Harsimran Kaur ON May 19, 2023, IN BOOK REVIEW, TURMOIL IN PUNJAB: BEFORE AND AFTER BLUE STAR: AN INSIDER’S STORY BY RAMESH INDER SINGH-NON FICTION
Golden Temple, Amritsar—a divine celestial monument stands refulgantly on the saccharine flow of the ‘Ramdas Sarover’. The Sanctum Sanatorium ornamented with gold crepuscular and the coloratura recitation of hymns makes the unworthy an acceptable being to shine his armour in life’s crenellations.
One such man, I would call him a raconteur, did not bat an eyelid to give his emotions a fanatic turf and ended up dying an inconclusive battle. Akal Takht—the highest temporal authority of the Sikhs became a fortified encasement for him thereby defying the sanctity of the holy shrine.
Was he really at fault? Why did his perspective behavior carry venom ready to sting the despotic against his faith to protect the Sikh identity? His cause was a misjudgment by the political cadres but his actions proved to be deleterious for the precincts of Hindu-Muslim unity.
He was the Machiavellian, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who recalled himself in consanguinity to Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs. He felt an incumbent need to protect the Sikh faith and identity that was imperceptibly being sabotaged by Hindu influence as he vociferously believed Sikhism to be separate from Hinduism. He too wanted the Sikh youth to abstain from alcohol, tobacco and above all a decree to keep their unshorn hair. His religious fervor became his biggest enemy. In doing so, he pricked and pinched the miscreants whom he believed were a blot to the ‘Khalsa Panth’. Insouciant killings in Punjab led to cataclysm imposing the government to move the rail out of the black hole.
‘To move the lion out of the den, a trap was laid. He roared till his last breath, not acquiescing to the gallantry of the armed muses. He died as a martyr and left behind a turmoil and an awakening; a binary that insinuated a deep hole in the psyche of the Sikhs. It was a diaphanous effrontery, a perfidy to their nationalistic perusals.’
Brilliantly put into writing, ‘Turmoil in Punjab’ by Ramesh Inder Singh is his personal journey of observation and extrapolations denuded by the catastrophe of ‘Operation Blue Star’. The author gives a first-hand account of a dystopic demagoguery and brutal political intervention to destroy the so called burgeoning ‘Sikh Militancy’. The fortification of Golden Temple by Bhindranwale was denigrated by many but he had a different story to tell. It was an impulse to sanctify the Sikh identity that was being exploited by the political panjandrum, an unwavering oath that crumbled Punjab into pieces that took more than a decade to bring back sanity.
Congress under the regime of Indira Gandhi considered it a charade, impertinence or rather a recalcitrant outrage by the revolutionist; its illicit fractioning ideologies, a caucus belli for ineluctable disorientation. The dysfunction had to be incarcerated at any cost. Was the government successful to nip the idiosyncratic motives in the bud? Unapologetically ‘NO’!
- Bhindranwale was a recidivist! Congress had its stamp on it. But did that give any privilege to send army tanks and high-end weaponry inside the revered shrine peristalsing acrimony of betrayal and neglect?
- The sparks of crimsons created an alley of distorted truths, incarnadined by the innocence of devotees who came in large numbers to commemorate the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs.
- What about the reconnaissance that never happened before gaining control inside the temple. A murderous fusillade of bullets erupted to get Bhindranwale out of his sheltering carapsse. Was there a precise evaluation of what lay buried in the phagocyte of the revolutionist’s mind that held faith in high regards?
Khalistan was never his dream; but people were made to see otherwise. A strong supporter of the Dharam Yudh Morcha, he wanted an invasive freedom for promulgating Sikh fundamentals. The book ‘Turmoil in Punjab’ is not a flute singing the symphonies of Bhindranwale but a testament of incidents preceding Operation Blue Star that made Punjab an obstreperous territory. What do we acclaim? What do we denounce? A farrago of perceptions and interpretations created victims and oppressors as per their unchallenged motives.
- Anandpur Sahib Resolution was a hot potato that the Congress was shy to touch. The on and off reprisals buttoned rage among the Sikh fraternity, bedeviling their survival instincts.
- Or the stooge Bhindranwale was made by the congress for electoral gains to be later disinterred by the Akalis for the ‘messiah’ he had become in Punjab.
The consequence—a tenebrous man sifting the chaff from the grain under the divine roof, desecrated by the military without peremptorily looking for amicable options, thereby concretizing the entire action as “the need of the hour’.
If religion becomes paternalism and is subsequently intertwined with politics, the result is mayhem. Bhindranwale was a pugnacious warrior, nefarious to the extent of cutting the horns it felt could treacherously butcher the belly to crumble in the shards of its digestive juices. Politics ate him, chewed him down the throat and labeled him as a militant.
From the prescriptive declarations before the ‘Operation Blue Star’ to the proscriptive action after the holocaust, the book is a reaffirmation of how a minority community is humiliated impenitently. The impediments after the Blue Star were many; Operation Thunder, the exodus of Hindus to safeguard themselves, loots and thefts and above all the diaspora that gave rise to various Khalistani outfits masquerading their relevant presence in Punjab.
1984—Operation Blue Star was Indira Gandhi’s last battle. She died an ignominious defeat by the purveyors of religious protectors; the nest which once cajoled a passerine of ideological palimpsest was tarnished by its own priggishness and egomaniacal pursuits. The book is a detailed description of devastation caused by ‘Blue Star’— the truths and falsifications and how ‘Sikhs’ were torn off their identity by the anti-Sikh riots and made to feel like a pariah in their own country.
Brutal and Explosive….