Operation Blue Star was an Indian Armed Forces operation between 1 and 10 June 1984 to remove Damdami Taksal Jathedar Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers from the buildings of the Golden Temple, the holiest site of Sikhism, in AmritsarPunjabIndia. The decision to launch the operation rested with the Prime Minister of India, then Indira Gandhi,[37] who had already authorized military preparation for a confrontation at the temple complex 18 months prior according to the then-Vice Chief of the Army StaffS. K. Sinha.[38] In July 1982, Harchand Singh Longowal, the president of the Sikh political party Shiromani Akali Dal, had invited Bhindranwale to take up residence in the Golden Temple to evade arrest by government authorities.[39]: 332 [40]

Indian intelligence agencies had reported that three prominent Sikh figures—Shabeg Singh, Balbir Singh and Amrik Singh, referred to in reports as “prominent heads of the Khalistan movement”—had each made at least six trips to neighbouring Pakistan between 1981 and 1983. Shabeg Singh, an Indian Army officer who later deserted to join Bhindranwale, was identified as the provider of weapons training at Akal Takht. The Intelligence Bureau alleged that training was being provided at various gurdwaras throughout Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. Amrik Singh responded to these allegations by stating that student training camps with “traditional weapons” had existed for four decades at these locations.[41] The KGB intelligence agency of the Soviet Union had tipped off India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) about a joint operation between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the United States‘ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to stir separatist unrest in the Indian state of Punjab. False claims were also made that R&AW had received intelligence by interrogating a Pakistani soldier that over a thousand Special Service Group commandos of the Pakistan Army had been dispatched by the Pakistani government into Indian Punjab to assist Bhindranwale in his fight against the Indian government; however, no signs of commandos were found and no proofs were provided by R&AW.

In 1981, the Soviets launched Operation Kontakt, which was based on a forged document purporting to contain details of the weapons and money provided by the ISI to Sikh militants who wanted to create an independent country.[2] In November 1982, Yuri Andropov, the General Secretary of the Communist Party and leader of the Soviet Union, approved a proposal to fabricate Pakistani intelligence documents detailing ISI plans to foment religious disturbances in Punjab and promote the creation of Khalistan as an independent Sikh state.[42] Indira Gandhi’s decision to move troops into the Punjab was based on her taking seriously the information provided by the Soviets regarding secret CIA support for the Sikhs.[43]

Leading up to Operation Bluestar, there were several protests by Sangh Parivar, including a march led by LK Advani and AB Vajpayee of the Bhartiya Janta Party to protest against the lack of government action and to demand that the Indian Army be sent into the Golden Temple.[44][45][46][47]

On 1 June 1984, after negotiations with the militants failed, Indira Gandhi rejected the Anandpur Resolution and ordered the army to launch Operation Blue Star, simultaneously attacking scores of Sikh temples across Punjab.[48] Indian security forces commenced Operation Blue Star when they fired into various buildings, which resulted in the deaths of eight civilians.[24][49] A variety of army units and paramilitary forces surrounded the Golden Temple complex on 3 June 1984. The official stance of the army was that warnings were made to facilitate the evacuation of pilgrims but that no surrender occurred by June 5 at 7:00 pm.[50] However, in April 2017 the Amritsar District and Sessions Judge Gurbir Singh gave a ruling which stated that there was no evidence that the Indian army provided warnings for pilgrims to leave the temple complex before commencing their assault.[51] The army’s assault on the temple complex ended on June 8. A mopping-up operation, Operation Woodrose, was then initiated throughout Punjab.[52]

The army had underestimated the firepower possessed by the militants, whose armaments included Chinese-made rocket-propelled grenade launchers and ammunition with armour-piercing capabilities. Tanks and heavy artillery were used to attack the militants, who responded with anti-tank and machine-gun fire from the heavily fortified Akal Takht. After a 24-hour firefight, the army gained control of the temple complex. The official casualty figures for the army were 83 dead and 249 injured. The government-issued white paper stated that 1,592 militants were apprehended and there were 554 combined militant and civilian casualties,[26] much lower than independent estimates.[36] According to the government, high civilian casualties were attributed to militants using pilgrims trapped inside the temple as human shields.[53] However, the Indian army had allowed thousands of pilgrims and protestors to enter the temple complex on 3 June 1984 and prevented them from leaving after imposing a curfew at 10:00 pm on the same day.[54][55][56] Eyewitnesses alleged that on 6 June, after the fighting had stopped, the Indian military executed detainees who had their arms tied behind their backs and fired on men and women who had heeded the announcements of the military to evacuate.[57][58]

The military action in the temple complex was criticized by Sikhs worldwide, who interpreted it as an assault on the Sikh religion.[59] Many Sikh soldiers in the army deserted their units,[60] several Sikhs resigned from civil administrative office and returned awards received from the Indian government. Five months after the operation, on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated in an act of revenge by her two Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh.[40] Public outcry over Gandhi’s death led to the ensuing 1984 Sikh genocide.[61]