside Punjab. She does not visit me because the police harass her each time she came here in the past.

"My only remaining wish is to identify the men who killed Baljinder Singh. He was only a innocent little child.

"I want to know what kind of men could bring themselves to murdering a child. I want to know if they made my sweetest child suffer.

"My heart will not stop aching. Nothing else matter to me now."

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Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti

Sikhism's senior most cleric - the revered head priest of the Akal Takht - Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti has very painful memories of the first few days of June 1984.

For the soldiers everybody was an enemy, and all those who came in their way were mercilessly shot dead

Golden Temple attack: Your memories

"It was a frightful scene ... cannons and bombs were used inside the holy Golden Temple Complex, bullets fell like torrents of rain.

"Nobody could possibly have imagined that it would come to this.

"It is not just me but thousands of devoted Sikhs suffered deep emotional scars and these continue to bleed till this day.

"My heart cries when each year, we gather to honour the martyrdom of the hundreds of children, women and men who were brutally murdered by the Indian Army soldiers.

"I was inside the Temple complex right through the mindless massacre. Heavily armed soldiers were position all around and there was constant firing.

"Then late on 5 June evening, they entered with their tanks which targeted the Akal Takht (the centre of Sikh authority).

"Common devotees, employees of the Golden Temple management and the terrorists were treated in the same manner.

"For the soldiers everybody was an enemy and all those who came in their way were mercilessly shot dead.

Troops inside the Golden Temple complex

Troops inside the Golden Temple complex (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

"They broke open doors and killed devotees who were trying to save themselves by hiding in rooms along the periphery of the Temple complex.

"Towards morning there was a short lull in firing followed by loud cries of 'Bole So Nihaal Sat Sri Akal!' (the traditional Sikh battle cry) and then the final, fierce exchange of gunfire.

After that there was silence and army soldiers out everywhere.

"I guessed that [militant leader] Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had been killed.

"When the sun came up, from where I was, I could count just 35 survivors. Everyone else appeared to have perished.

"The events deeply affected me. But what I felt at the time was both indescribable and unbearable. It was the kind of feeling that only a devout Sikh can experience.

"They killed innocent people.

"It is exactly two decades since Operation Bluestar, but the hurt from the event is such that it cannot be forgotten. I believe that it must never be forgotten.

"It is most tragic that it was our own government and not a foreign invader that unleashed this tyranny upon the Sikh people.

"It is even more unfortunate that not a single political party or government has yet thought it prudent to apologise for something that was surely a grave error.

"There has still not been any word condemning Operation Bluestar in our nation's Parliament."

Apar Singh Bajwa

The year 1984 was a very difficult time for deputy superintendant (DSP) of Punjab Police Apar Singh Bajwa, now retired.

As part of an ill-trained, badly equipped and under-manned force, which had further been demoralised by long working hours, terrible living conditions and not the least of all - infiltration by Sikh separatist militants, it was his job to secure the perimeter of Amritsar's Golden Temple Complex.

I have no regrets. I did my duty as a policeman and I tried to act in as fair a manner as possible

Golden Temple attack: Your memories

The Golden Temple - Sikhism's holiest shrine - had been taken over by the militant Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his band of some 250 heavily-armed followers.

"Those were bad times," Bajwa recalled.

"The militants had found a safe sanctuary in the Golden Temple. They would sneak out, commit crimes and easily sneak back into the temple complex.

"Though we were responsible for preventing crime, the government has issued specific instructions barring the police from entering the Temple.

"The militants knew this and used it to their advantage.

"Things became further complicated when the [central government] home minister stated inside Parliament that none of the security forces would ever enter the Temple.

"Such a situation permitted the militants to fortify and arm themselves over several months prior to their final showdown with the army in June.

"Finally the army was called in and given the task of flushing out Bhindranwale and his men.

"We (the state police) were ordered back to our homes because there was a general impression that many cops were mixed up with the militants

"The intermittent curfew imposed earlier, was finally clamped down on the evening of 3 June, which was also the day of an important Sikh festival and there were thousands of ordinary devotees inside the complex

"We tried to get these people out but could only achieve partial success because the army began its offensive.

"I was then told to go home and I remained there until the morning of 6 June when I was summoned early in the morning.

"When I reached the police station near the temple, I saw the dead bodies of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, General Shabeg Singh, Thiara Singh and Amrik Singh lying there.

"I was asked to identify the bodies because I was familiar with all the dead men having often interacted with them as part of my duties as a police officer.

"The army officer in-charge then requested me to arrange the cremations. We performed these, according to Sikh rites, at the nearby Gurudwara Shaheedan."

Grim task

According to the DSP "a large majority of those who died inside the Golden Temple during Operation Bluestar were common devotees who had come to the shrine on 3 June on the occasion of the fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev's Martyrdom Day.

Sikh militant leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale (centre)

Sikh militant leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale (centre) (Photo: Swadesh Talwar, Indian Express)

"Apart from Bhindranwale's armed followers, I counted a little over 800 dead bodies inside the temple complex.

"I and my men were also tasked with clearing and cremating these bodies. Army and municipal officials helped transport them to the local cremation ground.

"While many of the innocents were killed in the crossfire between the army and the militants, it is true that the soldiers deliberately gunned down several devotees.

"You see they actually believed that anyone inside the temple was the 'enemy'."

The soldiers had no notion of how they should tackle an internal security situation like the one that had developed inside the Golden Temple.

Mr Bajwa said no attempt was ever made to identify the civilians killed.

"This would have been possible if the army had involved the state police. But then at that time the soldiers were in a hurry to conclude their operation and withdraw from the Golden Temple complex.

"It was this kind of haste because of which scores of ordinary families not only lost their loved ones but spent months in a futile search for their dead relatives," said the DSP.

'Avoidable tragedy'

As a police officer who in later years witnessed and was part of combating Sikh Militancy in Punjab, Mr Apar Singh Bajwa believes that Operation Bluestar could easily have been avoided had a little extra thought gone into the initial planning.

"This became clear in two subsequent operations in 1986 and 1988, when the state police and paramilitary forces successfully tackled heavily armed militants who took control of the Temple Complex.

"Operations Black Thunder One (1986) and Black Thunder Two (1988) were successfully completed without any damage to the Golden Temple," he recalled.

The police officer went about his job despite suffering considerable personal anguish (as a Sikh) over the damage to the Golden Temple and having subsequently to live under a constant threat from the militants.

"I have no regrets. I did my duty as a policeman and I tried to act in as fair a manner as possible."

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Tarlochan Singh

In 1984, Tarlochan Singh's old, ancestral shop was located only a few metres from the Golden Temple complex.

It was gutted during the Operation Bluestar.

The sound of gunfire had become quite a normal thing. But we sensed that a big showdown was only days away

Golden Temple attack: Your memories

He and other shopkeepers of the area set up tin sheds in place of the old shops, but some years later they were ousted from their place of business because the government decided to clear the area around the Temple complex to make a security corridor.

"It was a small place but my shop - just off the Chowk Durbar Sahib - was a tremendous place for business.

"The street was so narrow that even cycle rickshaws could not pass, but the bazaar constantly thronged with shoppers and tourists."

"Despite the repeated strikes called by the militants and the short curfews imposed by the administration, business was booming.

"We had regular customers and would make up any losses in a matter of days.

"You see, our bazaar was an integral part of what then used to be the Golden Temple circuit.

"Any pilgrimage to the Temple could not be complete without a visit to the old bazaars.

"Crowds of devotees would enter after removing their shoes at the Clock Tower entrance, say their prayers at the shrine and then invariably walk barefoot to the shops and buy what they needed.

"Scores of tourists from almost every Western nation also came to see the Temple. These folks would come to the bazaar buying little souvenirs or then simply shooting pictures of the place.

Gunfire 'normal'

"The military action and the events that followed completely changed our lives.

"The sound of gunfire inside and around the Temple had become quite a normal thing.

"But then we sensed that a big showdown was only days away when at the end of May, paramilitary force soldiers began building machine gun and mortar positions atop our homes situated only a little distance from the temple complex.

A day later, all hell broke loose. The sound of gunfire was deafening ... In the distance I could see our entire bazaar in flames.

"These men were soon followed by army troops, who ordered us to shut down our shops and go home.

"When the curfew was lifted for some hours on 3 June - the Martyrdom Day of the Fifth Guru - I rose early and rushed to the Temple to say a prayer as I did every year.

I returned home but when the reimposition of curfew was announced that evening hundreds of devotees were still inside the temple with nowhere to go.

"A day later, all hell broke loose. We spent that night in terror. The sound of gunfire was deafening. The night sky was lit up as if someone had turned on a thousand 1,000-watt bulbs.

"In the distance I could see our entire bazaar in flames.

"Someone said the soldiers had started the fire to prevent the militants from escaping.

"By early morning, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his men had all been killed along with many of the devotees who had come from faraway places.

"Like I said, they had nowhere to escape to."

For several months after Operation Bluestar, Tarlochan Singh and the other shopkeepers were not allowed to go near their shops.

But as the tension gradually eased, the traders set up tin sheds and restarted their businesses.

'Overnight we were paupers'

The old customers returned and all seemed okay until some years later - following two more attempts by armed Sikh separatists to use the Golden Temple as a sanctuary - the government decided to clear the area and build a security corridor right around the temple complex.

Mourning a newspaper editor killed by Sikh militants (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

Mourning a newspaper editor killed by Sikh militants (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

"The government said it was part of a plan to beautify the surroundings of the holy shrine and for this they demolished every building located up to a certain distance from the complex.

"The shopkeepers from the old bazaars were shunted out to a desolate location on the periphery of the Old City.

"Overnight we were reduced to being paupers.

"There were no customers here. Many traders sold the shops allotted to them and went away.

"Many others were ruined.

"Even today - 20 years later - there is no comparison between my earnings in the old bazaar and from this new shop. To survive I have had to change my trade.

"For us shopkeepers it has like always not been a question of Hindu or Sikh - Operation Bluestar affected us all.

"But there one major satisfaction in that the House of my Gurus (Golden Temple) has risen in stature and is today a more powerful symbol than ever before.

"There were never such huge crowds of devotees in the old days. I have lived near the Temple for 55 years, and I have never seen the place as glorious as it appears now."

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Kanwarpal Singh

"The night of 5 June, 1984, seemed like the end of the world had come," recalls Kanwarpal Singh Bittoo then a young student at Amritsar's Khalsa College.

"We sat huddled together inside our homes as a never-ending succession of explosions and continuous gunfire ripped through the night. It was dark and terribly humid. The electric supply had been shut down and all telephone lines had been cut.

We had one common goal - to avenge what the Indian government had done

Golden Temple attack: Your memories

"Then suddenly, on the morning of June 6, a deathly silence enveloped the old city.

"Rumours circulated wildly. '[Militant leader] Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale is dead,' 'the Indian army has destroyed the Golden Temple,' 'Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale has escaped across the border into Pakistan'.

"Some days later when the soldiers permitted anxious devotees to once again enter the Golden Temple, hundreds of people rushed in. I was among the first to go inside.

"The sight before us was more horrific than could possibly be imagined. The Golden Temple complex had been devastated. The Akal Takht lay in ruins. There was blood everywhere. The parikarma (pathway around the temple pool was run over with tank tracks. The Amrit sarovar (the pool, or tank, surrounding the temple) was stained with blood.

"It was a day of mourning for all Sikhs.

"I saw people shaking their heads and weeping like little children.

"What I saw made me very angry. I was angry with the Indian state for daring to desecrate our shrine."

'Dangerous conspiracy'

Young Kanwarpal Singh's sense of indignation only increased as the days passed.

Crowds race towards the Golden Temple after it reopens (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

Crowds race towards the Golden Temple after it reopens (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

"I had no doubt in my mind that Operation Bluestar was part of a deep and dangerous conspiracy that the government of India had hatched to dishonour the entire Sikh Community."

The 19-years-old college student and some of his friends decided to exact revenge.

Fed on a regular diet of rumours that Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had escaped to Pakistan, these young men decided to follow the leader.

"We got in touch with a local smuggler, who was also a Sikh like us. This man helped us in crossing the border into Pakistan, where we were arrested and jailed for making an illegal entry. By and by more than 600 boys and men had landed in the same jail at Faislabad.

"We were all known as 'Bhindranwale's Boys'.

"We had one common goal - to avenge what the Indian government had done.

"After six months in the Faislabad jail, the authorities in Pakistan offered to send us back to India but I and many others elected to stay back and join ranks with Sikh separatist outfits already working out of that country.

"I joined the Babbar Khalsa International and lived in Pakistan for many months under the leadership of Mehal Singh Babbar."

Kanwarpal Singh made several trips back into India on missions assigned to him by his leaders.

However, he refuses to divulge details saying they could be used against him.

He travelled to many countries forwarding the cause of a separate Sikh homeland or Khalistan (Land of the Pure) before he was eventually arrested and extradited from Bangkok in 1997.

'Revolutionary and democratic'

Today Kanwarpal Singh has forsaken the path of armed resistance against the Indian state.

But he continues to espouse the cause of Sikh sovereignty as an activist of the Dal Khalsa ¿ which is among the few overground Sikh organisations that openly demand freedom from India.

"The Dal Khalsa is a revolutionary and political organisation which believes in employing democratic means to achieve what our Gurus had ordained for the Sikh Community.

"The Guru said: 'Raj karega Khalsa (the pure shall rule)' and this is an integral part of the Sikh psyche.

"It does not matter that we are at the moment only a small minority. After all, all revolutions began with only a handful of committed people."

"Operation Bluestar was the starting point for me and many others like me. The huge separatist movement that the events of 1984 sparked off have thoroughly served to give Sikhs a distinct identity across the world."

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Gurmej Singh

Gurmej Singh was arrested inside the Golden Temple Complex on 7 June 1984 and spent five years in jail without trial.

He was released when the Indian government withdrew sedition charges against him.

"I am basically a peaceful man. I do not remember ever nursing any kind of grudge against anyone.

It was pitch dark, hot, humid and so deafeningly noisy that one could not tell if the person lying next to him was dead or still alive

Golden Temple attack: Your memories

"I believe everyone - Sikh and Hindu - must live peacefully with mutual respect. There is no purpose served by fighting and blood shed.

"Yet, without any reason, I was unjustly thrown into a jail cell for five long years.

I was the sole earning hand and my wife and four little children were forced to suffer near starvation for no fault of theirs or mine.

"I used to grow vegetables in my village and sell these at the market in Amritsar. We were not rich, but my family led a decent life. I had two sons and two daughters, at the time, they were all below the age of ten.

"On 3 June 1984 a group of young friends from the village decided to accompany me to the vegetable market in Amritsar.

"Since this was the Fifth Guru Arjan Dev-ji's Martyrdom Day, we also planned to visit the Golden Temple the same afternoon.

"We were all still inside the Temple when the army imposed a curfew. Sensing trouble ahead, we tried to leave via the cobbler's bazaar, but we were turned back by a group of angry soldiers who ordered us back into the temple complex until the curfew orders were in force.

"Over the course of the next three days and nights, the Golden Temple was converted into a bloody battlefield with bullets raining from every conceivable direction.

"We took refuge in an office room in the complex but the bullets followed us everywhere.

"I was hit in my hip. Many of my village mates and others were fatally wounded.

"It was pitch dark, hot, humid and so deafeningly noisy that one could not tell if the person lying next to him was dead or still alive.

"Many people had been killed.

"Then sometime on 6 June, after the fighting had ceased, army soldiers broke open the door of our room and ordered all of us out.

"I was wearing a khaki-coloured turban and this led the soldiers to conclude that I was a police deserter who had joined up with Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale's armed militants.

'Continuous nightmare'

They thrashed me mercilessly and were about to kill me when a kind-hearted officer intervened.

Crowds outside the temple before it reopens (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

Crowds outside the temple before it reopens (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

"The events that followed after the army arrested me were a continuous nightmare.

"I was among hundreds who were first tortured in a military camp at the Amritsar Military Cantonment and then charged with sedition.

After a full year there, I was shifted out of Punjab, to the Jodhpur Jail in Rajasthan to join 378 others like myself.

"A full five years later, I was released without a trial. The government withdrew its cases against me and I was allowed to return to my family.

"They had by then given me up for dead.

"For the first time I was able to tell my own children the truth about what had occurred at the Golden Temple in the summer of 1984.

"I have spent the past 15 years trying to get some sort of a compensation for the time I was unjustly incarcerated.

"The Indian government was responsible for my suffering and the misery that my family was forced to bear.

"There can only be justice if this government pays people like me the compensation that is due to us.

"There are only a few of us that remain now - many have passed on.

"For the first time in history, Punjab has a Sikh chief minister and India has a Sikh as Prime Minister.

"Though it is true that no past government has bothered to do anything for people like me, I am suddenly hopeful."

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Bhupinder Singh

On the morning of 7 June, 1984, Bhupinder Singh, a senior functionary of the right wing separatist organization, Sikh Students Federation, was faced with a choice between martyrdom and life.

He chose life.

At one stage we thought we might be shot dead but a good officer intervened and saved us

Golden Temple attack: Your memories

"We were holed up in our positions when the army tanks entered the precincts of the Golden Temple.

"Early morning a messenger from [militant leader] Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale came and said that we could either seek martyrdom by his side or then find our own escape.

"It had been a night of ceaseless exchange of fire from both sides. Canons fired at the temple raising dust, fire, confusion and fear.

"By the midnight of 6 June it became clear that the army commandos would not be able to bring the situation under control.

"We then knew that military tanks would enter to bolster the offensive.

"We also then knew that nothing would now stop the army.

"But when I escaped into the adjoining bazaar, I was immediately arrested and subjected to abuse and manhandling.

"'These bloody dogs', they said, 'kill them'. The army was herding together all suspects and at one stage we thought we might be shot dead but a good officer intervened and saved us."

No trial

Bhupinder Singh spent the next five years in jail in Jodhpur (in the western state of Rajasthan), detained on charges of sedition and waging war against the Indian state.

Censors examine a Punjab newspaper (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

Censors examine a Punjab newspaper (Photo courtesy The Tribune)

He was frequently interrogated by intelligence agencies. But his case, like those of many others arrested by the army after Operation Bluestar, never ever came to trial.

He was released under the terms of a peace accord signed between the Sikh leadership and the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Bhupinder Singh, whose family had given him up for dead in the immediate aftermath of Operation Bluestar, found himself back home.

"My family had not wanted me to go headlong into the movement. But I was young then, unmarried and nurtured a strong sense of anger against the state for the injustices meted out to the Sikhs.

"I felt that we had been discriminated against."

On his release from jail he found that the movement he had left behind was no longer principled but a rag-tag of internecine quarrels and vested interests.

So Bhupinder Singh is a different man today.

"I am married, have two children, run a business and am no longer interested in politics."

Would he allow his son to join such a movement if it were to resurface?

"My son can make his own choices," he says.

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Bitter hijacker seeks gratitude

By Asit Jolly

BBC correspondent in Punjab

Golden Temple

The army's attack on the Golden Temple caused fury

A Sikh man who once hijacked an Indian airliner says he is still waiting for recognition and gratitude from his community for his action.

Tejinder Singh hijacked an Indian Airlines aircraft 19 years ago, to protest against the Indian army attack on the Golden Temple - Sikhism's holiest shrine.

When the army stormed the Golden Temple to flush out armed separatists in June 1984, angry adherents of the faith protested against the action in a variety of ways.

Hundreds of Sikh soldiers deserted. Prominent members of the community resigned top government positions. Others returned awards and decorations bestowed upon them by the Indian Government.

Then only 19 years old, Tejinder Singh remembers being furious at what he and many others like him, still view as a deliberate attack on the Sikh faith.

Tejinder Singh

We sacrificed out entire youth for the faith, yet, not one among the many Sikh institutions or their leaders has come forward to help us

Tejinder Singh

"Every man expresses what he feels in one way or the other," he told BBC News Online.

"Hijacking the Indian Airlines plane was our way of telling the world that the Sikh people were being subjected to grave injustices within their own homeland."

On 24 August 1984, Singh and six others commandeered an Indian Airlines flight, which was scheduled to fly from the northern city of Chandigarh to Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.

"We carried no real weapons because we had no intention of causing harm to the passengers," insists Singh.

'Too easy'

"Believe it or not, the 'petrol bomb' we used to threaten the crew of the aircraft was actually a bottle of cough syrup with a shoelace sticking out of the cap. One man carried a 'time-bomb' which was a small automatic camera with an electronic beeping device."

Indian Airlines hijack

Chandigarh-Srinagar flight hijacked

Flown to Pakistan and refuelled

Headed for US but landed in Dubai

Hijackers arrested and deported to India

"Too easy," is what Singh remembers of the incident that must surely have been a veritable nightmare for the passengers and crew.

The hijackers first ordered the airliner to head for Amritsar before heading for Lahore in Pakistan.

Landing at Lahore, they released some of the passengers, refuelled and then took off for the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.

"We wanted to take the plane to the USA to focus the attention of the world's media on what had happened at the Golden Temple. But the aircraft was too small to make the journey and we ended up in Dubai," Singh recounted.

He vividly remembers how "the Dubai Authority switched off all lights on their runways and only allowed us to land when we threatened to crash the plane into the ATC (air traffic control) tower".

The landing at Dubai was the last moment of freedom that Singh and his associates would enjoy for many years to come.

Life terms

"We had requested political asylum in the USA, but instead we were deported back to Delhi a week later," he said.

Balwant Singh and Harjit Kaur

Tejinder's parents are disillusioned with their son

Back in the Indian capital, there began an endless phase of police interrogations that kept Singh and his friends awake for many nights on end.

Following a trial, the seven hijackers were sentenced to life terms in prison.

They spent the next 12 years incarcerated at Ajmer in the western state of Rajasthan.

All seven men were released some years ago after completing the mandatory period of their sentences.

Despite the jail term, Tejinder Singh has lost none of his extreme religious fervour.


"If Sikhism is in danger I would happily put my life on the line once again," he says.

But the hijacker is also a very bitter man. Once in jail his community virtually forgot about him and his comrades.

"We sacrificed our entire youth for the faith, yet, not one among the many Sikh institutions or their leaders has come forward to help us."

His aging parents - Balwant Singh and Harjit Kaur - are even more disillusioned than their son.

"He has only ended up spoiling his life!" says Balwant Singh, a retired government official.

"It is a good thing to be religious. But to what end? What he did ruined our whole family. We were all branded as 'dangerous terrorists' and left to fend for ourselves."

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