Indian Political Blunder: Sikh Genocide 1984
General Sinha was the General Officer Commanding Western Command, a prestigious appointment in the early eighties, and was transferred to Delhi as the Vice Chief of Army Staff, with the expectation that he would succeed General K. V. Krishna Rao as the Army Chief.
He was supposed to familiarize himself with the office of the Army Chief. It was a surprise when he was superseded and Lt.-Gen. A. S. Vaidya, the GOC-in-C Eastern Command was appointed as the Chief of Army Staff. After which General S. K. Sinha submitted his resignation. This is a narration by a close associate of Gen Sinha. This all happened in the backdrop of Operation Blue Star.
Wikipedia accounts, Indira Gandhi first asked Lt. Gen. S. K. Sinha, then Vice-Chief of Indian Army, to prepare a position paper for assault on the Golden Temple. Lt. Gen. Sinha advised against any such move, given its sacrilegious nature according to Sikh tradition. He suggested the government adopt an alternative solution. Henceforth, a controversial decision was made to replace him with General Arun Shridhar Vaidya as the Chief of the Indian army. General Vaidya, assisted by Lt. Gen. K Sundarji as Vice-Chief, planned and coordinated Operation Blue Star.
S. K. Sinha had advised the government against the operation. He later criticized the Government’s claim that the attack represented a “last resort”. He also stated that the operation would have been conducted in an entirely different manner if he had planned it.
He also pointed out that a few days before the Operation; the Home Minister had announced that the troops would not be sent to the Golden Temple. There was no need to issue such statements when the government was to act in a manner contrary to what had been said.
But, the Operation seems to have been in plans much earlier. The General has alleged that the army had been rehearsing the operation in a replica of the Golden Temple at a secret location near Chakrata Cantonment in the Doon Valley.
The timing of Operation Blue Star coincided with a Sikh religious day, the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the founder of the Golden Temple. Sikhs from all over the world visit the temple on this day. Many Sikhs view the timing and attack by the Indian Army as an attempt to inflict maximum casualties on Sikhs and demoralise them, and the government is in turn blamed for the inflated number of civilian dead for choosing to attack on this day.
Mark Tully in his dispatches during and just after the bloody massacre of Sikh community in 1984 states: even if the arguments against a siege are accepted, they don’t justify the army’s decision to mount the operation while Sikhs were celebrating the anniversary of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan, who had built the Golden Temple and compiled the Guru Granth Sahib. This inevitably compounded Sikh anger about the operation. It also meant that the temple complex was particularly crowded and this was why so many civilians were killed.
The Sikh community’s anger and suffering was further increased by comments from leading newspaper editors, such as Ramnath Goenka, terming the operation as “A greater victory than the win over Bangladesh, this is the greatest victory of Mrs. Gandhi”.
Indira Gandhi could have delayed action against Bhindranwale but she realised voters were beginning to think she lacked the will to act. In search of political gain, countless Sikhs were murdered and no one was held accountable.