Thirty years have gone by since the world’s fourth largest army marched into Darbar Sahib (The Golden Temple), Amritsar in June 1984.
They called it Operation Blue Star.
I think we do ourselves a disservice by remembering it as Operation Blue Star. It was the name they gave to their misdeed to hide its monstrosity.
We know Darbar Sahib was not the only place that was attacked. 37 other gurdwaras were also simultaneously hit. And then there was what they so cleverly named Operation Woodrose.
This was a massive, well-planned and well-executed onslaught.
This was an assault on Sikhs.
This was a move to crush the Sikh psyche.
This was intended to teach Sikhs a lesson.
This was The 1984 Holocaust. The Third Ghallughara. The Third Battle of Amritsar.
To some extent we all know what transpired, so I won’t go into those details.
But are we really sure what happened?
We know there was a total media blackout. All media, the pliant locals and the independent foreigners, they were all forced out of Punjab.
We also know that the Indian media was controlled by the Government. Their propaganda was relentless, and the narrative therefore was one-sided. The perpetrators of this genocide did a wonderful job in controlling what they wanted the world to know. They did it quite successfully.
But that is not I want to talk to you about today.
This genocide touched the hearts and mind of Sikhs living across continents. I have met many individuals whose lives changed drastically after 1984.
Today, I want to share a story about a 27 year old Sikh girl living in the United States. By all accounts, she was a Sikh, but I would call her a cultural Sikh – for she knew little of her faith.
When boots marched into Darbar Sahib
When tanks cannoned the sacred walls
When fires destroyed precious heritage
When the sarovor turned red
She woke up …
And reclaimed her identity.
I am the girl in this story.
Sitting thousands of miles away, I felt every bullet. I experienced a deep, personal loss.
Puzzled and confused by my own reactions, I turned within.
Why such pain?
After all, I was only a cultural Sikh.
Or was I?
Something within me had shifted. I woke up from a deep slumber.
I stopped cutting my hair and began to wear the karra.
And my journey began.
I delved into Sikh history. Before long, it became my history. I realized we’ve always been hunted; we’ve always had a price on our heads.
What is that they fear?
For my history tells me, we’ve never fought for territory.
We were no crusaders.
So why was there a price on a Sikh’s head?
I struggled for answers.
None made sense.
A thought occurred.
Maybe they fear what the Guru envisions.
A society of sovereign, azaad – totally free people. Free economically, politically and spiritually.
The Guru’s vision of a society:
Where no one is a slave
Where no one is exploited
Where no one is excluded from the bounty and joys of the Creator.
But for those who live off the slavery of others, who benefit from exploitation, they want to kill that spirit, that consciousness, that memory – the memory of the Gift that the Guru has bestowed.
Think about it. How does one control the masses?
By dividing them at every level — caste, gender, politically, economically and spiritually.
But a united Panth – a One Panth as envisioned by the Guru — poses a formidable challenge to their greed and subjugation methods.
A Panth immersed in Naam, is an entity to deal with.
Naam is a living breathing Force.
Naam provides clear direction.
Naam is simran in action.
Naam demands action.
Guru’s Naam is active. It is not the Naam of the yogis who sit on mountain tops, observing inequalities.
Guru’s Naam invites us to “Play the game of life with Love.” It instils courage to rise against injustice.
Maybe that was the reason why there was a price on the head of a Sikh, and maybe there is a price on my head too.
During the 1980 period, every Amritdhari, nay, every Sikh, was considered a terrorist and therefore targeted. There are no accurate reports on how many innocent Sikhs — men, women and children — were executed during this period. Charred bodies of Sikhs are still being discovered in shallow pits.
But we’ve seen this happen before: 25,000-30,000 Sikhs were killed in the First Gallughara and 7,000 + were killed in the Second Ghallughara.
But, we’re still here, stronger than before.
Our enemies have tried their best to silence us.
Our voices have gotten stronger … much to their dismay.
We are still here – stronger and firmer than before.
I often get asked the question, what should I do? I am just one individual.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know.
Each one of us is wired differently, therefore our responses are different.
What I can suggest is:
Know your history, your heritage. Don’t go by just one account, search and find answers for yourself. Connect the links and dots.
Secondly, get to know the Guru. Establish a relationship. This is how you will become mentally strong, totally free and absolutely inspired.
And when you reach this state of mind, your responses will be Guru-oriented. You’ll fear none, and begin to march to a different tune, for your inspiration comes from the Guru.
The Guru clears all doubts. And when doubts are cleared, your purpose, your mission will crystalize. Your responses will be closer to vision of the Gurus of One Panth – a formidable force.
Darbar Sahib is the heart beat of every Sikh. It took the blood, sweat and tears of multiple generations of Sikhs to build it, to defend it to build it, and when destroyed by the enemy, to rebuild it.
Every generation of Sikhs will to do same.
You now know my story.
I am a product of 1984.
It has shaped my life.
It has shaped my identity.
There is a saying, that time is a great healer. And to a certain extent the saying is right.
The once intense pain is now a dull ache. Self-reflections have taken place.
My personal reflection: I am more determined than ever to keep the memory of those that were massacred in 1984 alive. They did not die in vain! Their memory lives in me, through me …
1984 is in my DNA.
I will not forget.
With Gurus’ Grace, I have learnt to accept.
But Forget 1984? Never.
My question to you —
Has the genocide of 1984 changed you?
If so, what have you done?
Remember, this happened to us.
We are one – One Panth.
What happens to one – happens to all.
In this unity lies our strength and this is what creates fear in the minds of those who thrive on oppressing and subjugating others.
We fear none, and none should fear us. But whenever there is injustice, we will rise – for that is our commitment to the Guru.