Criminal Assault by the State on the Right to Conscience
The illusion that the Indian State is a secular and democratic Republic which protects everyone’s right to conscience was smashed 37 years ago, on 6th June, 1984. On that day, Government of India ordered over 70,000 soldiers of the Indian Army to launch a full scale attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs. The armed attack on a place of worship was carried out using tanks, helicopters, armored vehicles and artillery. It was officially code named Operation Blue Star.
As 3rd June is the Martyrdom Day of Guru Arjun Dev, thousands of Sikh devotees, including women and children, had gathered in the Golden Temple complex. The armed assault carried on for three full days. Operation Blue Star was followed by Operation Woodrose, under which unknown numbers of Sikhs were arrested all over Punjab.
The state-organised armed assault on the most revered temple of the Sikhs is recorded in official government documents as a patriotic act! It was allegedly done to “flush out terrorists” and defend the “national unity and territorial integrity of India”. The official propaganda of that time created the impression that a dangerous situation had suddenly developed and the Prime Minister had no choice except to take quick action. This story has since then been thoroughly exposed as a blatant lie.
One of the secret documents of the British Government that have now become open to the public, dated 23 February, 1984, says, “The Indian authorities recently sought British advice over a plan to remove Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar …. with the Prime Minister’s agreement, a Special Air Services (SAS) officer has visited India and drawn up a plan which has been approved by Mrs Gandhi. … knowledge of the SAS officer’s visit and his plan has been tightly held both in Delhi and in London”. This clearly reveals that the army attack on the Golden Temple was planned several months in advance by the Indian ruling class, with secret technical assistance from the British imperialists.
The majority of people of the Sikh faith know that is was a blatant attack on their right to conscience, on their beliefs. Those who were alleged by the Government to be the most dangerous terrorists were killed in the operation. No evidence was found that a huge cache of dangerous weapons had been gathered inside the temple complex. The weapons that were seized by the armed forces were only some guns made in the 1940s, the kind which are commonly in the possession of retired army men.
The entire official story stands exposed as a lie, a deliberate false narrative to keep large sections of the people deceived. The truth is that Operation Blue Star was an act of state terrorism, of communal persecution of Sikhs and insult to their religion. By any standard of modern democracy, it was a criminal and communal act. By the standards of Raj Dharma established by the people of the Indian subcontinent, it was the height of adharma.
The early 1980s had witnessed growing struggles for the rights of workers, peasants, women and youth, and the rights of people belonging to distinct nationalities. Crores of people in Punjab had joined a movement to assert their national rights. They were demanding their rightful share of river waters. It was a time when the Indian capitalist class, headed by the monopoly houses, was planning on becoming a world class imperialist power. They needed to crush the struggles of workers, peasants and of various nations and nationalities within the Indian Union.
The ruling class demanded that its principal political parties, Congress and BJP, whip up communal passions and wreck the unity of the toiling masses of people. Anti-Sikh hysteria was whipped up all across the country. The people of the Sikh faith were portrayed as enemies of national unity and territorial integrity. The political demands of the people of Punjab were treated as a “law and order” problem. The working class was called upon to line up behind the policy of state terrorism, in the name of crushing the alleged enemies of India’s unity and integrity.
To this day nobody has been held accountable for the brutal killings of civilians and pilgrims in June 1984. Nobody has been punished for the murder of thousands of innocent people or for the looting and destruction of the Sikh Reference Library in the Golden Temple complex. On the contrary, in the past 37 years, the twin weapons of state terrorism and individual terrorism have been further perfected, to turn legitimate struggles for people’s rights into “law and order” problems.
Portraying people of a particular religious faith as anti-Indian and using that as justification for brutal state repression and encounter killings have become part of the preferred method of governing the country. When the Kisan Andolan began its march to Delhi and assembled at the borders of the capital city in November 2020, the present government headed by Narendra Modi tried to discredit this struggle by spreading the word that it had been infiltrated by “Khalistani terrorists”.
A specific weapon used by the ruling class is the lying propaganda that people who demand their national rights pose a threat to the unity and integrity of India. The demands of the people of Punjab, of Kashmir, of Nagaland and Manipur have all been portrayed as posing a threat to the unity and integrity of India. The truth is that the real threat to the unity of the Indian people comes from the ruling capitalist class, headed by the monopoly houses. It comes from the official policy of using brute force to crush legitimate economic and political demands. It comes from criminalizing any demand for reconstitution of the Indian Union so that the rights of the different nations, nationalities and peoples within the country are safeguarded.
One of the most important lessons to be drawn from the experience of the past 37 years since Operation Blue Star is that the Republic of the Indian Union and its Constitution do not guarantee the Right to Conscience. They do not guarantee the rights of the different nations and nationalities within our country. The entire State is an instrument of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, headed by the Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis, Adanis and other monopoly houses. It is an instrument for dividing the people and drowning their struggles in blood. The struggle today is to end this condition of adharma. The struggle is for a State that would guarantee the Right to Conscience, as well as all human rights and democratic rights, including the national rights of all the peoples of this multi-national country.