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“Breaking Their Skulls”: Indian Army’s Atrocities Against Sikhs
“Grenades and poisonous gas shells were thrown at the men, women, and children who had locked themselves in the rooms, bathrooms, and toilets of Guru Nanak Niwas, Guru Ram Das Serai, and Teja Singh Samundri Hall. Those who tried come out were pierced with bayonets and shot dead. Some soldiers, out of vengeance, caught hold of small babies and children by their feet, lifted them up in the air, and then smashed them against the walls and thus breaking their skulls.”
That is the eyewitness account of the June 1984 attack on Harmandir Sahib as reported by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’s White Paper — that is how Sikhs were treated by the Army. But how were Sikhs in the Army treated?
During the 1982 Asian Games, India issued a ban on Sikh entry to Delhi. SGPC reported: “Every Sikh traveling to Delhi was stopped, searched, humiliated and insulted…. The Sikhs were made to feel as if they were passing through an enemy territory.” Military members like Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh and Lt. General Jagjit Singh Aurora were among those humiliated.
Even upstanding non-Sikh Army officers who refused to attack the Sikhs were sidelined. In 1983, Lt. General SK Sinha was in line to be the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS). Over previous years, he refused orders of Indira Gandhi to attack Sikh gurdwaras. He was passed over and the COAS position was awarded to Lt. General AS Vaidya — a compliant officer willing to kill Sikhs.
Sikhs in the Army are also used to do Hindutva’s dirty work. One example is Major Avtar Singh, who was used to torture Kashmiris and break the resistance to the occupation in Kashmir. Six months after police murdered Jaswant Singh Khalra in Punjab, Major Avtar Singh murdered human rights activist Jalil Andrabi in Kashmir. Afterwards, he fled the country and hid away in Fresno, California.
When Major Avtar Singh was discovered in 2011, he faced extradition charges to India. “I am being made a scapegoat,” he said. “There is no question of my being taken to India alive, they will kill me… The agencies, RAW, military intelligence, it is all the same… If the extradition does go through, I will open my mouth, I will not keep quiet.”
After he threatened to open his mouth, Major Avtar Singh and his family all died in an alleged murder/suicide. Journalist Mihir Srivastava reported: “The Andrabi family believes that Avtar Singh was just small fry in a bigger conspiracy involving senior Army officers. Since Singh was merely an officer of the Territorial Army, the Indian Army could easily disown him, letting him be the fall guy for other bigwigs.”
Sikhs in Kashmir have also fallen at the hands of the Indian Army. Who can forget the Chittisinghpura massacre of 35 Sikhs by militants dressed in Indian Army uniforms? Punjab’s International Human Rights Organisation reported: “Sikh organizations world-wide have accused the Indian intelligence agencies and counter-insurgency force for the killings.”
Today, the Indian Army uses Sikhs as faces for its propaganda. It tries to control Sikhs by recruiting them for the armed forces and using them as cannon fodder for its ideological battles. The Hindutva regime calls Sikhs the “sword-arm of Hinduism,” but it wants to destroy the teachings of the Gurus, deny Sikhs their identity, and assimilate Sikhism. The path of New Delhi sharply contradicts with the teachings of Guru Nanak, who said: “The lowliest of the lowly, the lowest of the low born, Nanak seeks their company.”
The Hindutva regime in New Delhi despises the call of the Gurus to align with and uplift the oppressed peoples of this world. New Delhi wants to erase the memory of the atrocities which the Army committed against Sikhs with impunity. It wants to keep Sikhs as hired guns. No Sikh, Muslim, or Christian living in India should contribute to the creation of Akhand Bharat.
Today, the Indian Army declares Gurtej Singh as a hero for using his kirpan against the Chinese — but it does not want Sikhs to remember that the same Army once said that Sikhs who keep kirpans are dangerous terrorists. A June 1984 Army bulletin claimed: “Some of our innocent countrymen were administered oath in the name of religion to support extremists and actively participated in the act of terrorism. These people wear a miniature kirpan around their neck and are called ‘Amritdharis.’ …. Any knowledge of the ‘Amritdharis,’ who are dangerous people and pledged to commit murder, arson, and acts of terrorism should immediately be brought to the notice of the authorities. These people may appear harmless from outside but they are basically committed to terrorism. In the interest of us all, their identity and whereabouts must always be disclosed.”
When common Sikhs dared to demand protection of their human rights, the Indian Army declared that it would treat as a terrorist every Sikh who wore a turban and kept a kirpan.
Ram Narayan Kumar reported: “Operation Bluestar was not only envisioned and rehearsed in advance, meticulously and in total secrecy, it also aimed at obtaining maximum number of Sikh victims, largely devout pilgrims unconnected with the political agitation.” Amrit Wilson reported: “On 4th June, a day of pilgrims for Sikhs when thousands had gathered at the Golden Temple, army tanks moved into the Temple Complex, smashing into the sanctum and shooting everyone in sight. Those left alive were then prevented from leaving the building, many wounded were left to bleed to death and when they begged for water, Army Jawans told them to drink the mixture of blood and urine on the floor.”
When Sikhs from around Punjab attempted to march to Harmandir Sahib during the siege, SGPC reported that they were “subjected to bombing and machine gunning from the air, resulting in the killing of hundreds of unarmed protesters.” After the siege ended, Kumar reported: “The soldiers were in a foul mood…. After the destruction of the Akal Takht, they drank and smoked openly inside the Temple complex and indiscriminately killed those they found inside. For them, every Sikh inside was a militant.”
The Army took hundreds of Sikhs captive, tied their hands behind their backs with their turbans, lined them up, and shot them. Even one soldier who participated in the siege said, “On the morning of June 6, 1984, the Golden Temple complex was like a graveyard…. The civilians who died, about 1500 of them, were piled in trollies and carried away. A lot of them were thrown into rivers.”
Sangat Singh reported: “Between 100,000 to 120,000 Sikhs died in five days, June 3-7, in the Operation Bluestar. Army atrocities, however, continued beyond June 7, as was demonstrated in firing with tanks on the Sikhs congregating on Amritsar in the next few days.” He adds: “The desertion of 4,000 Sikhs soldiers from different parts of India constituted high water mark of the Sikh reaction to the government’s severest censorship at its atrocities in Punjab.”
After Operation Bluestar ended, the Army commenced Operation Woodrose to mop up Sikh dissent all over Punjab. Mary Ann Weaver reported: “The pattern in each village appears to be the same. The Army moves in during the early evening, cordons a village, and announces over loudspeakers that everyone must come out. All males between the ages of 15 and 35 are trussed and blindfolded, then taken away. Thousands have disappeared in the Punjab since the Army operation began. The government has provided no lists of names; families don’t know if sons and husbands are arrested, underground, or dead.”
No Chinese have ever attacked any Sikh gurdwaras, raped Sikh women, or killed Sikh youth.
The Chinese are not the enemies of the Sikhs of Punjab. The real enemy of Sikhs is Hindutva from New Delhi.