Row erupts over memorial to Golden Temple massacre


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Controversy has erupted over plans to install a memorial in India's Golden Temple to Sikh militants and others killed during an infamous counter-insurgency operation.

The organisation that oversees the care of Sikh temples in India has recently laid a foundation stone inside the temple to honour those who were killed there by Indian troops 28 years ago during Operation Blue Star.

This was one of the darkest moments in India's recent history. The operation to send troops into the temple and crush the Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed supporters was ordered by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. It took place against a backdrop of violence from Sikh separatists. The operation resulted in the death of between 490 and 1,500 civilians, 83 troops and around 430 militants; it sent shockwaves across the world. Five months later, Ms Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for ordering the operation.

The decision to erect the memorial to both militants and civilian victims was taken by the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee. No one from the committee was available for comment last night, but its secretary, Avtar Singh Makkar, told the CNN-IBN television channel: "Bhindranwale and others became martyrs."

The move has taken a political twist because the SGPC is dominated by the Akali Dal, a Sikh political party that earlier this year won control of Punjab. Opponents include the Congress Party, which leads India's federal government, and the Bharatiya Janata Party, a coalition partner of the Akali Dal in Punjab.