The story of the Gandhis’ biggest mistake, and how it still haunts Punjab

Hartosh Singh Bal in Caravan:

ScreenHunter_644 May. 26 11.22By the time the smoke cleared over the Darbar Sahib, hundreds of innocent bystanders had died. Bhindranwale lay murdered, and the Akal Takht, where he had set up his final defiance of Delhi, stood shattered. The operation was followed by the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, and the organised massacre of thousands of Sikhs by Hindu mobs, led mainly by Congress politicians. In Punjab, militancy against the Indian state reached levels unprecedented in the years before Bluestar; it took a decade for a semblance of peace to return.

Over the last thirty years, the debate over Bluestar has played out between two extreme points of view: that of radicals in Punjab and abroad, who dwell on the Congress’s role while overlooking Bhindranwale’s complicity, and that of people in the rest of India, who tend to focus on Bhindranwale with little sense of the Congress’s contribution to the tragedy. Many Indians may believe the events of that June can be consigned to the history books, but their memory remains alive in Punjab. Many Sikhs continue to view the operation, and the figure of Bhindranwale, in a markedly different light from the rest of the country. Without understanding how such distinct perspectives came to exist, it may be impossible to come to terms with the history of Bluestar.

More here.