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Updated: June 7, 2013 02:36 IST

Blue Star anniversary largely peaceful

Sarabjit Pandher
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Sikhs assembled at the Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab on Thursday to participate in a prayer to remembers those who lost their lives during the 1984 Operation Blue Star.
AP Sikhs assembled at the Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab on Thursday to participate in a prayer to remembers those who lost their lives during the 1984 Operation Blue Star.

Except for a minor skirmish between the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) task force volunteers and the activists owing allegiance to the pro-hardline leader, Simranjit Singh Mann, the 29th "ghallughara divas" (genocide day) on the anniversary of "Operation Bluestar" passed off peacefully.

While people participated in special prayer services at most gurdwaras across the region, the main function was organised at the Sikh community's apex religio-temporal seat, the Akal Takhat, within the Golden Temple complex. The Jathedar, Giani Gurbachan Singh, who presided over the function bestowed 'siropas' (robes of religious honor) on the members of the families of militant leaders including Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, former president of the All Indian Sikh Students' Federation, Bhai Amrik Singh and General Shahbeg Singh, who have been declared as the "quami shaheed" (martyrs of the Sikh nation). The three were killed in the army action.

The oppressive heat notwithstanding, as the Golden Temple complex witnessed an extra rush devotees since morning, while the Amritsar district administration as well as the SGPC had beefed up the security arrangements in the walled city and the shrine, respectively. As per a previous decision, no event was organised at the recently constructed Bluestar memorial, whose basement remained locked, while recitation of the holy scriptures continued on the ground floor. The new building constructed near the Akal Takhat by the religious seminary, Damdami Taksal, evinced interest from the devotees. The building has been constructed at the spot where Sant Bhindranwale's bullet riddled body was recovered after the completion of the army action. He was the then chief of the Taksal.

In his address from the Akal Takhat rampart, the Jathedar appealed for Panthic unity to ensure justice for the Sikh community, which had been smarting under the impact of the wounds caused by the attack on the holiest shrine as well as massacre of the Sikhs in Delhi and other places following the assassination of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. He said that it was ironic that while those who were found guilty for assassinating Mrs Gandhi, had been executed long ago, the cases of justice for the Sikhs were still hanging fire.

Giani Gurbachan Singh said that while Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, who was convicted on the basis of a "confessional statement" extracted under duress by the police, continues to be on the death row, Congress leaders, like Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler, were acquitted despite major evidence against them for their involvement in the November 1984 anti-Sikh carnage. The Jathedar appealed to the community that without forgetting the events of 1984, the believers must remain vigilant against recurrence of such incidents that hurt the collective psyche.

On the other hand, for a brief period it was a free for all as swords were bared, fists flew and turbans knocked off, when the volunteers of the SGPC task force and supporters of former MP, Simranjit Singh Mann clashed near the entrance of the Akal Takhat. The trouble ensued after Mr Mann's supporters who were raising slogans in favour of "Khalistan" were stopped by the SGPC task force on the pretext that the hall inside that Takhat building was packed to it capacity.

Mr Mann's supporters were also seen heckling the SGPC president, Avtar Singh Makkar, who chose to use the far end entrance to pay obeisance at the Akal Takhat and leave in quick succession. He did not stay long during the ceremony. Senior leaders of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, which controls the SGPC, were also conspicuous by their absence.

Later, talking to reporters Mr Mann said that the struggle for a separate homeland for the Sikhs was a long drawn one and he would continue with his efforts. He also announced his plan to visit China and impress upon the government there to recognise the demands of the Sikhs, who needed support from a power, which had more muscle and resources than the Indian State. He said due to internal compulsions, Pakistan was no longer in a position to sustain its support to the Sikh cause.

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