Radical outfits hold ‘freedom march’ in Amritsar ahead of ‘Operation Bluestar’ anniversary

Uneasy calm prevails; security tightened ahead of 38th anniversary of ‘Operation Bluestar’

June 05, 2022 08:44 pm | Updated June 06, 2022 11:38 am IST - AMRITSAR

Photo used for representation purpose only.

Photo used for representation purpose only. | Photo Credit: The Hindu photo library

Members associated with radical Sikh outfits and pro-Khalistan groups, including Dal Khalsa, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) among others held, what they termed a ‘freedom march’ in the city on Sunday, a day ahead of the 38th anniversary of ‘Operation Bluestar’, even as uneasy calm was palpable among residents.

The protesters, including youth and the elderly, carrying ‘Khalistan’ flags and placards, raised slogans in support of independence, demanding a separate state for Sikhs — ‘Khalistan’, as the march started from the Bhai Veer Singh Memorial Hall on Lawrence Road. They hailed the sacrifice of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and declared to continue their struggle for ‘Khalistan’. A float with pictures and portraits of damaged ‘Akal Takhat’ and Sikh martyrs was displayed during the march.

Tight security has been provided across the city with regular flag marches being conducted in several parts of the city, besides intense checking being done to maintain law and order.

“We are holding this march to reiterate our commitment to the struggle for independence, and to pay homage to the people who tasted martyrdom during the army attack,” said one of participating members.

Dal Khalsa president Harpal Singh Cheema said they were undertaking a freedom parade to pay homage to Sikh heroes, who fought till their last breath. “We want to tell the Government of India that we have neither forgotten nor forgiven the perpetrators of the attack,” he said. “The mission of the martyrs was to liberate Punjab from Indian domination. We are determined to pursue the mission to its logical conclusion using right to self determination,” said Mr. Cheema.

It was on June 6, 1984, when the Army stormed the complex of the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar — Sikhism’s holiest shrine, to flush out extremists led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

Locals concerned

Raju Mahajan, running a juice corner, near the Bhai Veer Singh Memorial Hall, is anxious this year amid the recent spate of incidents surrounding the ‘Khalistan’ connection, especially in the wake of the clash in Patiala, besides the killing of Punjabi singer Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, known as Sidhu Moosewala, among other gangster-related crime incidents.

“For last many years, events are held on the anniversary of ‘Operation Bluestar’, but this year I am a little worried. I hope the events pass on peacefully. The killing of Moosewala and other incidents are a cause of concern, not for me but for everyone,” he said.

Echoing similar sentiments, Rajan, who is into the garment business, said the way the gangster-related incidents were being reported in the State and also the clash that happened in Patiala during a pro-Kahlistan march was bound to give jitters. “Our business has already started to suffer as tension is prevailing,” he said.

During the day, the Commissioner of Police held a meeting with officers to ensure coordination in action against anti-social elements and maintenance of law and order in the city.

“We have put in place a force of around 7,000 personnel, including the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and two of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) units across the city. For the march, 400 police personnel have been deputed to ensure law and order,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (law and order), Amritsar, Parminder Singh.

SGPC slams government

Meanwhile, the president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) — the body responsible for the management of Gurdwaras — Harjinder Singh condemned the State government for turning Amritsar city into a police cantonment.

“By doing so, the government is creating an atmosphere of fear while this day is very serious and painful for the Sikh Qaum [community]. Every year on Ghallughara Day, the Qaum congregates to commemorate its martyrs and therefore, the government should not present this occasion as fearsome,” said Mr. Harjinder Singh.

The radical Sikh outfits have also called for an ‘Amritsar shutdown’ on June 6 to mark the anniversary of ‘Operation Bluestar’. “On June 6, we have given a call for a shutdown in Amritsar. The shutdown call is for business establishments, traders, banking, petrol pumps, and educational institutions while there would be no stoppage of transportation,” said Kanwar Pal Singh, spokesperson of Dal Khalsa.

Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Sunday paid obeisance at the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple). The Chief Minister later had a meeting with the Jathedar of Akal Takht, the highest Sikh temporal seat, Giani Harpreet Singh. “During the deliberations, they discussed the social and religious issues being confronted by the State. Besides, they also discussed the issues pertaining to more involvement of youth for putting the State on high growth trajectory,” said an official statement.

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