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BBC Asian Network Special Reports: Operation Blue Star

BBC Asian Network airs a documentary on Monday commemorating one of the most tumultuous events in recent Indian history.

June  4th is the 25th anniversary of Operation Blue Star when hundreds of people were killed in a gun battle between the Indian government and suspected Sikh Militants inside one of India’s holiest shrines, The Golden Temple.

In June 1984, The Golden Temple complex was bustling with people as it was the anniversary of the death of Sikh's 5th Guru, Arjan Dev Ji.  After a three day siege the Indian Army attacked the temple in an attempt to flush out Sikh preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, and his followers, who were armed and had based themselves in the temple. The Sikh community across the World condemned the attacks which ultimately led many to some  Sikh's calling for their own separate homeland – Khalistan.

Four months later in October 1984 Indian Prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards as revenge. This in turn led to mass killings of Sikhs in Delhi. The city became a battle field and rife with riots, where official figures say 3000 Sikhs were killed but human rights groups put the death toll much higher.

The documentary named ‘Blue Star 25 years' finds out what the impact of Operation Blue Star has had on Sikhs in the UK today.  It talks to Harpal, a child in 1984, who was living in Delhi when a group of hundreds of men surrounded his home the day after Indira Gandhi's killing. At nine years old he recalls how his older brother was beaten to death, Sikh men were being hunted across Delhi. Harpal escaped as his mother had dressed him up as a girl. Harpal, his mother and 5 brothers and sisters were homeless for days until they were taken to an Army camp. There they survived on bread and milk with hundreds of other families facing similar circumstances.

 

British born Amardeep speaks of her father’s secret that resulted in years of unanswered questions until one day she brought a 'Never forget 84' t-shirt home. His anger and fury towards it were the first indication for her of how destructive the invasion had been for him. Her father had come to England to teach music and after two months in the UK, received a telephone call that destroyed his world as he knew it – his mother, wife, and two children had been burned alive in their home in Delhi.

Chandan, born in 1984 explains how the attack was the wake up call for her parents who actively became involved in Sikhism. It was the trigger that led to her father becoming a baptised Sikh and pursuing the political campaign to obtain a separate Sikh state – Khalistan. Now at 25, Chandan supports a Khalistan state and says the attack on the Golden Temple has shaped her values and identity as a Sikh.

Head of programming at BBC Asian Network Husain Husaini said “Operation Blue Star had a huge impact on not only Sikhs, but Indians all over the world. In this documentary, The BBC Asian Network goes deep into the community to hear about how this event affected their lives even today”.

The documentary will be aired on The BBC Asian Network on Monday 1st June at 6pm.

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