BY Harsimran Kaur ON Nov 27 , 2020 IN BOOK REVIEWS, Amritsar – Mrs Gandhi’s Last Battle

June 5th, 1984 – Innumerable devotees thronged the Golden Temple to pay their obeisance on the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs. The day also marks a dark blot in the history of India, when army tanks accompanied with artillery and other ammunition manoeuvred inside the scared shrine to capture the Sikh fundamentalist, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. 

We all have at some point of time read about “The Operation Blue Star.” Eminent personalities and the common man have sighted their opinions and perceptions on the credibility of the mission. Some have called it a blasphemous attack on the religious sensibilities of the Sikhs.

 But what led to the Operation Blue Star? Was it Mrs Gandhi’s indecisiveness, the unrealistic ambitions of the Akalis in making Bhindranwale a stooge in their hands, the insecurities of the congress party to outstrip the Akali hold in Punjab or the irrationality of the Sikh extremists and their ignominious sanctuary in the Akal Takht?

All these equations have been rationally discussed in the Book. Each perspective has its reasons and adjoining consequences.  It’s a war between political extremism and religious extremism. We get to know the formation of Akali dal, reigning political power in Punjab at that time, and their unscrupulous methods to access power and control.  Bhindranwale, a preacher and a protector of Sikh beliefs and rituals, takes an incorrigible route to govern these principles. Instead, makes a head start to defy Hindus leading to unnecessary killings and mayhem. Mrs Gandhi,  known for her assiduousness and detailing, makes a deplorable mistake of letting the army enter the sanctum sanctorum for which she had to sacrifice her life.

And the common man – the Sikhs and Hindus, who were mere spectators to the gruesome acts and unjustified terrorist activities.

The book ventures into how Bhindranwale takes refuge in the Akal Takht and uses draconian powers to suppress the innocent Hindus and unfaithful Sikhs. He shouldered beliefs which were very true to Sikhism but he lost the battle because of giving it a communal air. He believed he was invincible and carried the authority to murder anyone anywhere. His entourage including Amrik Singh and Major General Shahbeg Singh fortified the golden Temple to fight the improbable army attack. His impertinence towards Mrs. Gandhi for not accepting the resolution put forward by Akalis was a spade in the wheel. 

With Operation Blue Star, the religious leader was shot dead and the aftermath was inconceivable. The Sikhs were outraged as the Akal Takht was blown to smithereens and the shrine concocted in the middle of the sarovar was patched with bullet marks.

The book dissects the indiscipline of the Akali dal party, the belligerent scorn of Bhindranwale towards the potholes of anti-Sikh domains, the fragile mind of Mrs. Gandhi in handling terrorism in Punjab, the sacrilege attack of army on the Golden Temple, the atrocities on the Hindus and the plight of mortified and vulnerable Sikhs after the unwarranted attack.

Take Away

Religious extremism is borne out of our own minds and perceptions. No religion teaches to be unfair and unrealistic. Whatever happened on the fateful day of June 05, 1984 still nudges in the heart of Sikhs. In the “Know More” column, I have reinstated from the Book some conversations between the Journalist and Bhindranwale. It’s an interesting read. 

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