Golden temple massacre anniversary: Twelve injured in sword fight between Sikhs rowing over who should speak first at memorial

Indian television channels showed dozens of Sikhs wearing traditional turbans and robes waving swords at each and pointing spears as the two groups sized each other up

Asia Correspondent

At least 12 people were hurt in extraordinary scenes at India’s Golden Temple when rival groups of Sikhs brandished swords and spears and chased each other.

The factions clashed following a disagreement over who should speak first at memorial event to mark the 30th anniversary of a controversial military operation to clear militants from the temple at Amritsar.

Indian television channels showed dozens of Sikhs wearing traditional turbans and robes waving swords at each and pointing spears as the two groups sized each other up. Some of those present raised their arms and appeared to appeal for calm.

Reports said at least a dozen and maybe as many as 20 people were injured in the melee, which lasted for almost half an hour. Police were called to the temple, the most sacred site of the Sikh religion, but did not go inside.

The event of special prayers had been called to mark the 30th anniversary of Operation Blue Star, the 1984 operation by the Indian army to clear the temple of Sikh militants led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.  Reports on the number of people killed during the six-day operation range from around 500 to up to 5,000. Around 80 soldiers lost their lives.

Four months after she ordered the operation, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards. The murder of Mrs Gandhi at her official residence in Delhi sparked widespread attacks on members of the Sikh community in the capital and elsewhere. Anywhere up to 8,000 people were killed. Some in the Delhi police force were accused of allowing the carnage to happen.

Though there have been at least ten inquiries into the killings, no senior officials have ever been convicted, even though hundreds of so-called rioters were sent to jail. Sikh activists say they have been protected by successive Congress party governments.

Three weeks after the killings, Indira Gandhi’s son, Rajiv, hurriedly sworn in as Prime Minister, said  in a speech: “When a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little.”

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