What happened in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star?

Sikhs across the world were shocked when news poured in that the Golden Temple had been captured by Indian armed forces.

Many Sikhs in prominent administrative positions resigned in protest, and many in the armed forces quit. Sikhs also returned awards and honors they had received from the Indian government, the most prominent being author Khushwant Singh who returned his Padma Bhushan.

The operation also led to the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31. She was gunned down by two of her Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh.

The assassination triggered anti-Sikh riots that went on for four days when Congress supporters went on a rampage killing Sikh men and women, destroying homes, and attacking Gurdwaras.

The worst-hit was Delhi. Sikhs fled the city in huge numbers. Human rights organisations put the death toll at between 10,000 and 17,000. Human Rights Watch says the government has yet to prosecute those responsible for the mass killings.

What was Operation Blue Star?

It was on this day 27 years ago that Operation Blue Star flushed out Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his separatist followers from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

It was a military raid ordered by Indira Gandhi to eliminate separatists who had taken cover in the holiest of Sikh shrines. The operation spanned four days, between June 3 and 6, and was carried out by the Indian Army which laid siege to the temple complex with tanks and armoured vehicles.

The then Vice-Chief of Indian Army SK Sinha was first asked to lead the operation, but he advised against it saying it this would hurt Sikh sentiments. Indira Gandhi replaced him with Lt Gen A S Vaidya, who along with Lt Gen K Sundarji then planned the operation.

The operation kicked-off with a 36-hour curfew on June 3. All communication was suspended in Punjab, cutting off the state from the rest of the world.

The assault on the temple and the timing of it came in for heavy criticism as heavy artillery was used in the congested by lanes of Amritsar which lead to the death of many innocent bystanders. There was a huge uproar in the Sikh community worldwide, which was followed by hate crimes on Sikhs in parts of India.